RE: The Currency Symbol of China

From: Barry Caplan (
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 19:40:57 EDT

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    Wow ! I brought Ben out of lurk status after 6 months!

    Interesting post too - my limited understanding goes back only to Heian era (~970-1100 AD OTTOMH). That combined with various early western transliterations into what we now call romaji, before Hepburn became semi-standardized.

    For instance, IIRC, Isabella Bird wrote in her (British) English travelogue in the early Meiji restoration era (1878 AD) of travels to Yedo (now commonly called "Edo" in the literature, and known by its modern name to all as "Tokyo"). She called Tokyo "Tokiyo".

    It is these types of early Western writings form Japan where I have seen the "Ye" used, but since they are also littered with plenty of other examples of weird transliterations, I just wrote it off to that.

    I also think (but I could be wrong) that "ye" is not one of the characters in the famous Buddhist poem that uses each of the kana once and only once, and establishes a de facto sorting order by virtue of being the only such poem.

    OTOH, I am pretty sure that poem is either from or post-dates the Heian era, so it wouldn't rule out your point.

    Barry Caplan

    At 03:16 PM 9/30/2002 -0700, you wrote:
    >Barry Caplan wrote:
    >> To: Stefan Persson;
    >> At 10:08 PM 9/30/2002 +0200, you wrote:
    >> >"Yen" is an ancient "on" pronunciation for U+5186; today it's
    >> >pronounced "en."
    >> Really? I have no sources either way, but I always assumed
    >> "yen" was a Western transliteration of "en", since there is
    >> no "ye" entry in the kana table.
    >Modern Japanese has 5 basic vowels, /a, i, u, e, o/.
    >Old Japanese most likely had 8 vowels, /a, i1, i2, u, e1, e2, o1, o2/.
    >These can further be traced to a proto-Japanese 4-vowel system /a, i, u,
    >In the y-line, there is currently /ya, yu, yo/. During the Nara period
    >where the first extant literature appears, there is evidence that the
    >man'yougana (precursor to modern kana; Chinese characters) regularly
    >distinguished between two types of /e/ (called Kou/Otu or A/B sounds,
    >among others). This is usually taken by most scholars as /e/ and /ye/.
    >By the early Heian period, with the emergence of the kana syllabary,
    >this Kou/Otu distinction vanished, specifically the /e/ and /ye/
    >distinction by around 938 AD. It is usually assumed that the /e/ and
    >/ye/ (which is written with /e/) merged into [ye] (or [je], if you
    >like). Notice that the Portuguese dictionary of 1603 spells this /e/ as
    >"ye". Other documents indicate that this /e/ [ye] must have become [e]
    >(as modern) by 1775 or earlier. Also note that some dialects in Kyushu
    >still retain the [ye] pronunciation for /e/.
    >I do not really have the time to go into more details right now.
    >I hope this will suffice.
    >Ben Monroe

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