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は and わ

English translation: It's just old orthography...

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08:19 Oct 30, 2007
Japanese to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
Japanese term or phrase: は and わ
I was being asked, why is は used as a particle and not わ. The person was wondering since わ is already pronounced as "wa", it might be used as a particle straight away, instead of using は and changing the pronunciation to "wa".

Frankly speaking, I've never thought of this question before and I had no idea why, despite learning the language for so long.

Can anybody help? I couldn't find anything on Google.

Thanks.
Wei Peng Loy
Local time: 18:12
English translation:It's just old orthography...
Explanation:
...from classical Japanese.
Until the writing of kana was modernized (I think finally only in the late 1940s) it followed the usage of classical Japanese, which was based on how Japanese was pronounced in the Heian period. So a lot of words were not written as they were pronounced in modern Japanese.
A lot of words which now have a 'w' were then pronounced with an 'h' and this is how they continued to be spelled - so, e.g. 言ふ and 言はない which you can see in books published before 1945.
I think the particle は was considered so basic, though, that to modernize it would have been too strange. Presumably it was in fact pronounced 'ha' in the Heian period.
Selected response from:

Duncan Adam
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Grading comment
Both answers are very well explained. Thanks.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +5It's just old orthography...Duncan Adam
3 +3A leftover from the post-war kana reform (one theory)
Kurt Hammond


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
A leftover from the post-war kana reform (one theory)


Explanation:
See the URL. The theory is that it is a leftover from the postwar reform of the kana script. If you are not aware, pre and postwar written Japanese is significantly different. The hiragana frequently did not look at all like they sounded. Some prominent examples are てふてふ (which was pronounced ちょうちょう) or (けふ which was pronounced きょう). According to one of the answerers of the URL reference, は and the other particles are leftovers which remained unchanged after the reform, possibly due to popular resistance or possibly make it easier to read the different clauses (Japanese at the time had no punctuation).
Rather than trying to summarize all the replies, read through them yourself. Quite interesting.


    Reference: http://okwave.jp/qa75258.html
Kurt Hammond
United States
Local time: 03:12
Works in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 47

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Yuki Okada
2 hrs

agree  humbird
5 hrs

agree  Mario Hendriks: Very interesting link btw
11 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
It's just old orthography...


Explanation:
...from classical Japanese.
Until the writing of kana was modernized (I think finally only in the late 1940s) it followed the usage of classical Japanese, which was based on how Japanese was pronounced in the Heian period. So a lot of words were not written as they were pronounced in modern Japanese.
A lot of words which now have a 'w' were then pronounced with an 'h' and this is how they continued to be spelled - so, e.g. 言ふ and 言はない which you can see in books published before 1945.
I think the particle は was considered so basic, though, that to modernize it would have been too strange. Presumably it was in fact pronounced 'ha' in the Heian period.

Duncan Adam
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8
Grading comment
Both answers are very well explained. Thanks.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Yuki Okada
2 hrs

agree  transjapan: I agree, too.
3 hrs

agree  humbird: I did not think about it has such an old root. Good explanation!
5 hrs

agree  Mario Hendriks: Interesting explanation
11 hrs

agree  Kimarie
16 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




Voters for reclassification
as
PRO / non-PRO
Non-PRO (3): KathyT, Can Altinbay, humbird


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Changes made by editors
Oct 30, 2007 - Changes made by humbird:
LevelPRO » Non-PRO


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