Semester ended... able to breathe at last... catching up on e-mails.
Ii Saburou wrote:
> I'm curious as to how people feel it is best to read/speak classical or
> middle Japanese. Is it better to use known, modern pronunciations (such
> as 'gawa' instead of 'gaha' or even 'gafa' or 'gapa') or to read it as it
> is written?
Tough question. In Japan, it's generally all done with modern pronunciation
(the same way they teach Attic Greek with modern pronunciations) and the only
distinction is in the spelling. This definitely helps in the classroom
environment, and in academic circles, as *everyone* can understand what you
are saying. I've got a tape of someone reading the text of the Hojoki, and
it's in modern pronunciation.
I *have* heard of one or two people who use orthographic pronunciation (e.g.,
they say "ke-fu" instead of "kyou") but they're generally considered
exceptions and a bit eccentric. The only time we have ever used the
orthographic pronunciation is when we're parsing words in class and need to
be precise as to what the elements are. And even then, we don't
orthographicize particles, 'cause "wa" is "wa" and so on...
> Sources I've read seem to conflict on how they think it should be
> pronounced. I was led to understand that most people read it with the
> modern pronunciation, but these individuals are not neccessarily trying to
> reenact the language so much as making it easier to understand. It seems
> somewhat like taking Chaucer and reading it with a 'modern' accent:
> 1: Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
> 2: The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
> 3: And bathed every veyne in swich licour...
> Read as:
> 1: When that April with his showers sweet
> 2: The drought of March has peirced to the root
> 3: And bathed every vein in sweet liquor...
> How do others feel about this? As a relevent example:
That's an interesting question, too. It doesn't seem right in the modern
pronunciation. I guess, ultimately, it's one of the "when in Rome" things...
and in Japanese academic circles -- or at least so far as I've penetrated
them -- the pronunciation is "conventional" rather than otherwise. Part of
the problem is that some sounds seem to have been lost (or fallen into
disuse) over time. Hence the disagreement on the name of the queen. It's
pretty clear from historical sources that her name was Pimiko, but in
Japanese academic circles, if you say that people will look at you funny. No
one says it; they all say Himiko. (Perhaps it's like referring to "Emperor
Henry" of the HRE -- only German snobs in the States would say "Heinrich"
instead of Henry, but if you say the latter, everyone will know who you
> "Hana sasofu
> Arasi no niha no
> Yuki nara de
> Furi yuku mono ha
> Wa ga mi nari keri"
> (from Ogura Hyakunin-Isshu, attributed to "Nyuudou Sakino Dajyoudaijin")
> "Hana sasou
> Arasi no niwa no
> Yuki nara de
> Furi yuku mono wa
> Wa ga mi nari keri"
> Which would be the way certain texts are telling me to read it.
> Personally, it seems that, with an understanding of the linguistics at
> work, you actually get something of a happy, slurred medium whereby 'ha'
> is said 'ha' but almost sounds 'wa' and similar changes take place in
> other words ('afu' is more like 'a(f)u' than 'au', if that makes any
> sense). I'm not sure what others think of such things, however.
You also have to remember that the orthography was only modified in 1946. So
a book published in 1942 would still say "Kwansai chihofu ni ha binbau ga
iru" for what was clearly pronounced "Kansai chihou ni wa binbou ga iru."
I've seen some writing -- both here and in Japan -- on speculations on the
original pronunciation, and although it's interesting, it's still all
speculative. Was "ha" always voiced (e.g, was river *originally* "kaHA" and
never "kawa"?)? We just don't know.
There've been some interesting studies done on it in kokubungaku circles, but
I just don't have the time to make it a subject of serious research right