I asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 7 months ago

Can you explain this Japanese writing format?

I've been learning Japanese for some time now, largely because of my interest in their political/philosophical history. I'm nowhere near fluency, and certainly can't read older Japanese literature and whatnot. But I got curious while reading up on Kita Ikki (Japanese revolutionary) and decided to take a peek at his works in the native language, to see if how much I can understand.

The image below is what I saw in few of his works I looked up and for the life of me I can't figure out why it's written this way. I'm specifically referring to this odd usage (at least it's odd to me) of katakana in the place where I assume, normally hiragana would be used, and even then is used in very oddly. I'm not Japanese savvy enough to figure this out on my own, so any language experts out there that can help?

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  • Ben
    Lv 5
    7 months ago

    It's the way Japanese used to be written.

    Hiragana being the favoured way of writing is relatively recent. Pre-war, they use katakana instead.

    They also had a spelling reform after the war, so you'll find that in stuff written before that certain words are written with kana different to those they are pronounced with.

    For example, verbs ending in う were written with フ (still pronounced as う, as they are today). These verbs were then conjugated accordingly, so for example 違フ, 違ハナイ, 違ヒマス, but all were still pronounces as they are today. Additionally, a lot of words ending in -ou were written as ending in -au (still pronounced -ou, as they are today), so for example そう was written サウ, 行こう was written 行カウ, and so on. And certain words were written with now defunct characters, for example いる was written ヰル.

    They were written like this because a long time ago they used to have pronunciations matching those characters, but over time the pronunciations changed but the spellings did not.

    After the reforms, all of these words where changed to be written how they are pronounced.

    You'll find this document uses a lot of old-fashioned literary language as well. Ways of speaking that were defunct even back then in spoken language, but still used somewhat in a literary context.

    A lot of them revolve around the old conjugations of the verb する, which used to be す. For example, セラル means the same as される. It uses the old adjective particles, as well, ナル and タル instead of な.

    I don't know enough of the old language to be able to translate it for you, though.

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  • Pontus
    Lv 7
    7 months ago

    The passage is beyond my abilities to actually understand, but I do recognize the katakana.

    I do know that katakana has many uses:

    a. for foreign words of Western origin (probably not the use here)

    b. for emphasis, like italics in English (probably the use here)

    c. for onomatopoeia (example, often seen in manga or anime for grunts, laughter, sounds of weapons etc)

    d. the names of many, but not all, Japanese companies

    e. the scientific names of plants, animals, minerals, etc.

    f. in earlier times, for telegrams (simpler than hiragana or kanji).

    Source(s): only intermediate Japanese
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