Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

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Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Crescent Pulsar S » Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:06 am

I was wondering how well a modern speaker of Japanese would be able to understand someone speaking the language from a thousand or more years ago.
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby PCHeintz72 » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:32 am

Crescent Pulsar S wrote:I was wondering how well a modern speaker of Japanese would be able to understand someone speaking the language from a thousand or more years ago.

If you are looking for definitive proof I doubt you will get it here.

It is interesting you note it as speaking, and not reading. The problem is that the written language would seem to be actually a partial long time derived derivative of Chinese and only goes back some 1300 years at the earliest stages.

However, I doubt any modern Japanese person actually knows how a person 1000 years ago spoke. Or could interact easily if two such individuals met due to the fact the spoken language apparently lost 3 vowels...

It actually may get worse in future generations, since the Japanese government has taken moves to limit the language to make it easier to learn.

Here is a link to a article that makes me believe all that.

An Overview of the History of the Japanese Language by Daniel J. Vogler
http://linguistics.byu.edu/classes/ling ... panese.htm
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Crescent Pulsar S » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:23 am

Yeah, I only mentioned speech because I thought I recalled something about their writing not developing alongside it. I just wasn't sure of exactly when they began to write.

What you linked to was informative, so you have my gratitude. Before now the only part of the written language that I know was changed, aside from simplifying kanji in the forties, was that "wi" had gone out of use (since it was used for two character names in Touhou Project).
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Maximara » Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:42 am

Crescent Pulsar S wrote:I was wondering how well a modern speaker of Japanese would be able to understand someone speaking the language from a thousand or more years ago.


If Japanese has had a drift similar to Western languages they might not be able to understand at all.

As Moviebob pointed out in his review of Tim Burton's A Christmas Carol Victorian English has a vastly different grammar, syntax, and rhythm from what is spoken today but the movie follows much of Dicken's dialogue. Also there is the culture understanding underneath the language. The exchange between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present regarding Sabbatarianism is so out of place in our modern world that most people will not have any idea just what those two are on about.

That is difference of just over 150 years and the longer the time the worse it gets.

Here is some of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (14th century) as it actual appears:

Ye seken lond and see for your wynnynges,
As wise folk ye knowen all th'estaat
Of regnes; ye been fadres of tydynges
And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat. (The Man of Law's Tale)

Now here is how that reads in modern English:

You seek land and sea for your winnings,
As wise folk you know all the estate
Of kingdoms; you be fathers of tidings,
And tales, both of peace and of debate.

Note that some of the very words used have changed. Japanese has likely had a similar drift.
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Ellen Kuhfeld » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:34 am

Something tangential, but apposite: in 1973, Bellerophon Books put out Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale", translated into Hippie by Lieuen Adkins and illustrated by Gilbert Shelton.

We gave a copy to a friend of ours, who (among other things) was a medievalist, novelist, and occasional actress at the Guthrie Theater. She laughed her head off, though I'm not sure if it was the translation or the images.

Translation can do peculiar things to words, let alone stories.
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Cheb » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:38 pm

I believe Rumiko Takahashi did a decent work showing that. People from 500 years ago are often baffled by Kagome using tons of English loan-words. Sometimes she needs a moment to recognize an outdated word about things she knows by their modernized names. Gems are a good example: while Inu-Yasha uses Japanese for "diamond", Kagome uses English loan-word for it. I honestly only remembered that one because Russian allows for similar dichotomy: "almaz" / "brilliant" (both meaning "diamond").

Sadly, I believe most of it was lost in translation.
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Spica75 » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:03 pm

I honestly only remembered that one because Russian allows for similar dichotomy: "almaz" / "brilliant" (both meaning "diamond").


Isn´t the meaning that almaz means diamond, while "brilliant" refers to a specific way of cutting a diamond(and other gems)? The word is used in Swedish as well.
http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briljant
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Re: Japanese language a thousand years or more ago...

Postby Cheb » Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:37 am

Technically, yes. "Brilliant" means "cut diamond". https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%91%D1 ... 0%BD%D1%82
But in common speech such words are often used to encompass (technically, incorrectly) wider meanings.

Isn't that how word meanings mutate over time?
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