平壌: Old Japanese vowel variations

Nino83

Senior Member
Italian
Hello everybody.

Could anyone explain how 平壤 has become hē jō (its phonological history)?

I understand 壤:
ɲɨɐŋ > ziau > jau > jō
but 平?
bieŋ > pieŋ > hieĩ > hiei > hiē? (why has the "i" disappeared?)

Mod note:
The thread has been branched from here in order to focus on a phonetic phenomenon in Old Japanese.
 
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  • Flaminius

    hedomodo
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    平 is said to have had e1 for the vowel in the seventh century. This is a theory proposed out of observations on how words with I, E, O vowels were represented by Chinese characters back then. It has been known from the earliest days of the study of Japanese that Kojiki, Nihonshoki and Maňňyōshū used two groups of characters for what is recognised as a single E vowel (ditto with I and O). For instance, Ayamegusa can be spelt as 安夜具左 and 安夜具佐 but never 安夜具佐 in Maňňyōshū; here is a list of words with me1 (not all syllables have complemantary distributions of Chinese characters, so the lists are by syllables).

    There are a few theories on the pronunciations of vowel groups. Now, one of them holds that e1 was je. If we accept that, 平 was *pjeŋ in the earliest stage of its history in Japanese. I marked it with asterisk because the velar nasal never have had a representation of its own. Anyway, a number of phonetic changes took place to bring about from the ideal form: *p > h, *je > e and *ŋ > i. The only sound change I can present with historical evidence is ei > ē. Velar nasals morphing into a vowel sounds weird but there are other examples such as for 王; *waŋ > wau > ou > ō.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you very much, Flaminius.

    I've seen that the disappearance of the "y" [j] is found also with other vowels, for example 行 客 白 gyou gyaku byaku > kau kaku haku, in the passage from Go-on to Kan-on. Could it be related to this phenomenon?
    The only sound change I can present with historical evidence is ei > ē.
    True, I think this is one of the problems. Do you know since when hiragana started to be used in order to "spell" pronunciation in Japnese? I guess during Middle Japanese there were not treaties on pronunciation using hiragana, am I right?
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Really interesting chapter, ktdd. Thanks!
    Thanks, Flaminius.

    It raised another question, i.e why the Chinese haven't created an alphabet, at least for foreign (Sanskrit) words at the point that nowdays they cannot borrow foreign words, for example 電腦 (electric brain) instead of コンピューター or 軟件 (the vague "soft item") instead of ソフトウェア, so that many international terms will be absent from the Chinese languages. But it could be a question for another thread.

    A last question. Did the change from ŋ to ũ or ĩ depend on the quality of the peceding vowel, i.e if it was palatal or velar?
    aŋ, oŋ, uŋ > aũ, oũ, uũ (velar ŋ > ũ)
    eŋ, iŋ > eĩ, iĩ (palatal, ŋ > ĩ)
    so that:
    鋼 => kaŋ > kaũ > kau > kou > kō
    平 => bieŋ > pieŋ > hieĩ > hiei > hei > hē

    Or was this change casual, not related to the preceding vowel?
     
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    ktdd

    Senior Member
    Mandarin - Beijing
    There was never a /ŋ/ sound in the Japanese sound system, and originally /n/ only occurred at the beginning of a syllable. In fact Japanese is quite like Italiano in that for native words all syllables must end in vowel. The kana for syllabic n ん・ン appeared much later and is not included in 五十音図 or 伊呂波歌 and that is saying something. Before the contact with Chinese, Japanese had a very simple syllable structure not unlike that of Polynesian languages. The 撥音(ん), 促音(っ) and 拗音(きゃ/きゅ/きょ/etc) all developed under the Chinese influence.

    As we know, Middle Chinese syllables can end in m, n, ŋ, p, t, k. So accommodations must be made for Chinese loanwords. For -p/t/k, a weak vowel (i/u) is added. For -m and -n, み/む is used at the early stages (e.g. 文=ふみ) and later on ん after its invention (文=ぶん). As for -ŋ, an extra syllable (a/o/u+う, e/i+い) is used to emulate the Chinese sound the best they can. So in a sense 長音 is also a Chinese influence (there are later sound changes in Japanese, i.e. au/ou->ō which happened during classical times, and ei->ē which is ongoing).

    The examples in #3 (行 客 白 gyou gyaku byaku > kau kaku haku), as I understand, happened in Chinese rather than in Japanese. Go-on (呉音) is based on the Wu region (around Shanghai-Suzhou-Nanjing) dialect of the Northern and Southern dynasties (南北朝) period. Kan-on (漢音) is most likely based on the official language spoken in the capital city of the Tang dynasty, Changan (present-day Xi'an). So it's really a difference between Early Middle Chinese and Late Middle Chinese (for example, the loss of voiced obstruents is clearly reflected in the two readings).

    By the way, there are phonetic loanwords in Chinese, from the ancient ones like 葡萄(grape), 琵琶(pipa), 佛(Buddha) to the more modern ones like 沙發(sofa), 吉普(jeep), 維他命(vitamin) though the number is far less than it is in Japanese - probably because we haven't been occupied by Americans, but also probably because our ancestors stopped short of developing an alphabet/syllabary.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you!
    The examples in #3 (行 客 白 gyou gyaku byaku > kau kaku haku), as I understand, happened in Chinese
    That really helps!
    the number is far less than it is in Japanese - probably because we haven't been occupied by Americans
    But also the Russians have компьютер and имейл (alongside электронная почта, borrowed from Italian posta, via Polish poczta), and we have computer (alongside elaboratore, calcolatore, and we should use computatore from the Latin word computare > contare = to count, lit. counter) and email (alongsinde posta elettronica). It's not all geopolitics. :D
    but also probably because our ancestors stopped short of developing an alphabet/syllabary
    I've found a work (Orthographic Constraints on the Integration of English Loan words in Mandarin Chinese, by Feiyang Tian) where it is said:
    it, first of all, has to be processed in Chinese people’s mind, analyzed as meaningful characters and then decided whether it can be accepted or not. When it turns out to be that the combination of the several characters that make up an English word does not make any sense in Chinese, the word will most probably be replaced by a semantic loan or loan translation or simply be discarded.
    It seems it has more to do with the monosyllabic nature of Sinitic languages and with their orthography (one syllable, one meaning, one character) while in Japanese (like in Russian, in Austronesian languages and in many other languages) these words are phonetically compatible, since Japanese is a polysyllabic (and inflected) language and its nature is, probably, the reason why they developed an alphabet.
    As for -ŋ, an extra syllable (a/o/u+う, e/i+い) is used to emulate the Chinese sound the best they can.
    I've asked it because I've found that in Middle Chinese was pronounced /ɦˠɛŋX/ but in Japanese it is pronounced through, probably kaũ > kau > kō (i.e we have a ũ when the preceding vowel is palatal, ɛ).
     
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    ktdd

    Senior Member
    Mandarin - Beijing
    Yes, Chinese is monosyllabic and lacks inflections, so the need for an alphabet isn't as great.
     
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