Dr. TANAKA Sōta
February 17, 2021
4:30 PM EST
漢文 (The Chinese Script) in the History of Japanese Written Languages
This talk aims to better understand the complex role that written Chinese (hanwen/kanbun 漢文) played within the variation and history of Japanese written languages. The written language of classical Chinese became a means to write the Japanese language. The key factor in this development is kundoku 訓読, a system with which a written Chinese text can be read out as an idiom of Japanese.
I first survey the specific types of documents which used kanbun within the larger script system of premodern Japan even after the development of the phonetic kana script. Second, I will argue that this continued use of kanbun motivated and influenced the reliance on “classical” (Middle Japanese) grammar in writing, down to the 20th century. I also point out that there was room for linguistic variation even in texts in classical grammar and this enabled a wide variety of literate people to write classical Japanese, which had become so different from spoken Japanese.
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Jennifer Guest, April 7