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Hakka Language and Japanese Go-On Borrowings
A Happy New Year to one and all,
The Japanese acquired Chinese and have had cultural intercourse both
linguistically and economically for many centuries. During various stages
in China's long history, its language influenced the nations around it
giving it the deserved name of the Middle Kingdom. Nowadays, the traces of
these influences can be found in Japanese through the preserved ancient
sounds used Japanese. You can read about Kan-On, Go-On and Tou-On readings
for characters, corresponding to the names of the Dynasties, Han, Wu and
Tang, where On is the sound for the chinese (Mandarin pronun) Yin meaning
The Wu state covers mostly the southern portion of modern China, GuangXi,
Guangdong including Hunan, JiangXi Fujian, Zhejiang right up to what is
Shanghai and Anhui regions, so the eastern seaboard is facing Japan. At
this period of the Three Kingdoms, Wei is to the North, whilst Shu covered
the regions of present day Yunnan and Sichuan. The total area of the Three
Kingdoms seems almost like that of present day China. Now the Shu kingdom
to the west is geographically remote in proximity to Japan. Wei has an
eastern coastlinge almost down to near present day Shanghai, whilst Wu has
the rest of the southern coastline to Vietnam. Why then is it that Go-On is
the name of the borrowing and not "Wei"-On for example, when both Wu (Go)
and Wei share the coastline facing Japan? I suppose it could be due to the
much richer south, with its agriculture and other commodities which created
the atmosphere for commercial and subsequently cultural exchange.
My other observation is to do with the language aspect.
Go-on can be termed as a Southern Chinese borrowing can it not? This is not
surprising, since much of the sounds that are found in Go-on still survive
in Cantonese and Hakka, though the state floundered well over 1500 years
ago. I suggest therefore, despite the movement of populations, that the
local flavour of the language has stayed put more or less where it has.
Most of the Wu region is nowadays occupied in part by the vast majority of
the Hakka Peoples.
When one comapres Go-on to either Cantonese or Hakka, there is a reasonable
concurrence of the sounds. As in S.L. Lee's pages, he states the influence
of Hakka upon the Japanese. It can be seen in the language itself. It is no
wonder then that a Japanese has written the important work on Hakka and its
ancient Hakka roots: Mantaro J. Hashimoto.