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Re: Hakka Language and Japanese Go-On Borrowings"
: Dylan, reading your entries has always given me new perspectives. Sorryto
: say that I have difficulty following your writings especially when
: to the different dynasties. I think it would be helpful if you could give
: a chronological overview. I believe not all of us here at this forum are
: well-verse with the history of China and would really appreciate your
Firstly, let me say, that I am not 'well-versed' in Chinese history, beyond
knowing the approximate ages of the dynasties themselves. My observations
on the Japanese borrowings of Chinese pronunciation stems from written
material that is readily available. Nearly all Japanese dictionaries will
have some mention of this fact because the huge majority of written
characters have their origins in China. (Japan has created many of its own
characters too for their own uses, called Kokuji 國 字 .)
The following is not a complete list, and some have been left out: NSEW are
the cardinal points of the compass.
E. Han 東 漢 25-220 AD
Three Kingdoms 三 國
Wei 魏 220-265; Shu Han 屬 221-263; Wu 吳 222-280
W. Jin 265-317; E. Jin 317-420
Northern and Southern Dynasties 南 朝 北 朝 420 - 618
Southern Dynasties :
Song 宋 420-479; Qi 齊 479-502; Liang 梁 502-557;
Chen 陳 557-589
Northern Dynasties :
N. Wei 魏 386-534; E. Wei 534-550; N. Qi 550-577;
W. Wei 535-556; N. Zhou 周 557-581;
Sui 隋 581-618
Tang 唐 618-907
Song Dynasty 宋 朝
N. Song 960-1127; S. Song 1127-1279
Five Dynasties 五 代 十 國
Later Liang 後 梁 907-923; Later Tang 後 唐 923-936;
Later Jin 後 晉 936-946; Later Han 後 漢 947-950;
Later Zhou 後 周 951-960
Yuan 元 1279-1368
Ming 明 1368-1661
Qing 清 1636-1911
Dates quoted from Si Jiao Hao Ma Xin Ci Dian (The Four Corner Index New
Dictionary), Shang Wu Xin Zi Dian, both from Shang Wu Yin Shu Guan
The dynasties of Han, Wu, and Tang are called Kan, Go and Tou in Japanese.
When they are used to point to the borrowings of pronunciations, they are
merely conveniences, and they are not accurate in terms of the period they
represent. They are terms to represent the people who identify with these
labels. The borrowings have themselves been continual since the adoption of
Chinese as a medium of writing from the 4th century onwards. Hence, post
Go On travelled to Japan via southern Korea around the Southern Dynasties
era of Chinese history, around the 5th and 6th centuries, and
pronunciations have been
fossilised by Buddhist texts. Two famous Japanese texts which were written
before the coming of the kana symbols, that used the Go-On sounds are; the
Manyoushu 萬 葉 集 (Thousand Leaf Collection) and Kojiki 古 事 記 (Ancient
Kan readings are the most numerous or 'productive'. My dictionary says that
it comes from the 'Sui and Tang' dynasties, and pricipally from the capital
at Chang An, and purports to be a 'northern' pronunciation. The
corresponding time frame in Japan is about the Nara until the early Heian
(710-900) periods of Japanese culture.
Tou On readings are from the late till post Tang period until the start of
the Qing Empire, encompassing the Five Dynasties period, Song, Yuan and
Ming dynasties. In fact Tou On may be called Sou On by some. (Sou here is
the Song Dynasty.) These are mainly used for scientific and engineering
Just for completeness, there is also another class of borrowings marked by
慣 meaning that the character has this popular reading.
Kanji Dictionaries will explain the above far better than I can, and one
NTC's New Japanese - English Character Dictionary, whose editor is Jack
Halpern, from which some of the above is derived.
: What you said about the influence of Chinese language to the Japanese is
: extremely interesting. I would really appreciate if you could give a more
: complete analysis of the relationship between Chinese, especially Hakka,
: with Japanese language. Do you see a possibility that Hakka was a major
: language spoken in Tang Dynasty, just what SL Lee has proposed?
No. It is not as simple as that. The dialects of Hakka and Cantonese share
many similarities and is now thought to have (JERRY NORMAN's book :
CHINESE) common linguistic ancestries. This is deduced from the fact that
they share endings -m -p -p -t -k. But from what I can make out of looking
at Go-On borrowings, these endings are reflected in both C and H sounds.
The Wu sounds are from the area which is now Shanghai, in the lower YangTze
River basin. Many Hakka have migrated from this region, as can be read from
the many webpages out there, after the chaos which fractured the Han Empire
and on through until the stability of the Tang empire was formed. The
Cantonese have often identify themselves as 'Tang Ren', people of Tang
China, and so we cannot disregard this either. I believe many Hakka also
called themselves by this appelation (Tdong Ngin) rather than the odd
sounding 'Han Ren' or Hon Ngin. So that is further speculation as to the
C-H linguistic ancestry.
Just recently, Dr. Lau has pointed out the mapping of H to C tones. This
may not be a coincidence. Often in my own sub-dialect of Hakka I have
wondered why the tones 5 and 6 (low and high pitch -p -t -k sounds) have
the diametric opposite tone in C. Dr. Lau has shown this in the tone
contours (level numbers).
: You have also pointed out that Hakka was well preserved despite the vast
: movements over the centuries. Do you mean that Hakka had not been
: influenced by Cantonese at all? As you know, there seems to be a lot of
In recent times, education via the mode of the Cantonese dialect has become
the norm. Many Hakka children grow up prefering to speak Cantonese rather
than Hakka. Their parents or grandparents who have been lucky enough to be
educated, did so via the medium of Hakka itself. Subsequently, since the
area of GuangDong used Cantonese as the language of commerce, Hakka people
such as the older generations had to learn Cantonese on the streets if you
pardon this phrasing. There will be mispronunciations and also crossing
over of words into the other dialect, at the same time enhancing Cantonese
vocabulary, and also modifying it and its sounds. I don't have solid
evidence of this, but as an imperfect speaker of Cantonese, I find that my
inaccuracies can be understood OK. Please note that there are many dialects
of Yue of which Cantonese is one - which has often been looked on as a
standard. Hence you will often hear many strange sounding Cantonese or more
correctly Yue speakers on TV and media in HongKong and Guangdong, just as
there are many different varieties of Hakka out there too.
: saying that Hakka was very much influenced by Cantonese. The sole reason
: is that we had been their neighbour for hundreds of years. I believe in
: this theory that Hakka was a well preserved language too. This is base on
: my own observation that despite proximity to Cantonese, Hakkas were still
: very isolated with the outside world. I think it can be seen from our
: culture that Hakkas are a very close-knit group of people and we had been
The Hakka have often populated areas where living is more difficult. Most
of us have rural traditions which stem from an agricultural based living.
It is only in the last century or so that work outside of this setting has
made it possible for us to remove ourselves from it.
: comfortable living in a rural and mountainous region. It does not seem
: that there was much trade between Hakka and Kwantung in the old days.
Commerce is inevitable. Income sustains a family, be it in monetary
transaction or from harvests. Someone of another dialect is sure to want to
buy somethey they cannot produce themselves. Many people by fish from the
floating boat population of Hok-lo's whilst they by fruit and veg from the
: If Hakkas and Cantonese co-exist in the Wu kingdom, I wonder why
: called us the "Hakka". Up till now, I am still very interested to know
That I leave to others to explain. I believe we call ourselves Hakka, and
the name stuck for others to use.
: relationship between the Hakka and Cantonese. This relationship, as I
: speculated, could fall back to the period of Three Kingdoms. Cantonese
: could have occupied a certain 國 。 I think you have heard of the phrase
: 百 國 爭 鳴 . Somehow, Cantonese have lost a war and they started moving
: to the present kwangtung. It was later followed by the Hakkas. This is of
I have no info on that. It may be as Norman says, that somewhere in the
past we could have shared a common linguistic heritage, which diverged for
any number of reasons. Certaininly major upheavals such as mass migrations
cause by war and other pestilences may be contributive factors.
: course just my own speculation that is now put into this forum solely for
: the purpose of sharing and let me know if you see this possibility.
The theory is only as sound as the data that supports it. Speculation
without solid evidence is therefore shaky ground to rely on.