The Japanese still use the Chinese characters, introduced in the country, through Korea, in the century. V. The number of commonly used characters is 3-4000, but many others are found in works of a particular character. The value that a character can have is: 1. ideographic, if it is used to express the idea it represents; 2. phonetic, if one leaves aside the idea and is used only to represent the sound (as in the transcription of a foreign word). So far the Japanese use coincides with the Chinese one. We find profound differences, however, in reading. In Chinese, each character has only one reading, rarely two or more. In Japanese, it can have three categories of readings:
- the kun, which is the Japanese word or words that translate or translate the idea or ideas represented by the character;
- l ‘ on, which is the Chinese pronunciation of it, more or less modified in the Japanese mouth. The Japanese, in fact, globally accepted the characters with the relative readings from China; now, these readings were varied in China according to the regions and in the same region according to the epochs. On the other hand, from the century. VI onwards, Japanese students and religious went to China and brought back texts that they read according to the pronunciation in vogue at the time and place of their studies. The various readings of the characters thus introduced can be reduced to three: a) the Go – on, the oldest, in use in the realm of Go (Chinese: Wu) which, in the century. III d. C., almost included the Shanghai region. b) theKan – on, now the most widely used, introduced by religious and scholarly scholars, between the century. VII and IX, which represents the dialect spoken in northern China (Honan, Shen-si) and which conquered, in Japan, the upper hand over the others; c) the T ō – in, rarely used and mostly in Buddhist texts, introduced by the Ōbaku sect (see above p. 42) in 1655, which represents the dialect in vogue in China since the end of the century. X to that of the XVII;
- conventional readings, quite arbitrary.
Ex.: (1) (Chinese: shêng) has the fundamental meaning of life, hence the derivatives: give life (generate, give birth), receive life (be born), grow, raw (i.e. how it was born), etc. Hence the varì kun: inochi (life), naru (to bear fruit), umu (to give birth), umareru (to be born), haeru or ou (to grow), nama (raw), etc. The Go – on is sh ō, the Kan – on is six ; the T ō – inis missing. All these readings are usual. Thus: (2) it is sei-to, pupil, but (3), if read iki-ry ō, it is the spirit of a living person, if, instead, you are – rei, it is the people. We then have: (4) namauwo, fresh fish, (5) ki – ito, raw thread, (6) iki – iki or even sei – sei, vividly, vividly, and finally the conventional readings (7) sugiwai, existence and (8) ainiku or ayaniku, unfortunately.
According to Clothingexpress, the application of Chinese characters to the writing of Japanese ran into great obstacles from the very beginning. After various attempts, the elements for the composition of two syllables were taken from the Chinese characters themselves, one called katakana (from kata “side” and kana, contracted for kari – na, “borrowed name”), the other hiragana (hira”plain”, that is “simple, easy”, because it is common among the people), the first obtained by taking fragments of Chinese characters, the second by taking the cursive forms, often abbreviated. Both came into use in the century. IX. Tradition has handed down to us the 47 syllables that compose them in the following poem, attributed to Kūkai (v.), In which each of them appears only once and which, from the name of the first three, is called “poetry of the iroha ” (iroha uta):
The katakana are used when greater accuracy is required (codes, official bulletins, scientific books, etc.); the hiragama, on the other hand, under the Chinese characters to indicate grammatical particles and suffixes, or next to them to indicate their pronunciation (furi – gana). Japanese, like Chinese, is written in vertical lines from right to left.