Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Basic Japanese : Japanese Alphabetical orders – “Gojyuu-on” and “Iroha-uta”

Date Published: Last Update:2015/04/17 Others , , , ,

General Info : Japanese Alphabetical orders

There are two patterns of Japanese Alphabetical orders.

One starts with “A”, “I”, “U”.
This is now used at school to learn Japanese Alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana.
Known as “Gojyuu-on” (lit. “fifty sounds”).

The other starts with “I”, “Ro”, “Ha”.
Probably this was more commonly used before.
Known as “Iroha-uta” (lit. “iroha song”).

“Gojyuu-on”

It’s a chart of Japanese Alphabet consisting of ten rows with five characters each.
A mora “n” is not included to the number.
Although it is called “fifty sounds”, but actual number of the present one is only 45.
Three of them are redundant (the gray characters in the image above), and two are not used any more (the red ones in the image).

This “gojyuu-on” may be much easier to learn each sound than “iroha-uta”, because it’s a phonetically organised chart.
The first row is a group of vowels, “a”, “i”, “u”, “e”, “o”.
The second is a combination of “k” and each vowel.
Perhaps the reason why “n” is not counted is because it is out of this rule.

[History]

As a matter of fact, I felt this “gojyuu-on” was rather new to compare with “iroha-uta”.
However, according to a book entitled “History of Gojyuu-on Chart” published in 1938, its precise origin is not known, there even seems to have been a theory claiming it came from god in the mythical period.

Now it is considered to originate in the middle of the Heian period (794 – 1185).
The oldest existent Japanese fifty-morae chart dates from the 11th century.

[The redundant characters]

The gray ones in the chart are twice-used.
Some tried to use Kanji characters in cursive script for those, but obviously this attempt didn’t succeed, given the fact that they are generally omitted from the chart now.

According to the rule of the combination, they should be pronounced as “yi”, “ye” and “wu” respectively.
However, unlike the red characters, it is supposed that these never had their own pronunciations.
Maybe their sounds were too similar to vowels, “i”, “e” and “u”.

“Iroha-uta”

It’s a “waka”, Japanese traditional poem, using every Japanese alphabet only once, again excluding the mora “n”.
(In the image above, “n” is shown as the last character, but it’s not a part of the poem.)

This is thought to be composed around the late 10th century or 11th.
The oldest existent document is the book entitled “Konkou-myou saisyou-ou-kyou ongi” (or “Konko-myo saisho-o-kyo ongi”) in 1079.

The last word of the very long title, “ongi”, means “(a book to explain) the meanings and pronunciations of Kanji characters (in a sutra)”.
The rest of the title, “Konkou…”, literally means “The sutra of the most victorious kings of the golden light”.

It’s a guidebook for a Buddhist sutra, and it contains not only “iroha”* but also “gojyuu-on”, although its row order is different from the present one.

*It’s written in Kanji characters which have the same sound as Hiragana or Katakana.
The Alphabet written in Kanji is called as “Manyou-gana”.
It is used heavily in the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry entitled “Manyou-shuu” (twenty volumes in total, assumedly completed in the end of eighth century).

We don’t use an “iroha” chart to learn Alphabets at school any more, but I guess that it is still very familiar and most of Japanese memorise it.
A Japanese word for “the ABCs (of something)” is “iroha”, never “aiu”.

Also, there is a card game called “iroha-garuta”.
There is a “gojyuu-on” card game, but I believe “iroha” one is much more common and has longer history.

Next Post: Out-of-use characters

 

Related posts:
#“I” in Japanese (1) (2) (3)

#Japanese honorific titles (1:Formal) (2:Casual) (3:In text) (4:Business titles)

The following two tabs change content below.

kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Jinmen-inu

Japanese urban legends – Part 1 –

“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (1) Summer in Japan is ridiculously hot and humid except in some northern areas. So, people enjoy horror stories especially in summer to feel shivering cold. There are many old and new ghost / horror stories in Japan, and I feel it would be nice to introduce some. (It’s […]

Read Article

Masakado

Mystery tour: Taira no Masakado – Part 1 –

Roll up for the mystery tour! This one can be categorized as an urban legend as well. Masakado no Kubi-zuka (The burial mound for Masakado’s head)   Quick History Taira no Masakado is said to be one of the Big Three Onryou (vengeful spirit) in Japan. There are some novels about Masakado, and “Teito Monogatari” […]

Read Article

blood type

You are What You Bleed! – The Japanese Blood Type Personality Classification

What’s your blood type? – For most people, the only reason that they ask this question to others is that when they’ll be needing blood (no, not that vampire-ish type of need) for blood transfusion when something bad happens, that person may be able to help if they are compatible. But in Japan and other […]

Read Article

Iroha 3

Basic Japanese : “Iroha-uta”, line by line – Part 1 –

“Iroha-uta” as a poem I’m going to explain the meaning of the poem in two posts. As I wrote in the previous post, it is thought to be composed in the Heian era (794 – 1185). In the major theory, the poem is said to express a doctrine from the Nirvana Sutra. But the poem […]

Read Article

Number List 4

Basic Japanese : Large numbers in Japanese – Thousand and over

Large numbers in Japanese : Thousand to quadrillion From thousand to quadrillion, the common units you hear in everyday life in Japan including in the news. As I wrote in the previous post, for digits over ten, “4” is always read as “yon” and “9” as “kyuu”. “7” is generally “nana”. For bigger numbers than […]

Read Article

Mister Karl

Basic Japanese : How to say “I” in Japanese – Part 2 –

General, but not very often used “I” in Japanese Several first-person singular pronouns for common people, only used by some. Neutral [Jibun] “Jibun” means “oneself”. Can be used by anybody according to circumstances, but I guess few common people use this as a usual pronoun for themselves. Maybe male athletes often use this, especially in […]

Read Article

Senpai

Basic Japanese : Japanese business titles

The last post of “Japanese honorific titles” series. For people who are in a (supposed-to-be) honorary post, their business titles are generally used. There are too many to pick up everything, so I just write about some of the most common ones. Each of them can be used after the person’s name. In “Dalziel and […]

Read Article

Dazaifu 06

Go west : Sugawara no Michizane – Legends

There are mysterious legends around Sugawara no Michizane. Most of them are episodes after he was framed by his political enemy. Michizane and the flying plum tree This legend is very well-known along with the following poem. The night before he left his home in Kyoto, the capital at that time, he composed a poem […]

Read Article

On-chuu

Basic Japanese : Japanese honorific titles in text

Many of Japanese honorific titles in text are the same as ones in speech. However, “sama” or “dono” is much more often used in text, especially for address. Maybe it’s because a writer is in the distance. In a letter, use the same title as one in speech. When I write a letter to my […]

Read Article

Akatsuki no Yona

Basic Japanese : Formal Japanese honorific titles

At first, I was going to write about how to say “you” in Japanese, but the most common “you” word is a person’s name usually with suffix like “san”, “kun”, or “chan”. (ex. Hanako-san) This way of calling is used as third person as well. In this post, I’m trying to explain the variants and […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑