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View Full Version : Was Katakana inspired by Roman characters ?



A ke bono kane kotto
Nov 3, 2009, 07:31
When I learned the kana, I found some katakana characters more intuitive to remember because they looked so similar to the Roman alphabet that we use in European languages. In fact there are so many kana reminiscent of romaji that I came to wonder if the Japanese didn't lay hands on documents from Europe to find their inspiration. I know that officially the Japanese say that they simplified Chinese characters, but when I see the supposed source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana#History), I have my doubts. Western characters are often much closer. They could have seen some Roman coins that had reached Japan via China or India, who both traded with the Romans. Who knows ? Just look at the similarities :

ア = A a
イ = I
エ = E

カ, キ, ク and ケ all look a lot like K k. Just rearrange a bit the strokes and that's it.

チ, テ and ト look as if they were styled on a T or t. テ is really just a T with an additional bar on top. チ is a twisted T with a bar in the middle. ト is a t badly written.

ヤ is like a badly hand-written Y.

After all, the kana order was copied on Sanskrit, so why not a Roman or Greek influence ? Greek characters are also quite close.

ヨ (yo) is like a ω (omega) rotated 90 degree and made more square.

セ (se) is not unlike Σ (sigma).

More impressive, the Japanese キ is almost identical to the Phoenician http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Phoenician_samekh.svg/20px-Phoenician_samekh.svg.png, pronounced "xi" (written Ξ in Greek).

The Phoenician Yodh (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/25/Phoenician_yodh.svg/20px-Phoenician_yodh.svg.png) and He (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Phoenician_he.svg/20px-Phoenician_he.svg.png) could both have been the source of the katakana ユ and ヨ.

Even ア looks uncannily like a Phoenician Aleph (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4d/Phoenician_aleph.svg/20px-Phoenician_aleph.svg.png), more so than the Greco-Roman "A".

Chidoriashi
Nov 3, 2009, 08:51
I still think it is quite obvious they came from Kanji.. take for instance these 3.... ロ=口 カ=力 エ=工 they are katakana and stand alone Kanjis. To me that looks the most similar.

undrentide
Nov 3, 2009, 10:11
As Chidoriashi pointed out, Katakana was made by taking a part of kanji.
There used to be no writing system in old time Japan, then kanji was "imported" from China.
Each kanji was used just to represent each mora, that means one had to write down all these complicated kanji to write even for just a simple word. That was too troublesome when students (priests at that time) to take notes, and they simplified kanji by taking a part of it - that's how katakana was "created". :)

Here's the chart to show how each kanji became katakana.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana#History

Alma
Nov 3, 2009, 10:43
even you really tried hard, I cannot see any connection in most of your examples...

and I don't know why you have doubts in "supposed source" :? most of them are too obvious...

also, makes no sense - why would Japanese make katakana from anything else but their kanji :?

undrentide
Nov 3, 2009, 11:24
And the list both you and my post quoted is not "supposed" source but it IS the source.

I think that your attitude (to have doubts instead of just believing everything presented in front of you) is very important to study, though.

But your idea is far-fetched, in this case. Besides, what you suggested has no consistency - if you say katakana came from Roman alphabets, why you need to mention Greek alphabets or Phoenician (which is the origin of Roman/Slavic alphabets) ones?

caster51
Nov 3, 2009, 17:35
http://godpresencewithin.web.fc2.com/pages/zatsugaku/kana.html

Mazin
Nov 9, 2009, 02:47
@caster51
I don't even know what to say, other than that I'm terribly saddened by the fact that somebody obviously spent a lot of time on that page.

EdZiomek
Nov 9, 2009, 19:18
The original comments by A ke bono and the URL lookup by Caster51, which I can't read, but I understood what the gist of the chart means, makes me conclude this could be the start of an exceptional, unique study.

Japanese, possibly related to Phonecian script, certainly related to Hebrew characters, and for my theory, extensively related to Egyptian (though I have only coincidental examples), how could there NOT be a relationship?

Keep building on this subject!

Mazin, take a break.

Sirius2B
Jan 3, 2010, 04:13
Was Katakana inspired by Roman characters ?

No.

I am not expert in Japanese, but even I know that the Katakana and Hiragana were a logical evolution from the using certain Chinese characters for phonetical purposes. It is well documented from which Kanji an why, a katakana caracter evolved.

Besides that, the Katakana and Hiragana were in place long before the contact of the Japanese with Portuguese/Spaniards, that were the first Europeans had significant contact with Japan.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Still, I believe that for nemonic purposes, it could be useful to discover similarities between the Japanese silabaries and the Roman characters.

Regards.

skim
Jan 3, 2010, 06:46
It's only coincidence. They were made from Hanzi.

..and I've always thought ア looks like a P. o_o

Ben Bullock
Jan 21, 2010, 20:10
even you really tried hard, I cannot see any connection in most of your examples...
and I don't know why you have doubts in "supposed source" :? most of them are too obvious...

You should have doubts. :bikkuri: Like many parts of "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit", that Wikipedia chart is at least partly hocus-pocus. If you take the example of the katakana ン (n), the origin is disputed. Yet the Wikipedia graph shows it coming from a part of a kanji. I think somebody decided everything was "too obvious" and just created that chart, without checking.
Notice they can't even get the katakana ウィ for Wikipedia right in their illustration at the top of every page. It still says クイ.
:crab:

Maciamo
Mar 22, 2010, 20:44
The original comments by A ke bono and the URL lookup by Caster51, which I can't read, but I understood what the gist of the chart means, makes me conclude this could be the start of an exceptional, unique study.
Japanese, possibly related to Phonecian script, certainly related to Hebrew characters, and for my theory, extensively related to Egyptian (though I have only coincidental examples), how could there NOT be a relationship?
Keep building on this subject!
Mazin, take a break.

I had a look at the link (http://godpresencewithin.web.fc2.com/pages/zatsugaku/kana.html), and it does seem to confirm what A ke bono kane kotto said. Looking at the table of kana vs kanji vs Hebrew vs Greek alphabet, the kana look so much closer to the Hebrew and Greek alphabets than to the Chinese characters from which the kana presumably derive that it is truly disconcerting. I wouldn't surprised if the kana were developed by combining Chinese characters with Hebrew, Phoenician and/or Greek alphabet.

Maciamo
Jul 13, 2010, 19:02
I am willing to give credit to caster's theory that the Kana system was inspired by Hebraic script. I have just found out that an ancient family in Japan, the Hata clan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hata_tribe), who probably around in Japan some 1700 years ago from China, are now thought to have been of non-East Asian origin. Some claim that they came from Central Asia, others that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel. Whatever their exact origin may be, it is very possible that they, or other such immigrants, brought with them the knowledge of alphabetic scripts from the Middle East to Japan. This would explain why the Kana were developed so quickly after the adoption of Chinese characters although Japan never developed a script of its own before and Kana never existed in China. It would also explain why so many Kana are so similar to Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek alphabets, all derived from a common Phoenician source.