Weird on yomi reading for the kanji 猟

I just came across this kanji in my reviews and I noticed that wanikani says that it can be read as りょう and れふ but i cant find any readings that contain れふ at all. I found that this may possibly be an old way it was read and that another example of this is with the kanji for butterfly 蝶 (ちょう)which can also apparently be read as てふ.

After searching on wanikani to see if てふ would be acceptable on yomi i found that it wasn’t. Does anyone know whether this is a continuity error with wanikani or is 猟 special in this aspect?

Thank you!

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That does seem a bit odd. 漢字源 marks the れふ reading as being the 歴史的仮名遣い (old kana usage) form of the normal りょう, and I wouldn’t expect WK to consider the historical kana readings worth teaching.

@mods maybe this should go on the list to be checked to see if it should be removed?

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From my understanding, before 1900, kana was not very standardised and there used to be several ways to write the same sound in kana

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Yeah, I think that it was never pronounced れふ just spelled that way with the historical spelling.

From Wikipedia Historical kana orthography - Wikipedia

By those rules れ can be used as well as り so that’s probably the case here. Also elongation can be represented by ふ for u-kana. This is similar to the historical spelling of きょう as けふ.

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It was standardised, in the sense that every word had a “correct” spelling, but (as in modern English) the spelling didn’t necessarily match up with the modern pronunciation of the word, and multiple spellings might be pronounced the same way. This was basically for the same reason as English’s spelling system – the “correct kana spelling” was frozen centuries earlier, and pronunciation drifted after that. The post-WW2 kana spelling reforms corrected almost all of this – the only leftovers are the へ and は particles, plus the inconsistency in how long vowels are written.

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Nah, I’m pretty sure there’s some historical basis for the historical spelling. It wouldn’t exist otherwise. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ふ wasn’t actually pronounced ‘fu’ at the time.

I don’t think it’s a matter of standardisation. Especially in the case of sounds of Chinese origin, you’ll notice that the old spellings tend to be significantly closer to what you hear in Mandarin today. Some examples:

  • 猟(りょう today)was traditionally 獵, and is pronounced ‘liè’ in Mandarin. The closest sound in modern Japanese is りえ. If you assume ふ was pronounced as ‘u’, which seems plausible given that the H row used to be pronounced with a W sound in the middle of words, you get れう, which is also very close to ‘liè’.
  • 光(こう today) was written the same way traditionally, and is pronounced ‘guāng’ in Mandarin. That G is an unaspirated English K. The closest sound in modern Japanese would be くあん. Historical kana usage? くわう. It’s close.
  • 様(よう today)was traditionally 樣, and is pronounced ‘yàng’ in Mandarin. Closest sound in Japanese? やん. Historical kana usage? やう.

I don’t think I’m the only one seeing a pattern at this point, yes? The links would probably be even clearer with another Chinese dialect, because dialects like Teochew and Hokkien are clearly aurally more similar to Japanese on’yomi even today.

It’s true that there was a period where historical kana usage no longer matched pronunciation, and that’s the reason spelling was reformed. However, that doesn’t mean that those spellings never served a real purpose. (PS: This is also one of the reasons it tends to be harder for Japanese people to learn Mandarin than for Chinese people to learn Japanese. For us speakers of Mandarin, multiple readings map to the same ones in Japanese. Much harder to guess the correct reading going in the other direction.)

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I’ll ask our content team to take a closer look. Once they do, I/they will be able to provide some more context!

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Having checked my sources (viz, A History of Writing in Japan by Christopher Seeley) this may not be purely because of preservation of the historical Japanese pronunciation. Apparently the standardisation of 歴史的仮名遣い was a gradual process that happened over the course of the 13th to 18th centuries, as various scholars noticed and tried to deal with the confusion of spellings that arose after the sound changes that started at the beginning of the 11th century. There was a period of a few hundred years where some writers stuck with spellings from older texts and some spelled more as the words were pronounced for them, before there was a serious attempt to impose “rules”. So in fixing ‘historical’ kana spellings these 13th-18th century scholars were in many cases doing so by going back and looking at historical documents – though often more in a belief that people had forgotten the old art of good spelling rather than an understanding that the sound of the language had changed over time, and sometimes mixing in their own ideas of “correct spelling” and not always with access to enough historical texts to be correct every time. In particular, Seeley says that kana spellings for Sino-Japanese words were “determined largely by Motoori Norinaga in his Jion kanazukai (Kana Usage for Sino-Japanese) (1776), principally on the basis of the Yunjing (Mirror of Rimes), a set of Chinese sound tables published in 1161.” In other words, even if the older Japanese pronunciation had drifted from the Chinese, the standardisation of historical kana spellings would have imposed a regularity and correspondence with the old Chinese pronunciation, because the people defining the historical kana usage were actively referencing the Chinese pronunciations…

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I guess this still means that they were meant to represent Chinese pronunciation initially at any rate? But yes, it’s interesting to know that they didn’t necessarily evolve all that much to reflect actual Japanese pronunciation. (Then again, I guess a lot of standard spellings tend to be like that – inflexible, until someone decides to make a big change.)

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Veering even further off-topic, if you’re curious about what an 18th century printed Japanese book is like, it turns out that the Cambridge university library have digitised their copy. It’s an interesting mix of styles – it starts out with a few pages in kanbun, then a section in cursive (brush writing) with full furigana, and then settles down for the rest of the book as more modern-looking mixed kanji-kana writing with occasional furigana, apart from the fact it’s using katakana where modern writing would have hiragana, plus of course it’s in classical Japanese and using the historical kana spellings :slight_smile:

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I suspect it was more that these words were usually written in kanji, so there’s less trace of the changing spelling the way there more usually is with yamato-kotoba, and so Norinaga had to do more reconstructive guesswork (“how do we think Japanese people at the time would have written these if they’d written them in kana”) rather than being able to just go look up how things were written in the pre-1000AD texts.

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I read that the は行 originally noted a sound /p/ in old Japanese.
That is, れふ noted something like “lep” or “liep”.
Note that while in modern mandarin syllables only end in -w (written -u/-o in pinyin I think), -n or -ng, in old Chinese endings in -k or -p existed as well (probably noted く and ふ->う).
Those endings in -k and -p still exist in some Chinese languages, as well as in Korean onyomi.

Looking at Wiktionary for 獵 it gives:

  • Middle Chinese:liep
  • Hakka: liap
  • Minnan: liap
  • Korean onyomi: ryeop (north spelling, more conservative), yeop (south spelling, more phonetic)

So, definitively, the old spellings were not arbitrary.
(Note also the kw-/gw- were put in spelling too)

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Yeah, I’ve heard about that too.

I don’t know about this word specifically (because I never learnt to speak any of the other dialects), but yes, I heard my mother and my grandparents speaking Hakka and Teochew growing up, and I can confirm that these consonant endings still exist.

I don’t know what the Middle Chinese reconstruction is based on, but it’s still really interesting to see it all line up.

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By those rules れ can be used as well as り so that’s probably the case here. Also elongation can be represented by ふ for u-kana. This is similar to the historical spelling of きょう as けふ.

Came here to post about けふ → きょう, but you beat me to it. My piece of trivia is that this is used in the いろは poem, aka the Japanese alphabet song. ”うゐのおくやま、けふこえて”, read as “うえのおくやま、きょうこえて”.

Edit:
I even got that little bit wrong. Turns out it really is ういの奥山, “deep mountains of karma”. Strange poem.

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This is exactly right, れふ is a classical reading of 猟, so if you’re reading something written in the classical style, you may come across it. We’ve decide to remove it now, thanks for the heads up!

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