第395課: 変体仮名

      In Classical Japanese works there are many かな that may seem very odd to the novice beginner. These かな are called 変体仮名. No, not へんたい as in 変態 but as in 変体.

    変体仮名 are simply historical variants of the now standard ひらがな today. So, each mora had several possible ひらがな. The problem was not so in カタカナ as variants were made obsolete early in its development. 変体仮名 came from 万葉仮名, and many 変体仮名 originated from different 漢字. 


変体仮名 were made obsolete in 1900 as one of the final reforms of the Meiji Reformation ( 明治維新). However, they still play a role in calligraphy, billboards, and authentic copies or replications of Classical works. 変体仮名 is also referred to as 異体仮名, making it clear that they can still be viewed as variants used at the author’s will. It must be known, though, that not a lot of people know how to read them. 

    変体仮名  have played a very important role in writing ever since conception. People of the arts could liberally chose to their heart’s desire what かな they wished to use, a continuation of the privilege people had when Japanese was still written in 万葉仮名.

     変体仮名 are for the most part somewhat evolved forms of 万葉仮名 cursive style characters, from which other standard ひらがな derive from as well. As many 漢字 share the same 音読み, 変体仮名 inevitable came from a lot of characters, and many were made to represent the same sound.

     変体仮名 are still seldom used. Many soba restaurant signs remind people of the character’s glory-days and martial art centers and centers devoted to the preservation of historical events display them. Expect to see these characters by just going to a battlefield marker.

    変体仮名 are not able to be viewed on computers. However, we will study by looking at the characters from this table from http://www10.plala.or.jp/koin/koinhentaigana.html 



    Try learning 5 a day once you reach IMABI IV and you will be fine. Also, if you are interested in learning the cursive form of characters, this will also greatly lessen the stress of learning another writing system.

Origins of 変体仮名

     One thing that is important to know and that can greatly help you memorize 変体仮名 is to recognize where they originated. The following chart shows where all かな have derived from. The abbreviations 平, 片, and 変 will stand for ひらがな, カタカナ, and 変体仮名 respectively. 

  安 阿 悪 愛安 阿 以 伊 意 移 以 伊 異 宇 有 雲 宇 右 憂 鵜 羽 衣 江 要 盈 衣 得 縁  於 於
K 加 可 加 嘉 閑 賀 我 家 香 佳 幾 起 幾 喜 支 木 貴 期 記 季 季季 久 具 久 九 求 供 倶 計 介 希 斗 計 介 遣 気 稀 己 古 故 許 胡 子 興 期
S 左 散 左 佐 散 斜 乍 砂 狭 差 之 志 之 新 四 斯 事 師 寸 須 春 須 寿 数 受 世 勢 世 聲 瀬 曽 楚 曽 所 処 蘇
T 太 多 多 堂 田 當 知 千 知 千 遅 地  馳 智 川 徒 川 津 都 頭 天 天 亭 帝 伝 轉 低 弖 止 登 東 度 砥 土 斗
N 奈 那 難 名 南 菜 仁 丹 仁 爾 尼 而 耳 児 奴 怒 努 駑  禰 禰 年 根 熱 音 寝 念 子 乃 能 野 乃 濃 迺 農
H 波 八 者 葉 盤 八 波 婆 半 芳 羽 比 飛 悲 比 日 非 妣 不 婦 布 不 部 遍 弊 辺 倍 幣 変 保 保 本 報 奉 穂
M 末 満 万 末 麻 馬 真 間 美 三 美 見 三 微 身 武 牟 無 舞 牟 无 女 免 面 馬 毛 毛 茂 母 裳 无 
Y 也 屋 夜 耶 也 哉 以 由 由 遊 游 衣 與 与 余 代 夜 
R 羅 羅 良 利 里 利 李 理 梨 留  流 留 累 流 類 礼 連 礼 麗 呂 露 呂 路 侶 楼 婁
W 和 王 和 倭 為 井 井 為 遺 委 宇 恵 衛 恵  遠 乎 越 遠 乎 緒