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|Early Middle Japanese|
|Era||Evolved into Late Middle Japanese at the end of the 12th century|
|Writing system||Hiragana, Katakana, and Han|
Early Middle Japanese (中古日本語 chūko nihongo ) is a stage of the Japanese language used between 794 and 1185, a time known as the Heian Period. It is the successor to Old Japanese. It is also known as Late Old Japanese, but the term "Early Middle Japanese" is preferred, as it is closer to Late Middle Japanese (after 1185) than to Old Japanese (before 794).
Whereas Old Japanese borrowed and adapted the Chinese script to write Japanese, during the Early Middle Japanese period two new scripts emerge: hiragana and katakana. This development simplified writing and brought about a new age in literature with such classics as Genji Monogatari, Taketori Monogatari, Ise Monogatari and many others.
Major phonological changes are a characteristic of this period.
The most prominent difference is the loss of Jōdai Tokushu Kanazukai, which distinguished between two types of -i, -e, and -o. While the beginnings of this loss can already be seen at the end of Old Japanese, it is completely lost early in Early Middle Japanese. The final phonemes to be lost are /ko1/ and /ko2/.
An increase in Chinese loanwords had a number of phonological effects:
- Palatal and labial consonant clusters such as /kw/ and /kj/
- Uvular nasal
- Length became a phonetic feature with the development of both long vowels and long consonants
Other changes include:
- The change of the prenasalized consonants to voiced consonants
- The change in timing from syllable-timing to mora-timing
|Tap or flap|
Theories for the realization of include , , and . It may have varied depending on the following vowel, as it does with modern Japanese.
By the 11th century, intervocalic had merged with .
Early Middle Japanese inherits all eight verbal conjugations from Old Japanese and adds one new one: Lower Monograde.
Consonant / vowel stem
Verbs having a base that ends in a consonant are known as consonant-stem. These are exhibited by the following conjugation classes: Quadrigrade, Upper Bigrade, Lower Monograde, Lower Bigrade, S-irregular, R-irregular, K-irregular, and N-irregular.
Verbs with a base that ends in a vowel are known as vowel-stem. These are exhibited by the conjugation class Upper Monograde.
There are several verbs with irregular conjugations.
- K-irregular: k- "come"
- S-irregular: s- "do"
- N-irregular: sin- "die", in- "go, die"
- R-irregular: ar- "be, exist", wor- "be, exist"
The conjugation class for each is named after the final stem consonant.
The regular adjective is sub-classified into two types: those where the adverbial form ends in -ku and those that end in -siku. This creates two different types of conjugations:
The -kar- and -sikar- forms are derived from the verb ar- "be, exists". The adverbial conjugation (-ku or -siku) is suffixed with ar-. The conjugation yields to the R-irregular conjugation of ar-. The resulting -ua- elides into -a-.
The adjectival noun retains the original nar- conjugation and adds a new tar-:
The nar- and tar- forms share a common etymology. The nar- form is a contraction of case particle ni and r-irregular verb ar- "is, be": ni + ar- > nar-. The tar- form is a contraction of case particle to and r-irregular verb ar- "is, be": to + ar- > tar-. Both derive their conjugations from the verb ar-.
Early Middle Japanese was written in three different ways. It was first recorded in Man'yōgana, Chinese characters used as a phonetic transcription as in Early Old Japanese. This usage later produced the hiragana and katakana syllabic scripts which were derived from simplifications of the original Chinese characters.
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