Any linguists (Japanese or otherwise) here?

I’ve been looking at onyomi kanji and noticing some patterns.

A lot of the “h” sound in ancient Chinese has turned into “k” in Japanese. Thats not a mystery. Suggests the ancient Chinese “h” must’ve been really hard.

And the “b” and “p” sounds have turned into the “h” sound. Anyone know why this is so? Are there precedents for p/b>h in any other languages?

For example:

Divergence in labial stops between Eastern and Western Armenian (e.g. barev. vs. parev) suggest a consonant shift from the classical language.

What does that suggest about b’s or p’s turning into h’s?

Oh, nothing. Sorry, I was confused.

I don’t think it necessarily suggests that. I think this is just a feature of the development of Japanese over time. The change doesn’t seem unusual to me certainly for “h” - “k” or “p” - “h” as these are all aspirated sounds. Presumably these Japanese words once had more of the character of the h and p sounds. The “b” - “h” is a bit harder to explain, but maybe not too much. In Taiwanese, which is more similar to the way Chinese was pronounced back then, the “b” sound in 白本柏 is a harder sound (something like the middle sound in “supper”) than the softer b sound for example in 味麻文,all which have “b” sounds in their analogous Japanese readings.

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From what I’ve learned, Japanese and Chinese are linguistically not related beyond the borrowing (read: stealing) of Chinese characters. Japanese belongs to its own special Japonic family of languages and Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Theories that connect Japanese with other languages, Korean being the most popular it seems, don’t really hold water.

Does it really share much with ancient Chinese? I can see how maaaaybe it could, just by right of us all probably sharing a smidgen of ancestry, but I’ve always understood Japanese to be a particularly isolated language.

That’s interesting. Does it follow that really pretty consistently that hard b>h hand soft b>b?. I can’t really make out the soft b sound 8n Taiwanese. Whenever my mom says it (like in :u7121: or 美)it sounds like a v to me.

You’re right in that they’re not genetically related. But they didn’t just borrow Chinese characters. They also borrowed the sounds that go with them, the borrowed the word combinations, they bought the whole system.

Damned thieves…Koreans too. Thieves!

It does for the 3 characters I checked :woozy_face:

China is the biggest intellectual property thief in the history of mankind. They shouldn’t be talking.

You can’t think of more examples?

I could check a hundred but who has the time?

The"harder" b sound is spelled “p” in Taiwanese, and the aspirated p “ph”.

“Compare the Pronunciation of Chinese Character between Japanese and Chinese”


the link does not work for me, though.

this seems to be a natural shift.

Oh shoot, I didn’t see your post.

  • bʰ > b > p > ɸ

Wonder what bʰ means.

Now that I’ve looked into the Japanese alphabet, it seems like the same letter is sometimes pronounced b, sometimes h.