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Late Old Japanese




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Early Middle Japanese
中古日本語
RegionJapan
EraEvolved into Late Middle Japanese at the end of the 12th century
Language family
Japonic
Early forms:
Old Japanese
  • Early Middle Japanese
Writing systemHiragana, Katakana, and Han
Language codes
ISO 639-3ojp (Old Japanese)
Linguist Listojp Described as "The ancestor of modern Japanese. 7th–10th centuries AD." The more usual date for the change from Old Japanese to Middle Japanese is ca. 800 (end of the Nara era).

Late Old Japanese (中古日本語) is an old form of the Japanese language. It was used in the time known as the Heian Period, between 794 and 1185. The form of Japanese that was used before that is called Old Japanese.

Old Japanese was the first form of the Japanese language. The script (the way it was written) came from the Chinese script. This was all based on characters which were like little pictures (called kanji today, e.g. 中古日本語). During the Late Old period two new scripts were invented: Hiragana and Katakana. These were much simpler and described the sound of the syllables. It made reading and writing much easier. Famous books were written during this period such as The Tale of Genji, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tales of Ise and many others.

Many changes took place to the way the language was pronounced during this period. Consonants that had been spoken through the nose became voiced, some long vowels were added, some consonants slid into one another. The syllables became simpler: instead of 88 there were only 66. Instead of two types of -i, -e, and –o there were only one. Some verbs ended in a consonant, others in a vowel. The changes in grammar included different ways that adjectives could be declined.

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