KKS I: 1

Composed on a day when spring arrived in the old year.


tosi no uti ni
Faru Fa kinikeri
Fitotose wo
kozo to ya iFan
kotosi to ya iFan
Within the year
Spring has come again;
The one year:
What should I say: that it’s last year,
Or that it’s the year to come?

Ariwara no Motokata

5 thoughts on “KKS I: 1”

  1. I like this “Janus” poem.
    Just a minor note: in the Japanese version, the “to” seems to be lacking after “kozo”:
    should be
    according to both your own transcription, and NKBT 8, 105.
    Kind regards
    Raji Steineck

  2. Thank you for your transcription into reconstructed pronunciation. I have a question about meters.
    The first verse should have 5 syllables, and, in your transcription, it has them. But you seem to have omitted the 5th japanese character (“ni”).
    And in the fourth verse, there should be 7 syllables, but, in your transcription, there are only 6.

    1. Thank you for your comment. In answer to your questions: the missing ni was a simple oversight on my part which I have now corrected. Thank you for spotting it. In Japanese n/mu is considered a syllable, or more correctly, mora on its own, so the fourth line of the poem does have a seven count (ko zo to ya i Fa n); the final line, though, has eight (ko to si to ya i Fa n) – the reason for this is that the 5-7-5-7-7 syllable/mora pattern for waka was not absolute, and poets could and did vary from it sometimes. Hope that helps!

  3. Thank you for your transcription, but I wanted to ask about the phonetic spelling choices made.

    In the phonetic spelling of the Waka, there are some sounds that do not occur naturally in the Japanese language. “Faru fa kinikeri” would actually be said more like “Haru ha kinikeri”. The “Fa” and “Fi” sounds don’t occur naturally in Japanese.

    Also in the last two lines, “kozo to ya iFan” and “kotosi to ya iFan” the phonetic spelling of the Japanese actually would actually be closer to “kozo to yaihamu” and “kotosi to yaihamu”.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      The transcription used here is intended to replicate (approximately) the pronunciation of Japanese when these poems were written in the ninth/tenth centuries, not as it is now.

      In the Old Japanese period (7th-8th centuries), Japanese had no /h/ sounds, so the word for ‘spring’ would have been pronounced paru. As a result of various phonological changes, by the Late Old/Early Middle Japanese period (9th-11th centuries) this /p/ had transformed into a bilabial fricative /F/ sound, becoming Faru. This sound was gradually lost before all vowels but /u/, transforming into /h/ as we have in modern Japanese, so by the end of the twelfth century, ‘spring’ would have been pronounced haru, as it is in modern Japanese.

      We know that in Late Old/Early Middle Japanese this /F/ sound existed, because it explains why, for example, the topic particle is pronounced as wa in modern Japanese: pa->Fa->wa. If it had been ha at some point, going back to wa is a reversal of normal phonological progressions and doesn’t make sense. Thus, it must have been iFan and not ihan, as the modern equivalent for this would be iwan.

      Hope this clears things up.

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