Bungo Nyûmon
A Brief Introduction to Classical Japanese

Vocabulary Problems 

 

     One of the greatest problems in translating or understanding CJ faced by those familiar with MJ is the proliferation of “false friends” with whom they share kanji or other roots. Some of the more common — and more troublesome — examples are:

Classical Japanese Word
Classical Japanese Meaning
Modern Japanese Meaning
tameshi
example
test/attempt
sunawachi
soon, immediately
“in other words…”
okashi
interesting, beautiful
funny
utsukushi
beloved, attractive
beautiful
mezamashi
amazing, interesting
waking-up
ashita
morning
tomorrow
mezamashi
mezamashi
mezamashi
mutsukashi
unpleasant, eerie
difficult
okonau
to do; to hold Buddhist services
to occur
nonoshiru
to shout, to call out
to revile, to abuse
ari
to be (people & things)
to be (things only)

      Another problem is the proliferation of totally different terms and words for common ones long-since internalized from years of working with Modern Japanese. Some of the more frequent ones are:

Modern Japanese Word
Classical Japanese Word
Meaning
a, ano
ka, kano
that (over there)
sore
sa
that
aruku
ariku
to walk
muzukashii
katashi
difficult
tegami
fumi
letter (correspondence)

     Other frequent, useful words either do not exist in Modern Japanese, or are totally unlike any related concept in Modern Japanese, although the same kanji may be used (with a different reading) for the same concept. Some examples:  

Classical Japanese Word
Meaning
yamugotonashi
exalted; unable to be ignored
ito
very
ikade
in what manner; however (rhetorical, with Q)
saranari
of course; it goes without saying
atenari
exalted; first rate
imiji
great; impressive
kokoroushi
difficult; unappreciated; unpleasant
ashi
evil; bad; wrong
itsuku
to revere; to worship

This page was last updated on 3/24/04.

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