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Hentaigana (変体仮名, へんたいがな, i.e. “anomalous kana”)

A non-standard kana (仮名, かな, syllabary). Hentaigana naturally evolved from manyōgana (万葉仮名, まんようがな, lit. “kana of ten thousand leaves”), which was nothing but kanji (漢字, かんじ, i.e. “characters of Han China”) used only for phonetic reasons to deal with grammatical differences between the Chinese and Japanese languages. Hentaigana was only one of many varieties of kana developed at that stage. Hentaigana was discontinued in 1900, however it can still be occasionally observed on ramen or soba (noodle based dishes) stores’ noren (暖簾, のれん, i.e. “sign curtain hung outside stores”), or official documents and certificates issued by classical Japanese cultural organisations. As with cursive script (草書, そうしょ, sōsho), the average Japanese person is unable to read hentaigana.

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Page last modified on October 27, 2011, at 07:03 PM