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Re: [Lingo] Pronounciation from kanji: 下手(へた)

> What had me really confused was that へ was nowhere in the readings for
> 下.  So this belongs to the third case where "the reading of the word
> has nothing whatsoever with the readings of the constituent kanji."

Sorry for breaking the thread... I accidentally deleted all the
other messages before I could get this response out...

I think it is more helpful to say (and think) not that the reading
"has nothing whatsoever" to do with its component parts, but simply
that the reading is a function of the entire word, rather than a
"compositional" function of the individual characters that make it up.

And actually in this case, I'd be willing to bet that へ is
historically related to the modern reading げ of this kanji. It's
almost without doubt that た is related to て(手). So it's
easy to imagine that the word was originally げた and that the
initial consonant was "weakened" (this is called a lenition process)
to へ over time (a [k] or [g] sound becoming an [h] sound is a
common sort of change).  Because the sound change didn't happen
globally throughout the language (we still have the reading げ
today), one could imagine that only a small number of words were
affected (or even perhaps only this one) because of frequency
of use, or for other reasons.

Please note that I'm only speculating here, not offering an
authoritative account :-), but I'll see if I can find evidence
supporting this analysis, and post back here if I do.


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