第393課: Numbers XI: ひふみ

Before Sino-Japanese words were introduced to 和 (ancient Japan), there were only native numbers. Counters still existed, but some of them looked different. Counters were limited to native numbers before the flood of Sino-Japanese words into Japanese.

Although Sino-Japanese numbers and counters have been used for much of written history, it has only been the case fairly recently counter phrases became so difficult to read. Sino-Japanese numbers were used with Sino-Japanese counters. So, even 400 would have been しひゃく, which can be seen in Modern Japanese in the set phrases  四百余州しひゃくよしゅう (all of China; literally "approximately 400 provinces") and 四百四病しひゃくしびょう (every kind of disease; literally "four hundred four" diseases)

Native Numbers 0~99,999

     Many people are surprised to find out that native numbers could actually reach from 0~99,999. Whether it was actually used that far is debatable and highly unlikely, but the patterns are there to reach that high.

     The number 0 was represented with the word なし, literally meaning "nothing",  and 99,999 would be ここのよろず ここのほ ここのそ あまり ここの. Of course, when counting things, these numbers had to be used with native counters. The basic native counter to count things as well as the basic numbers can be summarized as follows.

  Number Counter Phrase
 0 なし なし
 1 ひと ひとつ
 2 ふた ふたつ
 3 み(い) み(い)つ
 4 よ(を) よ(を)つ
 5 いつ いつつ
 6 む(ゆ) む(ゆ)つ
 7 なな ななつ
 8 や(わ) や(わ)つ
 9 ここの ここのつ
 10 とを とを
 11 とをあまりひと とをあまりひとつ
 20 はた はたち
 30 みそ みそぢ
 40 よそ よそぢ
 50 いそ いそぢ
 60 むそ むそぢ
 70 ななそ ななそぢ
 80 やそ やそぢ
 90 ここのそ ここのそぢ
 100 もも もも
 200 ふたほ ふたほ
 300 みほ みほ
 400 よほ よほ
 500 いつほ いつほ
 600 むほ むほ
 700 ななほ ななほ
 800 やほ やほ
 900 ここのほ ここのほ
 1000 ち ち
 2000 ふたち ふたち
 3000 みち みち
 4000 よち よち
 5000 いつち いつち
 6000 むち むち
 7000 ななち ななち
 8000 やち やち
 9000 ここのち ここのち
 10000 よろづ よろづ
 20000 ふたよろづ ふたよろづ
 30000 みよろづ みよろづ
 40000 よよろづ よよろづ
 50000 いよろづ いよろづ
 60000 むよろづ むよろづ
 70000 ななよろづ ななよろづ
 80000 やよろづ やよろづ
 90000 ここのよろづ ここのよろづ

Origin Notes: You can skip this if you have no interest in etymology. For those that find it interesting, have fun. 

1. Without a counter, numbers were originally disyllabic words.

2. The sounds in parentheses would drop out and or stay in some words. For instance, むゆか (six days; sixth day of the month), survives in Modern Japanese as むいか.  

3. It is posited by some that 5 was originally just い and that つ was added to make it disyllabic, but the sense of the word being two morphemes was lost, which gave way for いつつ to be formed.

4. A rather interesting theory as to the ultimate origin of many Japanese numbers is that 2, 6, 8, and 10 descend from Austronesian languages, and because the pairs <1 2>, <3 6>, <4 8>, and <5 10> appeared to have interchangeable function in the ancient period and the origins of these pairs coincide with each other, it's very plausible. If you go back to these numbers, you can still see that these pairs resemble each other, with only the last pair being more different than the rest.

Below is a chart summarizing this theory. This theory is more generous to meaning changes. 

  日本語の数詞 南祖の対応形 意味
 1 ɸi *isa 1
 2 ɸuta *isa 2
 3 mi < *miy < *miyi *telu 3
 4 yə < *yəw < *yə *empat 4
 5 itu < *yi *lima 5
 6 mu, mui, muyu *telu 3
 7 nana (鼻音重複形) *isa 1
 8 ya <.*yaw < *yawa *empat 4
 9 kəkənə *genep 数が揃った 
 10 təwo *sa(ŋ)puluq
 20 ɸata *pasaŋ 対
 百 -ɸo, momo (鼻音重複形) *puluq 10
 千 ti *ribu 千
 万 yərədu *(n)teReb 万, 豊か

Chart Note: 南祖 stands for Southern Austronesian reconstruction used in this theory.

Transcription Note: y is not written in IPA as j.  

Citation Note: This is from Pg 171 of 川本崇雄’s 南から来た日本語. 

5. There's also the problem of Japanese-related numerals being found in recovered 高麗語, which would have been spoken in the Korean peninsula. This further complicates the problem, but that's what happens when all your evidence goes away into the abyss of history.

6. For those that think Japanese is Altaic in origin, the number 4 is their friend because they think よ comes from dər. 7 is akin to the Proto-Manchu word *nadan 8 is then akin to the Manchu word japkun. The biggest problem that these people have is that they can't get anywhere close to accounting for the entire number system. Despite lack of evidence and hard to follow sound correspondences, the previous theory covers far more territory. 


     As far as counters are concerned, the exceptions found in Modern Japanese with Sino-Japanese endings are the same for the most part. For example, the counter for people is -人(にん) for Sino-Japanese numbers and ~人(たり) for native numbers. ~人 is ~人(り) for ひと (1). In Modern Japanese, the native counter is normally only used for 1-2, but in Classical Japanese there was no such restriction. Native counters can be used with any native number, except 0 of course and likewise Sino-Japanese counters with Sino-Japanese numbers.

    There are some counters that are noticeably different. For example, the counter for year is とせ instead of とし. The counter for days was ~か too, but it was used with any number. For example, 100 days was ももか. The exceptions with ~か were minus small changes. っ found in some can't be attested throughout history because っ wasn't written until much later. But, they were probably pronounced with them. 6 days (of the month) and 7 days (of the month) in particular were むゆか and なぬか instead of むいか and なのか respectively. 


1. また、治承(ぢしよう)四年(よとせ)水無月(みなづき)のころ、にはかに(みやこ)(うつ)りはべりき。
    Again, around the sixth month and fourth year of the Jishou Era, there was a sudden capital move.
From the 方丈記.

2. おほかた、この(みやこ)(はじ)めを聞けることは、嵯峨(さが)天皇(てんわう)御時(おんとき)、都と定まりにけるより後、すでに四百余歳(よさい)
    To begin with, as for hearing about the rise of Heiankyou, it has already been four hundred years           since the capital was determined in the reign of Emperor Saga.
From the 方丈記.

3. 十一日じふいちにちの月もかくれなむとすれば
    When the moon of the eleventh day was about to disappear
From the 伊勢物語.

4. 八雲やくも
    Eight/a lot of clouds

5. 同じき七日(なぬかのひ)
    On the same seventh day of the month
From the 平家物語.

6. 一坏乃 濁酒乎 可飲有良師
    It seems better to drink a cup of cloudy sake.
From the 万葉集.

7. 二人して打たんには、(はべ)りなむや。
    If two people hit (the dog), would it still live?
From the 枕草子.

8. 六日むゆか、きのふのごとし。
    The sixth. The same as yesterday.
From the 土佐日記. 

9. つかさくらゐおもひをかけ、主君しゅくんのかげを頼むほどの人は、一日ひとひなりともうつろはむとはげみ、時を失ひ世にあまれてする所なきものは、うれへながら止まりり。
People who pinned their hopes on people of rank and relied on their favor, even for a day quickly try   to use their energies to move, and people who were left behind by society and had nothing to hope for stay put and complain. 
From the 方丈記.

Reading Note: 一日 could also be read as ひとひ in the ancient period. Although つひたち and いちにち existed as well, this reading could also be used to mean "the other day" or "all day". The latter reading is actually acceptable today in more so written Japanese, but it is normally replaced with 終日 or 一日中. 



1. Give the Sino-Japanese numbers from 1-10 in 歴史仮名遣い.

2. Give the native numbers from 1-10 in 歴史仮名遣い.

3. Show a counter phrase different from Modern Japanese.

4. What is 101 in the native set of numbers?