WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

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Lothar von Trotha
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WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Lothar von Trotha »

Let's assume around 0 AD a population speaking Latin (Classical Latin for that matter) is ISOTed to Japan. Of course they don't carry their civilization along but adopt Chinese civilizational model as Japan did IOTL.

ANy ideas in what direction would such a language develop?
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Creyeditor »

If we just do a simple bogolang, I came up with the following by putting all Index Diachronica rules for Japanese on the default SCA2 input.

lector → nector
doctor → doctor
focus → fucus
jocus → ucus
districtus → disttictus
cīvitatem → cīvitətem
adoptare → adohtəre
opera → oara
secundus → sucundus
fīliam → fīriam
pōntem → hōntem

There is room for improvement here.
Spoiler:
Here is the SCA2 code:
V=aeiouəɔL
W=aeiou
L=āēīōū
C=ptcqbdgmnlrhsw
F=ie
B=ou
S=ptc
Z=bdg
P=pbmw
A=aeoæ
D=aæei

First Stage
a/ə/_Ce
a/i/_Ci
a/u/_Cu
V→a/_Ca
u→a/P_Ce
A/ə/_Ce
u/ua/_Ce
D/i/_Ci
o/u/_Ci
e/ə/_Co
o/ə/_Co
u/ə/_Co
æ/a/_Co
V→u/_Cu
b→p/#_
b/b*/_a
b/b*/_ə
b/b*/_Vj
b→w/_/_*
b*/b/_
ɡ//iV_
ɡ/k/_
z/s/_
n/m/#_
r/t/_[iu]
l→n/#_
l/r/_
j//_
W/V/_

Second Stage

p/ɸ/_
ɸ/w/V_V
we/je*/_
e→je/_/_*
*//_
/w/_o
wa/w*a/_
wo/w*o/_
w//_*
*//_
au/ō/_
iu/jū/_
uu/ū/_
eu/jō/_
ou/ō/_
j//_e
w//_o
w//k_a
ɸ/h/_/_u
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Salmoneus
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Salmoneus »

It would develop in some part as our Romance languages did, but with greater influence from Chinese and other nearby languages.

Phonologically, I think the most obvious thing is for it to move (eventually) toward simpler syllable rules.

Perhaps something like...

lector → ñéter
doctor → düóter
focus → füòc
jocus → òc
districtus → dísét
cīvitatem → qiudad
adoptare → düóter
opera → üober
secundus → sugùn
fīliam → firi
pōntem → pón
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by clawgrip »

Keep in mind that the oldest attested form of the Japanese language comes form the 8th century. Its phonology, particularly the vowels, are not fully determined. The language may or may not have vowel harmony. It would be hard to determine how this would influence Latin. Old Japanese also had a very strict, simple (C)V phonology, even to the point of disallowing vowel hiatus (some modern Japanese examples retain an epenthetic /s/ (ko + ame > kosame). The grammar of 8th century Old Japanese is closer to Classical (Heian-period) Japanese than to modern Japanese (as you might expect, given the time period). What Japanese from the 1st century would be like is unclear to me. I'm not very knowledgeable on comparative Japonic language studies. However, it seems highly likely that the strict SOV structure would be in use even then.

I think it's also important to remember that the Japan of 0 AD is not at all like the feudal Japan of a few hundred years ago, or even of 1000 years ago. The formative years of Japan as we know it were generally between the 6th and 8th centuries, during the Asuka Period. The time period you're talking about is during the late Yayoi period, when Japan was still under the control of hundreds of small kingdoms. These people were illiterate, and would remain that way for a few more centuries until Chinese characters were imported. The oldest written document, the Kojiki, is, as mentioned above, from the 8th century. Buddhism also was not adopted in Japan until around the 6th century.

So, your Romans will be encountering an archaic, pre-Buddhist, illiterate collection of late-Yayoi kingdoms, speaking a language that is older than the oldest known Japanese, which itself is not accurately reconstructed.
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Salmoneus »

I assumed, to be honest, that Japanese would be fairly irrelevant to this project. As you say, Japan was fairly primitive at the time - they didn't even have any (organised) contact with China yet. If you put a bunch of Romans there, I'd assume they'd obliterate any trace of Yayoi culture and language in record time. Frankly, even if you only drop one Roman legion there, you'd have a very good chance of them conquering the place. [Caesar, with thirty thousand men, defeated three to four million Celts and subjugated Gaul]

Similarly, I don't imagine the Romans - unless it's only a few hundred of them - abandoning their culture and adopting the more economically and politically primitive one of Han China... although of course over time influence would be inevitable.
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Pabappa »

well if the Romans were shipwrecked and didnt have any way to grow their familiar crops they would be weaker than the aboriginal Jōmon people. I think it's wholly plausible that the Roman settlers would just sort of slowly blend in, assuming the rest of the timeline goes as ours.

It's true that we don't have solid reconstructions of pre-proto-Japanese, but the related Ryukyuan languages suggest that it couldnt have been *too* different from attested writings in Old Japanese. There are research papers detailing hypothesized sound changes from the unified proto-Japonic language down to Old Japanese, and though they're all highly theoretical, that should be okay for a project like this because a language of an originally isolated culture would not need to closely follow the sound changes of any one particular branch of the family anyway.
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Salmoneus »

Pabappa wrote: 23 Aug 2020 13:31 well if the Romans were shipwrecked and didnt have any way to grow their familiar crops they would be weaker than the aboriginal Jōmon people. I think it's wholly plausible that the Roman settlers would just sort of slowly blend in, assuming the rest of the timeline goes as ours.
0AD Japan hadn't been Jomon for a thousand years; it was Yayoi.

The question of course is what is meant by "a population" of Romans. How big a population? One ship? One legion? One town? One Japan-sized province? One Empire?

Japan at that time had a population apparently of around 300,000 people in total, divided into hundreds of petty chiefdoms (or 'villages', to be honest). By comparison, a prospering Roman town like Aquileia had a population of around 100,000 people. Even if you took one small Roman provincial town, like Vienna, that's around 20,000 people - over 5% of the total population of Japan, and enough to immediately completely dominate whatever region of Japan you put it in.

Given the vast gulf in organisation and technology, and given the sparse population of Japan at the time, I think it would be hard to find a population of Romans that was too small not to immediately conquer at least a large part of Japan, yet large enough to survive long enough to see linguistic development.*

Crops shouldn't be an issue. The Romans in 0AD were perfectly familiar with rice as a food, grown in the eastern provinces. It even appears to have been used as army rations by the legions in Germany. Meat and fish would have been much the same as in Europe; I assume some of the vegetables would have been different, but the Romans were smart people with extensive theories on agriculture and an ability to adapt to new terrains and adopt element of local cultures - if you put Romans into Japan, I'm sure that they would immediately observe the local agriculture practices, and indeed quickly improve their efficiency.

[one slight problem for the Romans: their essential condiment, garum, had gone out of fashion in China by then, replaced by soy sauce. Garum remained the core ingredient in southeast asia, though, and while soy sauce obviously took over in Japan too, I don't know when the garum/soy transition happened there. It's possible the Romans might have been forced to eat unpleasant food for a while. But garum isn't exactly hard to manufacture, so I'm sure they'd have restarted the industry if necessary. And in any case, as I say, Rome was a multicultural Empire that appreciated culinary diversity, so I'm sure they'd have adapted to the soy sauce if they had too.]




*one interesting idea might be to put a small population of Romans on Hokkaido (immediate water barrier, worse agriculture, less trade with China). You could have a Roman empire in northern Japan, yet maybe give time for a Japanese nation to still develop in southern Japan. At which point you could have an interesting what-if: what if Japanese developed under the influence of Romance, rather than Chinese?
Lothar von Trotha
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Lothar von Trotha »

I was thinking along your lines.

I would put the Roman population in either Hokkaido or Kyusiu-Honsiu. In case of Hokkaido it means more contact with Japan in case of Kyusiu-Honsiu it means both

It would be extremely difficult to get a sizeable Roman population as far as Japan. I guess it would have to done by magic.

The evolution of language would also depend on number of l2 speakers and whether the founder population had/kept a literary tradition (whether they bring people with knowledge of Classical Latin language and works of history/philosophy )

An idea of a small founder population that splits off from the rest and is rediscovered centuries-millenium later is one that fascinates me
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by clawgrip »

It's interesting to imagine Japan under the influence of a mini Roman Empire rather than China, but unless the Romans conquered Japan, it would be a mix of Roman and Chinese at most. I wonder if the Romans would become tributaries of China.
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Vlürch »

clawgrip wrote: 23 Aug 2020 06:07(some modern Japanese examples retain an epenthetic /s/ (ko + ame > kosame)
What about the theory that it was a connective suffix of some kind, like a genitive/attributive?🤔 AFAIK it's based (only?) on comparison with something like that in Korean, but since Japanese and Korean have a lot of other similarities as well, unless it having had a function like that in Japanese has been debunked, isn't it worth considering the possibility?
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Backstroke_Italics »

This is an interesting question. As Salmoneous points out, a Roman legion would have had an insurmountable advantage over Yayoi chiefdoms, and the question of demographic change depends on how many Romans come along for the ride. But of course Romanization was not perfect even in places that had a steady stream of migrants. Gaulish probably survived into the early 6th century, outlasting the Western Roman Empire, and of course the Romans never supplanted the Brittons outside a few major cities. The Romans only really wiped out other languages along the northern Mediterranean, and weakened them in others (Dacian, Gaulish, and other languages were actually wiped out during the early Migration Period). Romans in Japan would have no constant influx of settlers from Rome and no durable trade or communication links to the capital. Also, Roman soldiers could expect their retirement plots to be vast plantations worked exclusively by Japonic-speaking slaves, with the only Latin speakers in their entire society being other retired soldiers several leagues away on the next plantation. This is not an ideal scenario for language survival. So we have a few options.

First, we could bring over enough civilians to swamp the locals and quickly drive Japonic languages to extinction. This was rare even in provinces near Italy, and basically never happened in far-flung parts of the Empire.

Second, we have the Gaul scenario. We bring over enough civilians (and/or retired soldiers) to make a limited but significant demographic presence. This gradually replaces Japonic languages in some areas, but never drives them to extinction. Japonic may even remain the majority language of the archipelago. Latin is the language of education and trade, and may eventually become the main language eventually, but that is dependent on future events.

Third, the soldiers come alone. They quickly conquer a vast swath of territory, establish themselves at the head of society, and disappear in two generations. Each soldier lives out his life with a Japonic wife, Japonic mistress, and Japonic farm workers, hearing Latin only on semi-weekly booze-ups with his aging comrades. Little Rufus jr. dreams of being "imperator" one day, and maybe wears a toga, but only speaks Latin when he needs to ask Dad for money. Rufusu III can't get past "In picture est Flavia."
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Ser »

Salmoneus wrote: 23 Aug 2020 13:21Similarly, I don't imagine the Romans - unless it's only a few hundred of them - abandoning their culture and adopting the more economically and politically primitive one of Han China... although of course over time influence would be inevitable.
I'm kind of curious why you consider Han China to be more primitive that way than the Roman Empire, if you could elaborate on that at any length. (And please note I don't know a lot, really like much at all, about the Han Dynasty in the first place... My interest in old China is rather more on the Spring and Autumn and early Warring States stuff.)
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Salmoneus »

Ser wrote: 12 Sep 2020 06:26
Salmoneus wrote: 23 Aug 2020 13:21Similarly, I don't imagine the Romans - unless it's only a few hundred of them - abandoning their culture and adopting the more economically and politically primitive one of Han China... although of course over time influence would be inevitable.
I'm kind of curious why you consider Han China to be more primitive that way than the Roman Empire, if you could elaborate on that at any length. (And please note I don't know a lot, really like much at all, about the Han Dynasty in the first place... My interest in old China is rather more on the Spring and Autumn and early Warring States stuff.)

Well, it's difficult, if not impossible, to make a definitive comparison - which is part of the point, really. It's easy to study the Roman Empire, comparatively, because it had sophisticated institutions for collating and maintaining economic data; it's hard to compare it to China, because China... didn't. It didn't even try to record agricultural output, and even land area measurements weren't in standardised units until the 20th century. And because there was vastly less writing in general than in Rome, there isn't even the sort of incidental information from letters and diaries that we have from Rome (in Rome, it seems everyone was someone literate and wrote all the time - witness graffiti, letters from soldiers to their families, etc).

However, from what I've gathered, Han China was mostly an empire of small landholders surviving at the threshold of subsistance. A single bad year or a natural disaster meant devastation - and the central government struggled to provide adequate disaster relief. When order broke down, the result was catastrophe - over a few decades in the 1st century, China's population halved. The kind of demographic collapse that (Western) Rome eventually saw over the course of centuries of decline, China saw repeatedly, taking only years or decades - which speaks not only to political instability, but also to the precarious position of the Chinese population as a whole.

There's some debate over China's GDP per capita at the time (see above re lack of data); the 'classic' estimate appears to be $450, but this is just a calculation of what subsistance would have been, and more recent criticism of this figure from Chinese academics suggests it's much too high (it's essentially based on modern WHO/UN definitions of poverty, which are artificially high for political reasons). Something around $300 is more likely. By comparison, everyone seems to agree that Roman GDP was around $600.

Which is reflected in the few brute economic facts that can be estimated. An analysis of iron production per factory and recorded factory numbers suggest China produced around 5,000 tons of iron a year; others have complained that this is much too low, and maybe it was more like 10,000 tons (still others have suggested that efficiencies were likely lower than the 19th century production methods this is based on, and so the real figure should be less than this). However, even this high estimate pales in comparison to Rome's 85,000 tons a year. And in a really direct demonstration: Han China is believed to have had around 20,000 miles of roads, almost all of it unpaved and of a fairly primitive construction (just compressed gravel). Rome, by contrast, is believed to have had around 250,000 miles of roads, 50,000 of them paved, and even unpaved Roman roads were complicated structures of multiple layers to reduce wear and water damage. [roads along which were stationed inns at set distances, and over which a public postal service operated]


This is a big part of Rome's prosperity: Rome was a massively mercantile society. Along with those roads, there was extremely intensive trade by sea (particularly because Rome, unlike China, was able to eradicate piracy). There was also much more external trade than in China - Roman merchants usually went no further east than Burma (there were even Roman temples in India), but there was also a known merchant route as far as northern Vietnam.

Politically, Han China, although with a flourishing bureaucracy, was much more dominated by the Emperor, who could do virtually everything, and upon whom everyone else's position depended. Laws could be changed dramatically at the Emperor's whim - in the 1st century, one emperor even completely abolished private land ownership for a few years. In Rome - at least, in the early Empire - by contrast the civil service was a mixture of Imperial and non-Imperial institutions with checks and balances: although the Senate was no longer able to directly challenge the Emperor, the senatorial class remained an extremely powerful force. As a result, Emperors found their actions more restricted both by rival powers and by the rule of law itself, and indeed were themselves in a far more precarious situation (in the 1st century, of 11 emperors, somewhere between 7 and 9 of them were murdered, executed or forced to commit suicide - 3 of those were directly killed by Senatorial conspiracies, and 1 of them, Nero, was even officially declared an enemy of the public). That obviously in the long run wasn't great for political stability, but it does illustrate the much more collaborative nature of power in Rome. Emperors were forced to continually seek to maintain threefold legitimacy in the eyes of the Senate, the military (which also had great independent power) and the common people, and to play those power-bases against one another to maintain their own authority, and indeed survival.


But China also lagged behind Rome for geographical reasons. China was not as agriculturally productive as Rome (remember tha at this period, Chinese agriculture was based on wheat and millet grown in the north - the shift to rice happened much later, and the explosion in rice productivity didn't happen until the Ming; however, even for wheat and millet, it also seems that China didn't have the sort of sophisticated crop rotation systems that the Romans used). It was also highly vulnerable to its rivers - low water levels meant starvation, high water levels meant catastrophic floods (the Yellow River has moved around dramatically through Chinese history). It didn't have a large, calm internal sea to trade around. It also didn't have a productive nemesis to compete against, as Rome did with Persia.


------------

From what I can see, it seems as though a better economic and technological parallel to Augustan Rome is Song China, a millennium later (by which time China had overtaken Europe)
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Ser »

Hmm, I see. Those are very good points, thanks!

I always like this irony of "they were very likely in a worse state; the very lack of records/evidence itself tells us that". It's true of the dark ages early middle ages (6th century - 10th century) too.
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Re: WI: Latin ISOTed to Japan

Post by Salmoneus »

It also tends to be true of government atrocities...
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