The Wikipedia says that Japanese katakana vowels “The gojūon inherits its vowel and consonant order from Sanskrit practice. “. Could expert explains this in easy language?

  • 2
    Just to be clear, this is a question about how Japanese orders its characters and how that might be related to how it is done in Sanskrit. Sanskrit and Japanese as spoken languages have almost no connection at all except for some Buddhist vocabulary. – Mitch Feb 16 '18 at 16:08

Due to the study of Buddhism and its scriptures in the source language (either Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit or Pali) Japanese scholars were aware of the structure of the Indic scripts finally coming from the tradition of Sanskrit. When they created the Katakana they applied the ordering priciples of the Devanagari Script to it; the deviations (i.e., the ordering of the consonants s and h) can be explained by later sound shifts: The /h/ was a /p/ originally and developped via /ɸ/ to /h/, the /s/ was a /ts/ originally and thus closer to the Devanagari letter ca (च).

EDIT: Incorporated information from the comments

  • I think Japanese Buddhists, like other Northern (Mahayana) Buddhists, read their scriptures in Buddhist Sanskrit, not in Pali. – fdb Jan 27 '18 at 15:50
  • /h/ in Japanese comes from OJ /p/, not /f/. As far as I recall, /s/ is a merger of /s/ and /ts/, but nothing more. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 '18 at 16:51
  • @jknappen It was definitely /ɸ/ at some point, but as part of the transition from /p/ to /h/. Again, going from memory, the sound change to /ɸ/ almost certainly postdated the creation of the kana syllabaries—though I’ll grant you I have no idea if it postdated the ordering of the kanas according to their Sanskrit equivalents. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 '18 at 18:35
  • Roy Andrew Miller certainly suggests that the s-series in kana must have been something like /ts/, at least with some vowels. – Colin Fine Jan 28 '18 at 1:26

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