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The Yamato period (300 - 710) had an organized ruler, civilozation, etc. However, only in Nara period (710 - 794), which existed along with the Tang dynasty of China, a Japanese script and language were defined by 万葉仮名 (Manyogana). These where phonetic Chinese characters, forming an "alphabet" and a proto-script for Hiragana and Katakana. So my question is, what script or language did they use during the Yamato period? I can not imagine Chinese, but maby an early Japanese using Chinese characters?

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    I think they either wrote in Classical Chinese or kanbun. – mic Sep 15 '19 at 18:42
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    You seem to be conflating language with writing. Those are of course two very separate things, and the Japanese certainly had a language before they started using (Chinese) writing. That language likely was composed almost entirely of "yamato kotoba", or pure Japanese words. Writing in Chinese, and kanbun in particular as mentioned, brought many terms of Chinese origin into the language, which was deeply transformed by the acquisition, but not enough that the presence of a very different underlying language cannot be seen. – LjL Sep 15 '19 at 21:47
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    They wrote in Classical Chinese, using normal Chinese phonograms to spell Japanese proper names when necessary (so-called "Man'yōgana" is just an extension of how Chinese spelled words from other languages, like Sanskrit etc.). The first books produced in Japan were in Chinese, and Chinese literacy remained strong until the modern era. – melissa_boiko Sep 15 '19 at 22:23

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