Why are wa, e and o spelt ha, he and wo in Japanese?

They used to be pronounced that way, but over the years the pronunciation of Japanese changed while the conventional spellings did not (as in most languages, e.g. English after the Great Vowel Shift). In 1946 the policy on Modern Kana Usage aligned kana spelling and modern pronunciation. As would probably happen with words like “are” and “was” if English spelling was ever rationalised in a similar way , these very common grammatical words were the only ones left unchanged.


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