University of Hawai’i Press has just published John R. Bentley’s ABC Dictionary of Ancient Japanese Phonograms, the first comprehensive dictionary of man’yōgana. It is the ninth entry in the ABC Chinese Dictionary Series edited by Victor Mair. The 600-page volume is an indispensable aid to anyone working with Old Japanese documents. Citations are given from 22 works or collections, including well-known texts such as Kojiki, Nihongi, Man’yōshū and Shoku Nihongi, as well as lesser-known sources such as Paekche stratum materials.
Each entry cites a variety of pronunciations from, among others, Early Middle and Late Middle Chinese, Go-on, Kan-on, and Sino-Vietnamese. Each entry also includes a brief commentary, then examples of usage in specific texts in Romanization as well as translation. The dictionary uses a Romanization system developed by Frellesvig and Whitman and also includes a pinyin index. An immensely helpful 30-page appendix lists each phonogram alphabetically and indicates the source material for each from twelve of the main texts.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this work. Along with Alexander Vovin’s grammars of Old Japanese and ongoing translation of the Man’yōshū, this is an absolutely critical resource for anyone working with ancient Japanese texts.