One thing that always bothered me in Japanese language pedagogy is how they teach quantifier words, such as dareka = “who-ka” or daremo = “who-mo”: They’re just translated atomically (in this case as “someone” and “everyone”), with no further discussion. However, it’s clear that those -ka and -mo particles perform a set role when added to question words:
some, a few
What’s more, there was something less obvious that kept nagging me in the back of my mind: I felt like these uses of ka and mo somehow aren’t so different from their usual roles – ka as the question particle, and mo as the “too” particle. I thought “who + too = everyone” made sense, somehow, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
Shigesato Itoi is known in the West as the author of the cult videogame series, Earthbound (in Japan, Mother 2 – the sequel Mother 3 wasn’t released overseas, but there’s a pro-level fan translation available). Itoi is know in Japan for a whole lot of things, a small sample of which include being a renowed copywriter (he came up with “Gameboy” and “oishii seikatsu”), a celebrity tarento, an Iron Chef judge, a music afficionado and lyricist, the co-author of a short-story collection with Haruki Murakami, a radio host who presented a talk show aimed at middle-aged men “to listen during bathtime”, the developer of a celebrated paper planner/notebook, the voice artist of Daddy in My Neighbor Totoro, and so on and so forth. Itoi’s Japanese Wikipedia page has more than a hundred bullet points, and doesn’t even mention videogames in the summary paragraph.
R.A. Miller is better known for The Japanese Language, an indisputable classic of the field, and for his work on the Altaic hypothesis. However, I’ve never seen anyone draw attention to his academic reviews, the style and rhetoric of which I find to be highly entertaining (probably because I’m not the one being reviewed…). Consider the following representative lines of his comments on Bentley’s A Descriptive Grammar of Early Old Japanese Prose and on Vovin’s A Reference Grammar of Classical Japanese Prose:
The problems with Bentley’s book begin with his title. The texts with which he is concerned are in the main not prose, at least not in the usual understanding of the term; nor can the bulk of them be described as “Old Japanese”, let alone “Early”; nor is what he has published a “descriptive grammar”.
A friend pointed me to James Somer’s article praising the older editions of the Webster’s dictionary. The main points that he raises include the facts that:
The original Webster carefully distinguishes between nuances of near-synonyms: Flashing differs from exploding or disploding in not being accompanied with a loud report. To glisten, or glister, is to shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew.
Compared with modern dictionaries, its language is more pleasant, charming, and also precise and evocative in its imagery (again: “to shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew”!)
I sent him a message about a modern dictionary that I like a lot (more…)
An apple –
The only one left
Unpicked – petitely
Tried to stand true.
Though a single apple
May stand true,
What good could it do?
Though pondering thus,
The apple was so very timid
And so very helpless, that it nonetheless
Decided to stand truer still
And turned about
And went rolling
Up to the hem of the mat and
As if it hadn’t done enough
It stood proud, petitely and
Ishihara Yoshirō, Inaori Ringo. We saw this poem in the morphosyntax class and I liked it. Transcription:
Hitotsu dake Ato e
Ringo wa chiisaku
Ringo ga ikko de
Dō naru Mono ka to
Sore-hodo Ringo wa
Ki ga yowakute
Sore-hodo Kokoro-hosokatta kara
Yappari inaoru Koto ni shite
Atari wo gurutto
Tatami no Heri made
Kore demo ka to chiisaku
Thanks to /u/Hyperwyrm and /u/GrammarNinja64 for corrections and insight. Inaoru, lit. “to fix your sitting” i.e. “to sit up straight”, also means “to assume a combative attitude” (especially when facing adversity). I chose “stand true” because I don’t think English has many idioms about combative sitting… Also I can’t for the life of me come up with a good Portuguese equivalent, standing or sitting.
I’m missing some nuance of bravado on that final kore demo ka… -te yatta…
Os textos de língua clássica japonesa (古語 kogo / 文語 bungo) possuem todo um aparato de apoio para compreensão: dicionários, tabelas de referência, notas, edições comentadas e analisadas gramaticalmente… Esse material de apoio pressupõe domínio da chamada “gramática escolar japonesa”, 学校文法 gakkō bunpō.
Recentemente montamos na USP uma aulinha de reforço de gramática escolar da língua moderna, planejada como apoio a estudantes que estão começando a clássica agora mas nunca viram essa gramática nem para a moderna. O handout que preparei serve de introdução a alguns pontos-chave, e está disponível aqui (referências). O material é de língua moderna, mas procurei me ater aos conceitos e terminologia que serão mais úteis na hora de partir para a clássica.
After another long hiatus, I figure it’s time to admit I can’t update this blog regularly anymore. Turns out being a grad student is a lot of work! I know, who woulda thought, right? There are a half-dozen half-finished posts around, but from now on I’ll publish them irregularly. Sorry about that. There’s also RSS/Atom feeds and email notifications, should the Reader wish to make use of them.
Joining the adult academic world does have its perks, though—like being eligible for the Japan Foundation scholarship program for researchers. Long story short, after all these years, I can finally utter the following statement in a world where it has a positive truth value:
～★☆I am going to friggin’ JAPAN!!!☆★～
Yes, I’m cutting my hair in 2013! I’ll be in Ōsaka-fu for 60 summer days & learn kansaiben & go kuidaore & probably blog every single day even if to say “today I had takoyaki, again”. See you on the other side of the world~
One of the things that interest me in Japanese are the references to written language—specifically, to Chinese characters (kanji)—in speech. Of course, literate speakers of most languages will sometimes refer to writing (“I meant cue, cue with a ‘c’”). It’s my subjective impression, however, that the Japanese do it more often, and the morphographic nature of kanji makes it feel… different.