Shigesato Itoi is known in the West as the author of the cult videogame series, Earthbound (in Japan, Mother 2; Mother 3, unreleased overseas, has a pro-level fan translation). He’s 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 and Iron Chef judge, a music afficionado and lyricist, co-author of a short-story collection with Haruki Murakami, a radio talk-show host presenting an interview program aimed at middle-aged men to listen during bathtime, the developer of a celebrated planner/notebook, the voice of Daddy in My Neighbor Totoro, and so on and so forth. The Japanese Wikipedia 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.
A common experience when studying tea is that, as soon as you start getting the hang of a procedure, your teacher throws some new variation at you. One is always kept on her toes, so to speak, with a constant feeling of inadequacy. Though a bit disconcerting (not to mention ego-shattering), this is actually an optimum educational technique; you’re always just outside your comfort zone, which means you’re always absorbing new things.
One reason why this method works is that each new Temae (formal procedure) don’t simply start it all over from scratch; they can mostly be learned as variations on a theme, changing some points in the overall stable pattern. However, one of the most drastic steps in the Urasenke curriculum might be the very second “full” Temae, namely the basic manners for Koicha “thick tea”. Just as the student started to get happy with the flow of his beginner’s Usucha “thin tea” procedure, he’s introduced to a new form that has small but important differences almost at every turn. Furthermore, when he gets back to Usucha, he finds his blossoming fluency is now ruined with interference from the new habits. Until his body manages to sort out what to do when, he’ll close doors when they should be open and skip water when it should be added, and vice-versa. He’ll be doomed to a long period of Chigau yo. Kyō Koicha desu kara. (“No, it’s the other way around, since today we’re doing Koicha.”)
As a kind of personal exercise, I tried to write down in a table all differences I could think of between basic Usucha and Koicha temae. The results follow below.
This is a dummy post, just to let feed readers know that the post on phonetic components was significantly updated, with more data, more tables, and (finally) a couple graphs.
If you’re even remotely interested in Kansai-ben (the Western dialect of Ōsaka and Kyōto, once the standard), I suppose you must already know of a site with a name like kansaiben.com. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it all this time. What a great compilation! Not just there are tons of examples and contrasts, but you can even play audio conveniently just by hovering the mouse cursor. The “other resources” section pointed me to Jarinko Chie (1981), oldschool anime entirely in Kansai-ben and currently available on youtube.
Speaking of Kansai-ben, I love how Afrirampo changes from -sanai to -sarehen when they’re into it: