2014-11-06

Kaimon

Something else at Archive.org: Reminiscences of Lafcadio Hearn, by his wife Koizumi Setsu (translated by Paul Kiyoshi Hisada and Frederick Jonhson). I don't suppose the fact that he really, really loved Japan will come as news to anyone reading this, but there is some interesting insight into his compositional process here and there. For example:

When I told him the old tales, I always first gave the plot roughly; and wherever he found an interesting place, he made a note of it. Then he would ask me to give the details, and often to repeat them. If I told him the story by reading it from a book, he would say, "There is no use of your reading it from the book. I prefer your own words and phrases — all from your own thought. Otherwise, it won't do." Therefore I had to assimilate the story before telling it. [...]

The story of "Yoshi-ichi" in the first part of "Kwaidan" pleased Hearn exceedingly. He made that story from a very short one, with great effort and determination. He wished to make one part of it sound stronger. He thought that "Mon o aké" (Open the door) was not an emphatic enough expression for a samurai, and he made it "Kaimon." (This latter word means "Open the door," like the former, but would be more fitting in the speaker's mouth.)

Kaimon 開門 is a fully Sino-Japanese parallel to mon wo ake[ru] 門を開ける, even using the same characters, as you can see. The effect of Hearn's change was to make the samurai character more commanding and aristocratic, not deigning to share even the language of the common folk.

Someone once asked me why Japan had any interest in Hearn's work; couldn't they just read the original versions of the stories he was retelling? This is why. He wasn't just repeating what he heard — he was actively reshaping it into the forms he brought with him from overseas, almost recreating the tales in collaboration with his wife so that he could find and bring into focus things that local tradition had not. (Sometimes because those things were not actually in the stories until he put them there, of course; radical recomposition is not compatible with strict field-recording-style authenticity.)

No posts next week, incidentally! I have a few things to take care of here...

2014-11-03

The totality of reason

A. R. Orage's Readers and Writers (1917-1921) contains a rather intriguing piece on pp48-50 entitled "When Shall We Translate?" I will quote it rather liberally as it is not in copyright in the US or Japan (book published in 1922, author died in 1934).

There is nothing particularly "masterly" from the modern English point of view in Hobbes's translation of Pericles's Funeral Oration. His period of English prose appears to have been ill-adapted for the translation of the Greek idiom of the time of Pericles. To the usual cautions against translations in general, we ought to add the caution against translations made in dissimilar epochs. It is not at any time in the history of a language that a translation from a foreign language can safely be undertaken. In all probability, indeed, the proper period for translation is no longer in point of time, than the period within which the original itself was written. If the Periclean Age lasted, let us say, fifty years, it is within a period in English history of the same length that an adequate translation can be made. Once let that period go by, and a perfect translation will be for ever impossible. And equally the result will be a failure, if the translation is attempted before its time has come. I do not think that the Hobbesian period of English was in key with the period of Periclean Greek; nor, again, do I think that our period for perfect translation has yet come.

The idea that each generation should have its own translations is a pretty common one (if impractical for most source texts). The idea that only one or two generations can translate a given text properly is much rarer.

But I am confident that we are approaching the proper period, and in proof of this I would remark on the superiority of Jowett's translation over that of Hobbes. [...] Hobbes was a great pioneer, a creator of language; Jowett was only a good writer. Nevertheless, the idiom in which Jowett wrote, was more nearly perfect (that is, fully developed) English than the idiom in which Hobbes wrote. And since, in point of development, the correspondence between Periclean Greek and Jowett's English, is closer than the correspondence between Periclean Greek and Hobbes's English, Jowett's translation is nearer the original than Hobbes's.

However:

To a mere student of comparative values in Periclean Greek and idiomatic English, some of the errors in Jowett's translation are obvious. Such a student needs not to refer with the scholar's precision to the original Greek to be able, with the approval of all men of taste, to pronounce that such and such a phrase or word is most certainly not what may be called Periclean English. It stands to the totality of reason that it is not so. We may be certain, for instance, that Pericles, were he delivering his Oration in English, with all the taste and training he possessed as a Greek of his age, would never have employed such phrases as these: "commended the law-giver," "a worthy thing," "burial to the dead," "reputation ... imperilled on ... the eloquence," "who knows the facts," "suspect exaggeration." Pericles, we cannot but suppose, both from the man and his age, spoke with studied simplicity, that is to say, with perfect naturalness. The words and phrases he used were in all probability the most ordinary to the ear of the Athenian, and well within the limits of serious conversation. But such phrases as I have mentioned are not of the same English character; they are written, not spoken phrases, and approximate more to a leading commemorative article in The Times than to a speech we should all regard as excellent. It would be interesting to have Lord Rosebery's version of Pericles' speech, or even Mr. Asquith's. Both, it is probable, would be nearer the original than Jowett's, though still some distance off perfection. In another fifty years perfection will be reached.

I suppose "commended the law-giver" is unlikely to come up in regular conversation, but "a worthy thing"? "Who knows the facts"? ("Burial to the dead" sounds dubious, but it's actually just a non-constituent: "... given at their burial to the dead who have fallen ...")

Also note the lack of hedging in the final sentence. Not "may be reached," but "will be reached." By my calculations, this means that we English-speakers achieved Pericleity sometime in the 1970s — we don't have much time left before the period will be over and Pericles's Funeral Oration will never be properly translatable for us again. I hope someone struck while the iron was hot.

(I personally read Jowett's translation, apparently to my detriment, although looking through it now I still find it quite acceptable; "not riches, as some say, but honor is the delight of men when they are old and useless" has stuck with me since.)

2014-10-30

Two papers

First, Japanese has syllables: A reply to Labrune (2012), by Shigeto Kawahara:

In a provocative article, Labrune (2012b) argues that there is little phonetic or psycholinguistic evidence for syllables in Tokyo Japanese (henceforth Japanese), and that phonological phenomena which have been hitherto analyzed in terms of syllables can be reanalyzed by deploying a distinction between a "regular/full mora" and a "deficient/special mora". She concludes that Tokyo Japanese does not have syllables, and as a further theoretical consequence of this view, she argues that not all prosodic levels are universal, extending on the suggestions by Hyman (1985, 2008). Although this proposal is very thought-provoking and its theoretical consequence is an important one, it does miss some of the previous experimental findings about the existence of syllables in the prosodic organization of Japanese. Therefore, this reply article summarizes evidence that Japanese does show evidence for syllables both phonetically and psycholinguistically.

I like Kawahara's directness here, from the title of the paper to its conclusion ("In conclusion, Japanese has syllables"); for what it's worth, I also found Labrune's arguments unconvincing at the time (I haven't read the 2012 paper Kawahara specifically refers to, but she discussed the issue in The Phonology of Japanese (2012), which I did read, and it doesn't sound like she used substantially different arguments there.)

Kawahara also recently published a couple of papers on "maids," i.e. employees in maid cafes, which may be of somewhat less universal interest although I found them good reading: "The phonetics of Japanese maid voice I: A preliminary study" and "The sound symbolic nature of Japanese maid names", both available here (along with the rest of his papers, it seems).

Two experiments show that obstruents are associated with tsun-type maids, whereas sonorants are associated with moe-type maids. [...] Morever, the identified sound symbolic relationships exemplifiy cases of emergent sound symbolic relationships, not based on conventionalized rules, as the notion of "tsun" and "moe" are new notions.

Second, Helen J. S. Lee's Writing Colonial Relations of Everyday Life in Senryu (2008).

Life in the colonies for Japanese settlers was — as life everywhere is — largely shaped by class status. Peter Duus provides an insightful distinction of class membership by identifying two types of settlers: immigrants and colonists. The working-class Japanese settlers depicted in the poems belong to Duus's definition of "immigrants," which he opposes to "colonists" whose presence in the colonial territory was subsidized by the state and who had membership in the dominant stratum of the host society. The elevated and privileged status of "colonists" engendered markedly different colonial experiences from those of their countrymen who went to colonial territories as "immigrants"; the latter were "oppressed, assimilated, and rejected by the host society," although they still ended up contributing to the exploitation of the colonized in one form or another.

[...] Senryu poetry illustrates the diverse colonial experiences of Japanese immigrants who took up a wide range of occupations, such as day laborers, peddlers, shop clerks, and factory workers. Rather than assert a monolithic portrayal of these working-class Japanese settlers, this article explores the colonial dynamics rendered in each poem as a way to offer insight into the multifaceted lived daily experiences of Japanese immigrants in colonial Korea.

The details and close reading get denser towards the end of the paper. It's worth the buildup.

The book Lee uses as her main source, Chōsen Senryū 朝鮮川柳, is actually available online (albeit in hated .djvu format). This allowed me to confirm that kahetamanma on page 617 of Lee's article is indeed the weird transcription error it appears to be. The original is 咬へたまんま, which although a bit obscure orthographically (the "standard" Japanese reading for 咬 is kamu) is almost certainly to be pronounced kuwaeta manma — cf 鉛筆なんか咬へて pronounced enpitsu nanka kuwaete here.

2014-10-27

Mimi

Fun fact for the day: Japanese lexicography seems to be in agreement that mimi ("ear") could be used in Old Japanese to mean "news, rumor, thing heard," but all the authorities use the same example — #128 in the Man'yōshū, from Ishikawa no Iratsume to Ōtomo no Tanushi.

吾聞之 耳尓好似 葦若末乃 足痛吾勢 勤多扶倍思
wa ga kikisi/ mimi ni yoku niru/ asi no ure no/ asi yamu wa ga se/ tutwometabu besi
It is just like the "ear" [i.e. news] I heard. My sore-legged darling, you must take care.

I have omitted the pillow-word(s) asi no ure no ("tips of the reeds") from my translation; they are there solely because asi ("reed") is homophonous with asi ("foot"). There is also a note attached to the poem explaining that it was sent to Ōtomo as a sort of get-well message when he had a literal, actual sore leg, which is very helpful.

Let the record show that Ishikawa no Iratsume and Ōtomo no Tanushi had a history of flirtatious banter. In the previous two poems, she complains that she had heard he was a gentleman, but he must be a bit dim not to have taken advantage with her when she dressed up as an old woman to seduce him. * He responds that sending her home that night rather than letting her stay was precisely the gentlemanly thing to do. In their commentary on this poem in the Iwanami Shin Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshū, Satake et al say that this poem feels like playful teasing from I. no I. in return for O. no T. having rejected her advances; it certainly does seem to refer back to her previous poem — "I heard you were a gentleman, and that was a wash, but this time I guess what I heard is true."

Satake et al also offer the only other proposed example of mimi for "thing heard" that I have been able to find: MYS #2581.

言云者 三々二田八酢四 小九毛 心中二 我念羽奈九二
koto ni ipeba/ mimi ni tayasusi/ sukunaku mo/ kokoro no uti ni/ wa ga omopanaku ni
Spoken in words, it's easy as an "ear." But what I feel in my heart isn't something small.

At first I was dubious about this; couldn't mimi ni tayasusi just mean "it's easy on the ear" or something? But, digging deeper, there are a couple of later poems that combine ni yasusi with koto ("word(s)"). Those poems are #3743 and #3763, both of which start exactly the same way:

多婢等伊倍婆 許登爾曾夜須伎
tabi to ipeba/ koto ni so yasuki...
"Travel" is easy to say as a word...

... and end with reasons why travel actually sucks. Anyway, as evidence for the use of mimi in the "news" sense in #2581, this is a bit oblique, but it satisfied me.

* The note on this poem vividly describes the way she spoke hoarsely, hobbled, etc. as part of her ruse. This would probably strike me as a lot more ridiculous if it weren't almost Hallowe'en and the Internet weren't abuzz with mockery of costumes like "Sexy Ebola nurse," "Sexy banana," etc.

2014-10-23

Chigire to

A folk song from the collection Sankachōchūka 山家鳥虫歌 ("Songs of the birds and insects [around] a mountain hut", I guess), attributed to Chikuzen province:

生れ来りしいにしへ問へば 君と契れと夢に見た
umarekitarishi inishie toeba/ kimi to chigire to yume ni mita
Searching out the time when I was born [lit. "long ago when I was born"], I saw in a dream that it was because of my bond with you.

At least, I think that's what kimi to chigire means here. Was the bare /-e/ form usable to express reasons that late? Maybe only in songs? Or in Chikuzen?

Another interpretation would be that the dream somehow ordered the singer to bond with the addressee, and the kimi (affectionate "you") is typical Japanese pronominal hanky-panky to be understood as "your affectionate 'you', i.e. him." That seems a bit more tortuous to me, but maybe.

Asano Kenji 浅野健二, editor of the 1984 Iwanami edition I have, supposes that this song is about oneiromancy of some sort, but does not touch on how to interpret kimi to chigire.

Meanwhile, a century or so earlier, Bankei did something different with the same first half in his folk song-metered hymn on the Unborn:

生まれ来たりしいにしえ問えば 何も思わぬこの心
来たる如くに心を持てば じきにこの身が生如来

umare kitarishi inishie toeba nani mo omowanu kono kokoro
kitaru gotoku ni kokoro o moteba/ jiki ni kono mi ga ikinyorai

Searching out the time that you were born, you'll find a mind that thinks of nothing. Hold your mind the way it came [into the world when you were born, i.e. thinking of nothing], and this very self right now is a living tathāgata.

2014-10-20

Shizuoka teaches you cursive

The Shizuoka Prefectural Central Library (静岡県立中央図書館)'s ongoing series on decoding historical documents written in cursive is really very decent, especially for something available online for free. It's more like an apprenticeship than a first-principles how-to, working through actual (short) texts character by character, and I particularly appreciate the way the instructor "shows their work," so to speak, saying "this character looks like X, but if we read a few characters more we can see that it's actually Y." (The very second lesson is called "Form hypotheses as you read," and is about this process.)

The peak to strive for, no doubt, is the ability to identify even the most carelessly scrawled characters in isolation, but slogging through actual texts as best you can has always been my preferred way of learning.