"World" gives everyone trouble

How do you make a movie set in Japan starring people from all over Asia, and beyond? In English, of course! Oh, wait, it's not that easy.

Michelle Yeoh, the Malaysian actress who plays Sayuri's guide and mentor, Mameha, actually had to trim her British accent because she has lived so long in the United Kingdom. Similarly, the American child actress Zoe Weizenbaum, who plays young Pumpkin, had to drop her U.S. intonations.

(Via Mark at Pinyin News.)


"Akemashite" was a happy verb

Canon's new Pixus campaign, with HASEGAWA Kyouko as herself only in kimono (for nengajou picture-related purposes), is a little difficult to parse. You can see that she's holding a baton there (perfectly vertically -- that's probably the only acceptable way to hold a baton while wearing a November kimono), but what you can't see is that her nengajou are on a music stand. As near as I can tell, this means that she's "conducting" her friends to the "music" of herself all dolled up. Isn't that a bit narcissistic, even for a person touting a system that streamlines the process of mass-producing mail-ready pictures of one's self?


Narrowing down the parts

Azuma has put up the latest really, really long post on the Classical Japanese verb in the ongoing dialogue. I've commented on bits and pieces over there, but my response to the main thrust is a bit too long, so here it is.

After a lot of paging through dictionaries, I have come to agree with the idea that C-verbs (e.g. 咲く, sak) and V-verbs (e.g. 見る, mi) resemble each other more closely than the D-verbs (e.g. 起く, ok/e, 明く, ak/e) resemble either one of them. However, I do not think that the D-verbs are the older form of the C-verbs. No, I believe the opposite. This is because the /i/ and /e/ that sometimes attaches to the stem of D-verbs are not random -- they carry semantic meaning.

Those meanings are:

  • /i/ -- signifies intransitivity of the verb
  • /e/ -- signifies transitivity of the verb, OR "passive intransitivity" (usually a non-voluntary change in state)
(There may be a better way to put this -- /i/ signifies a verb with only an agent, and /e/ signifies a verb with a patient?)

An archetypical and extremely handy example of this behavior is provided by verb-forming morpheme pairs, like -om vs. -om/e (kurom, to go black, vs. kurom/e, to turn (something) black), -rag vs. -rag/e (irarag, to be(come) sharp, vs. irarag/e, to sharpen (something)), yag(e), am(e), etc. etc. I have not yet found an example of these suckers letting my theory down when it comes to C vs. D/e behavior.

The "passive intransitive" /e (ak/e -- (day) breaks; tok/e -- (something) is loosened, solved, released; as/e -- (something) fades) is an interesting case. I am positive that it is related to the passive r/ar/e ending that attaches directly to the stem. Perhaps /e was also able to attach directly to the stem at some point, but lost this ability.

Is the p.e. /e related to the transitive /e? Maybe. They behave differently, and there is this very interesting tendency to consider:

transitive intransitive
ar/eas, at, C-stem, but not /e

This is not an iron-clad rule, and it may just be that I'm looking at a misleading subset of verbs, but I think what we're seeing here is that -ar means "to be(come)", -ar/e means "to be caused to be(come)", while plain /e is with the as/at/C-stem gang meaning "to cause or permit a change in another". That is to say, it may be that ar means "become", with /e signifying the presence of an Undergoer-external Catalyst of that change. This would tie the p.e. /e up neatly as well -- it's just a freak of grammar, not really transitive but treated that way because the Catalyst is unspecified (or unspecifiable!)

(I'll put my treatment of exceptions to the /e = transitive or passive rule in comments, and invite you to challenge me with others.)

/i is much more clear-cut -- I can't find a single counter-example to the intransitivity rule, except for 恋ふ, koh/i, which -- guess what -- used to be intransitive (with an "inspiration" indicated with ni.) Behold, my new Manyoushuu-searching technique is unstoppable.

imo ni kohi / wa ga naku namida / shikitahe no / komakura tohori / sode sahe nurenu
"The tears I cry intoxicated with you, my darling, go through my wooden pillow and soak my sleeve."

This tanka makes me think of Ripley from Aliens shouting "Damn you, I told you not to sadden the poets! They have acid for tears!" at panicky space marines, but I think it illustrates pretty clearly how the verb koh used to work. It was something one did oneself, inspired by another (but not directly caused by them!)

Anyway, this is why I think the C-stems are the older forms. Since the /i and the /e contain only meta-meaning, they can only be attached to a stem that already has meaning in and of itself. There's also some textual evidence: 生く ik (live) appears as far back as the Manyoushuu, but ik/i isn't attested until (late) Heian times, to say nothing of modern iki. ik/e is also a Heian innovation.

Obviously, the the /e-verbs' appearance can be explained by grammatical necessity, but I'm not sure about why the /i-stems should have appeared to replace perfectly good C-stems (and replace them they did, it seems -- ik/i is the only one I know of that co-exists with a C-stem equivalent; anyone got any others). It may have been a sound-driven change; most of them seem to be attached to stems containing an /o/ or a /u/. (Again, ik/i is the exception, dammit.)

So what am I going to do about it?

We are getting far beyond the point of simplifying things to a more readily memorizable form, so let's go crazy. I am going along with Azuma's broad division of CJ verbs into two types. For want of a better term, let's call them Grumpy and Happy. (I want to save Irregular for the true exceptions, and I want to use initial letters I haven't yet. Deal with it.) Grumpy verbs are those whose stem is invariant, i.e. C-verbs and V-verbs in my old analysis. You can't mess with a grumpy verb's stem. It will just shout "get off my lawn!" and possibly cause the cops.

Happy verbs have a consonant stem, but to this is attached a vowel, either -i or -e. This vowel has not fused with the stem yet, so it's still a bit weak and susceptible to change. (We can see here that Grumpy verbs can become Happy, or divide into a Grumpy/Happy dyad if necessary.) Then we conjugate all verbs like this:

after vowel
after consonant
MZ 0 a
RY (i) i
SS ru u
RT ru u
IZ ru e
MR yo e

Note that I'm not sure about Azuma's MZ ending = always 0 thing (it works out the same, though), but I do think it makes sense that the RY ending is always i. After vowels, it's realized as 0, though: i + i = i; e + i = e. These vowel equations work for me. I'm not even going to get into the MR form, but I do think Azuma has some very interesting ideas there.

This table would lead us to suspect that, say, the Happy verb sug/e (to cause something, esp. thread, to pass through) would have SS, RT and IZ forms of sugeru, sugeru and sugere, respectively. Not so; they are sugu, suguru and sugure. Why?

There are two main possible reasons I can think of for the RT/IZ discrepency:

  1. RT/IZ are built on the SS form, not stem
  2. RT/IZ endings have a deforming effect on the preceding vowel, mushing it into a /u/ if it is not part of the stem (i.e. if the verb is Happy)
(You will notice I have abandoned my theory of C-stem + V-ending. I don't think it makes sense any more.)

I prefer the second explanation here, because it neatly explains why all those Happy verbs began to straighten up and fly right over the course of the past millennium -- as the /i and /e endings became so old that they were simply integral parts of the verb, the RT/IZ endings' vowel-mushening powers became less effective. In other words, as they got older, the Happy verbs all became set in their ways and Grumpy. The anthropomorphism of this appeals to me.

As for the SS thing... my best idea here is that the SS ending is "strict" and rejects optional vowels. This would make it unlike all the other endings but on the other hand, SS is unlike all the other endings in that it was unstable and replaced by the RT form. Maybe this was part of its instability.

Or maybe the SS is not a verb ending at all but rather a "verb phrase" ending -- i.e. there is no SS ending as such; rather, verbs in final position are used as raw stems plus an u/ru which signifies "verb phrase ends here". Since the idea is to use raw stems, the /i and /e (meaning-carrying postfixes, not part of the stem as such) are not added, and you end up with a word ending with a consonant which takes the /u.

These kind of bizarre, non-mora-friendly shenanigans could also have caused the SS form's demise -- or, it could be that once the Happy verbs became Grumpy, the /i and /e were no longer postfixes but rather officially part of the stem, in which case the SS form would have merged perfectly with the RT form rather than being "replaced" by it. The SS form could be living among us even as we speak. It could be in a sentence your neighbour is writing... right now.

But what about the exceptions?

First, the big pain in the ass: the 死ぬ, sin/0, group. I propose that we reanalyse these as Grumpy, and assume that their RT/IZ peculiarities are to do with the fact that Japanese has an /n/ that can occur as half of a mora and also an /N/ that is an entire mora of itself. I.e. sinuru comes not from sin.u.ru but rather siN.ru, via processes that need not concern us here. (As evidence that this is a phoneme thang, I offer the fact that there are no Grumpy verbs with a stem ending in /n/ that do not display this weirdness.)

su/ku: Happy verbs whose optional vowels are extra-weak and lose out even to the RY -i ending. That, or true, unanalyzable (to me) exceptions.

ar.i: Grumpy verbs with a variant SS form, possibly related to the -si as the SS ending for adjectives.

What I really want now is for people to find exceptions to my rules for what /i and /e do, to see if they can be explained away somehow.


The only way this could be better is if cyborgs were involved

Comprehensive online archive of 30s Shanghai women's magazine Ling Long. (Almost any one of the words in that sentence would be enough to pique my interest all on its own -- imagine my excitement when they're all together like this.) Via one of the Frogs in the Well, which after a slow start have all cranked up to a decent frequency now and are well worth your time if you're interested in East Asia and/or its history.

Since I don't know jack about history, though, I'm just going to mention the name of the magazine, which is 玲瓏, glossed by Columbia as meaning "elegant and fine" with "an etymology that reaches back to a collection of onomatopoetic words from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) signifying the sounds of pieces of jade clinking together." (There was a whole collection of words signifying the sound of clinking jade?! ... Actually, given the nature of classical Chinese poetry, I wouldn't bet my life that there wasn't.) I'm sure I've seen a few 玲瓏たるs in my time, but damned if I can remember where...

Zeng's third thing

In Analects 1:4, a certain guy named Tseng, Tsang or Zeng (choose your system for transliterating ) says:

吾日三省吾身 爲人謀而不忠乎 與朋友交而不信乎 傳不習乎

Here are four different English translations:

"I daily examine myself on three points:– whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful;– whether, in intercourse with friends, I may have been not sincere;– whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher." (Translator: Legge. Source)
"Every day I examine myself on three counts. In what I have undertaken on another's behalf, have I failed to do my best? In my dealings with my friends have I failed to be trustworthy in what I say? Have I passed on to others anything that I have not tried out myself?" (Translator: Lau. Source)
"Each day I examine myself in three ways: in doing things for others, have I been disloyal? In my interactions with friends, have I been untrustworthy? Have [I] not practiced what I have preached?" (Translator: Muller. Source)
"Each day I examine myself on three counts: whether or not I am loyal to those in whose behalf I act; whether or not I am trustworthy in my dealings with friends; whether or not I practise what is imparted." (Translator: unknown. Source)

You can see that the first two of Zeng's standards are pretty clear, but the third one is being read as, variously:

  1. practising what I preach (Muller)
  2. practising what others preach at me (Legge, unknown)
  3. teaching people things that I have not myself tried (Lau)

The phrase in sentence is only four characters long: 傳不習乎, which character-by-character is "transmit not practise (question)." Clearly the issue here is who is doing the transmitting (and, perhaps, who is doing the practising, although everyone but "unknown" seems to be clear on that.) Is this just one of those unavoidable unclear Classical sentences, or are two (or more!) of the translators quoted here in error?

(I ask this question hoping that Amida's commentaries are still close at hand.)


Too little too late

For those who want to learn more about classical Japanese (and speak the modern variety), here's the traditional textbook approach to the subject, all on one page with internal hyperlinks. This is basically what high school students work with, although obviously they get it in a more readable form with proper tables, illustrations, diagrams, etc.

You can't say that on Japanese television

Via Honyaku-l: Japanese un-P.C. words. Some of them are just bizarre. When did people say "zuujaa" for "jazz", and why should anyone be offended by it?


KANEDA Kiwako has a blog!

Who knew?

(She's an artist/musician.)

Nightmare food for Japan's children

The latest instalment in our ongoing series, "Panels you would NEVER SEE IN A MILLION YEARS in American comic books for children":

Wait, it gets better: this was actually one of the least horrifying parts of the story it appeared in. The main plotline involved Shin-chan getting hold of a love ray that he accidentally uses on his babysitter's dad, his dog, AND HIS MOTHER.

You have not known Crayon Shin-chan-related unease until you have watched him flee as HIS MOTHER, starry-eyed, vows to abandon her husband -- that is to say, HIS FATHER -- and start a new life with him.


In praise of Cole Porter

Cole Porter was such a great songwriter that even the (intentionally) cornily-performed version of "So in love" on the De-lovely soundtrack can get me choked up (specifically, at "till I die"). Man, I love that dude. I seriously think he should be the patron Great American Songbook composer of the geek world, in the same way that Bach is its patron "Classical" composer. Reasons:

  • Wordy, cleverly rhymed lyrics (this is a subjective thing, but I think Porter was the king of lyric writing)
  • Often created melodic/harmonic progression through iteration (repeating a melody several times, with one note moved a semitone higher each time; harmony going lower stepwise; etc.)
  • In keeping with the age he lived in, used racial slurs in some lyrics (ever heard the original version of "Let's do it (let's fall in love)"?), giving geeks something to (a) freak out the norms with, and (b) have Hitler-invoking flame wars over

Seriously. The case is watertight.

Lossless notation for CJ stems

Quick notes mainly for myself in the form of examples.

  • V-verb: mi, ke

  • C-verb: omoh, sak
    • exceptions: ar.i, nar.i, etc.
  • D-verb: sug/i, uk/e, r/ar/e (る/らる)
    • exceptions: sin/0, ku, su (easier just to use the accepted names)
  • L-adjective: kanasik.i, yorosik.i (there aren't any short-stem adjectives that end in -sik, are there?)

  • M-adjective: yok.i, akak.i (M is for "mijikai", preferred over S because it comes right after L)
    • The .i business is to avoid confusion between these and C-verbs. It can be left off where context makes it clear that we're talking about adjectives.
  • X-verb (?): X:z (じ), X:ras (らし)

  • XD-verb (?): X:mas/e (まし), X:s/e (完了「き」)
    • The X: business is for the same reason as the .i business above. It's an extremely ugly way to go about things, but since there are very few X-verbs to worry about, I don't care.
  • Reorganize auxes by what they attach to (stem, MZ, RY, SS, other)
  • Move sim (しむ) to the stem group with the other causatives

Version where SSK is used as a base

C-verbs always use C-stem as a base.

V-verbs always use V-stem as a base.

D-verbs use different bases as shown in table below.


D-verb base
after vowel
after consonant
RTSS formruu
IZSS formree

(su/ku use C-stem for RY form as well. ~n/0 always use C-stem as they have no V-stem.)

The good: Much simpler.

The bad: "But why?"



So, sorry about the mammoth CJ posts, there. For everyone who doesn't care (that is, all but three or four of you), I have a reward for sticking around: the ukiyo-e and shin-hanga print collection of Dr. Ross Walker. Some of the shin-hanga are very cool indeed, but cooler than any individual work here is the fact that a private individual is collecting them for his own pleasure, but putting them online so that everyone can share and enjoy.

(Link stolen from Rych.)

CJ verbs, part 2

A refinement of the theory based on Ronald@IDR's comments:

A CJ verb consists of stem + ending. There are three main types of verbs:

  • C-type verbs are consonant-stem (sC) (e.g. omoh.u).
  • V-type verbs are vowel stem (sV) (e.g. mi.ru, ke.ru).
  • D-type verbs have a consonant stem (sC) and a vowel stem (sV) (e.g. sug.u/sugi, at.u/ate) The vowel stem is used whenever "available" (usually for MZ, RY and MR) and the consonant stem otherwise, but for some reason the RT and IZ consonant stems always take the post-vowel allomorphs.
The endings are as follows. I've thrown the D-type verb structure on the left-hand side, since it gets a bit complex.

stem + ending
(post-C allomorph)
(post-V allomorph)
Consonant cluster handling
(if necessary)
sV + e(V)MZa0-
sV + e(V)RYi0-
sC + e(C)SSuru-
sC + e(V)RTuruz.r → n
C.rV → C.u.rV
sC + e(V)IZerez.r → n
C.rV → C.u.rV
sV + e(V)MReyo-

Notice that I've added "z.r → n" to go with "C.rV → C.u.rV". This lets me claim the extremely common negative auxiliary verb ず as a 100% regular D-type verb with the stems z/zu. (This is also why I'm still dubious that the .u. in C.u.rV is the SS form u -- "z.r → n" makes sense to me as a sound change, but "zu.r → n" doesn't, and nor is any sound change even required since it's not a consonant cluster in the first place.)

How we handle exceptions:

  • aru-type verbs = C-type verbs, except the SS form is replaced (in its entirety) with the RY form. (I call this variant "C(r)-type".)
  • su and ku = D-type verbs, except that sV is not available for the RY form. (D(s/k)-type.)
  • sinu and its ilk = D-type verbs, except that sV is not available anywhere. (Post-vowel ending allomorphs are still used for IZ and RT, though.) (D(n)-type.)
So, the three types of D-stem work like this:

FORM ↓/ verb type → Regular D-type D(se/ko)-type (s/k) D(n)-type (sinu et al)
MZ sV + e(V) sV + e(V) sC + e(C)
RY sV + e(V) sC + e(C) sC + e(C)
SS sC + e(C) sC + e(C) sC + e(C)
RT sC + e(V) sC + e(V) sC + e(V)
IZ sC + e(V) sC + e(V) sC + e(V)
MR sV + e(V) sV + e(V) sC + e(C)

(Remembering, of course, to apply "z.r → n" and "C.rV → C.u.rV" to the RT and IZ rows.)

Armed with C-type, C(r)-type, D-type, D(s/k)-type, D(n)-type, we can now classify the vast majority of CJ's auxiliary verb system. In fact, I believe we can classify all of it. (Interestingly, none of them are V-type.)

First, the most normal ones. These behave like regular verbs and attach to entire verb forms (stem + ending).

Traditional name Type Stem/s Attaches to... Notes
C m MZ -
むず D(s/k) mu.z / 0 MZ or "nz". む+す with rendaku. Has no sV since there is no place it would be used
らむCra.mSS same m?
けむ C ke.m RY same m? same k(e) as keri below??
けり C(r) k.er RY k + り (see next table)?
しむ D sim / sime MZ -
D z / zu MZ has partly merged with a parallel form derived from z.ar(u)
つ(完了) D t / te RY -
たり(完了) C(r) t.ar RY same t as つ(完了)
ぬ(完了) D(n) n RY -
めりC(r) mer SS from "見あり", I hear

Next, the ones that attach to stems alone, without an intervening ending. These all prefer to attach to an sV, but will settle for an sC if nothing else is available.
Traditional name Type post-sC stem/s post-sV stem/s
る/らる D ar / are rar / rare
す/さす D as / ase sas / sase
り(完了) C(r) er r

Then there some that conjugate like adjectives (BECAUSE THEY ARE. YEAH, I WENT THERE): たし、べし、ごとし (short-stem), まじ、まほし (long-stem).

Finally, there are a few weird ones belonging to a special group of conjugations I like to call X. The main feature of X is a lack of variation.

Form ↓ / Aux → らし、じ (XC-type) まし(XD-type) き(過去) (XD(k)-type)
MZ - mase or mas.ika se
RY - - -
SS ras.i mas.i k.i
RT ras.i mas.i s.i
IZ ras.i mas.ika s.ika
MR - -
If we succumb to the temptation of recategorizing らし as a particle or something else non-conjugating, we get a regular-looking conjugation with the sole irregularity of that one k-stem, which I assume leaked over from けり.

I'm not even going to bother dealing with the various naris and taris. They're all C(r) with optional particle-usage instead of RY forms, because they're made of those particles + ari, basically. Not difficult.

New issues:

  1. Can we simplify all those auxes made of k, m, r and t?
  2. Does it matter that this setup doesn't let us predict where certain forms will be missing? Can we let semantics handle that? (E.g. there is no imperative form of zu, but there is a z.are. Do we need to know this?)
  3. What's up with those X forms? Are they perhaps hideously deformed adjectives? How can they not have a RY form when RY is the stablest, most enduring form in the entire system?


Steps towards a key to CJ verb morphology

(I imagine that everyone who didn't already scroll past this post based on the title already knows this, but just in case: the following was inspired by and builds heavily on the recent verb-related posts by Ronald over at Ibadairon (and subsequent discussion in comments between Ronald, Amida, Azuma, myself, etc.)

(Update, a few hours later: I reorganized the tables a bit for clarity. No actual details have changed.)

(Update 2, later yet: removed all evidence of my appalling "yo"-related blooper, apparently before anyone noticed it (phew). Fortunately, this actually makes the theory neater and more consistent. In return for this Orwellian act, I have prepared (on the train this morning) a marvellous application of this morphology to all (all? yes, all!) auxilliary verbs, plus adjectives for good measure, which is too long to write in this margin but which I shall post tonight.)

First: there are 3 verb classes + 3 irregular verb sets

  1. Consonant-Stem Verbs (C-type) -- equivalent to 4-dan in traditional analysis, CI in Ronald's
  2. Vowel-Stem Verbs (V-type) -- equivalent to shimo/kami-1-dan in traditional analysis, V in Ronald's
  3. Double-Stem Verbs (D-type) -- equivalent to shimo/kami-2-dan in traditional analysis, CII/CIII in Ronald's

  4. aru-type -- ra-gyou in traditional analysis, basically C-type with an SS form that's merged with RY
  5. sinu-type -- na-gyou in traditional analysis, basically D-type without a vowel-ended stem (see below)
  6. se/ko -- su and ku in traditional analysis, basically D-type but they use vowel-ended stems for RY forms (see below).

C-type verbs have stems that end in consonants: 咲 sak-, 思 omoh-, 打 ut-

V-type verbs have stems that end in vowels: 見 mi-, 蹴 ke-

D-type verbs have stems with two allomorphs, one ending in a consonant (sC), the other in a vowel (sV): 過 sug-/sugi-, 当 at-/ate-

For each D-type verb, the consonant-ended stem is always used for RT, SS and IZ, and the vowel-ended stem is always used for everything else.

The verbs conjugate like this:

Stem ->C-typeD-type (sC)D-type (sV)V-type

* Plus a single extra rule to prevent consonant clusters:
  • ~C.rV -> ~C.u.rV
(This rule is actually only relevant to RT and IZ forms of D-type verbs, which would otherwise be ~Cru (e.g. sugru) and ~Cre (e.g. sugre) respectively.)

We now have a Small Chart letting us conjugate virtually every verb in Japanese if we know whether it is C-, V- or D-type.

(Note that I am using "raru" to stand in for "sasu" and "rayu" as well, since they follow basically the same rules)

There are two types of allomorphy

Allomorphy driven by preceding phoneme (end of verb stem)

after consonantafter vowel
a (MZ)0
i (RY)0
re (MR)yo

Allomorphy apparently driven by type of verb (C-type vs D-type or V-type)

C-typeD-type or V-type
u (RT)ru
e (IZ)re

I don't really like the RT and IZ forms being driven by verb type rather than phonetic rules -- especially given that the result is always a consonant cluster which triggers the "add a /u/" rule -- so let's soften the blow by calling it "driven by phonetics, with a special exception for D-type verbs."

That lets us simplify the above Small Chart to this Even Smaller Chart of Endings:

formallomorph 1
(following a consonant)
allomorph 2
(following a vowel)
force "following a vowel" allomorph
for D-type verbs?

* Not forgetting, of course, the consonant cluster-avoiding rule:
  • ~C.rV -> ~C.u.rV
Dealing with the irregular verbs

This is the fun part.

aru-type verbs are, like I said, identical to C-type except for their SS form, which appears to have been borrowed from their own RY form. Bo-ring.

se/ko (su and ku) are standard D-type verbs (stems: s/se, k/ko -- ko is the ONLY verb to have a stem allomorph that ends in an o) except that they use the consonant-ended stem when creating their RY form. (Note that according to the allomorphy rules above, since the stem ends in a consonant, the RY "-i" doesn't turn to 0. Neat!)

sinu-type verbs are the interesting one. They are, as I said, basically D-type verbs without a vowel-ended stem. What this means in practice is that in places where phonetically-driven allomorphy would normally change a D-type ending (e.g. a -> 0 because it follows a vowel), the ending does not change because it follows a consonant instead. This all checks out.

Summary: how to build a given form of any CJ verb -- a Dyad of Small Charts

1. Figure out which stem to use

C-type (and aru-type) verbs, V-type verbs and sinu-type verbs have only one stem, making this step easy. For D-type verbs and se/ko, this table sums it up:

Type of verb -> D-typese/ko
for MZvowel stemvowel stem
for RYvowel stemconsonant stem
for SSconsonant stemconsonant stem
for RTconsonant stemconsonant stem
for IZconsonant stemconsonant stem
for MRvowel stemvowel stem
for raruvowel stemvowel stem

2. Attach to this stem the appropriate allomorph of your desired form's ending

formending after
ending after
special notes for
D-type verbs
RTuruforce "after vowel" form*
IZereforce "after vowel" form*

* Plus consonant cluster-avoiding rule:
  • ~C.rV -> ~C.u.rV
3. Finally, check for the one remaining irregularity
  • aru-type verb, SS -> use the RY form
And I do believe that covers everything -- yes, EVERYTHING -- about conjugating CJ verbs. He said arrogantly, late at night.

Obvious questions, in order of interest to me:

  1. What's the deal with the D-type verb RT and IZ forms -- why can they force an "override" of the phonetic rule, even though this leads to the invocation of a special consonant-cluster-catching rule? (Could it be something to do with building on the SS, as Ronald suggests?)
  2. Were sinu/inu originally full D-type verbs that lost their sV stems at some point? If so, how did that happen? If not, how come they so closely resemble incomplete D-type verbs now?
  3. What's the deal with the aru-type verb SS form? (These words, especially "ari" and "nari", got serious use in CJ, so this is not a minor detail in the language.)
Now, good friends, tear it to pieces!


The master of illuuuuusion

Submitted for your approval: Metafilter thread about a magic trick performed in Japan by a guy (apparently named Cyril Takayama) who speaks English and Japanese. I've seen him on TV before; he appears pretty regularly.

Someone asks:

Wow... does conversational Japanese really have this much English in it? They don't use their own words for "what's your name" and "salt"??!

D'oh! Fortunately, someone replies:

There're all kinds of "foreign" words in Japanese, but after you've rendered them into katakana, they don't sound like "salt" or "watch". Someone noted above that he's Japanese-American, and he definitely sounds like it compared to the native speakers (I'm guessing he learned English first)--that would explain the fall-back to English for extemporaneous, one-word commands.

Closer, but still wrong. He's not "falling back" on anything; his Japanese is clearly at a level where he knows the words for "watch" and "salt". Come on, folks, he's a magician! Every part of his act, including his patter, is carefully pre-planned and kept under control.

The real reason he uses English at the times he does is to establish and maintain a slightly exotic, mysterious image -- only slightly, because everyone can understand "What's your name?", so he never becomes so exotic that people pull away -- and also, of course, to distract the audience with one more thing to think about.

Apparently, he's so good at this that he can even lead people who don't speak the main language of his act into misinterpreting what's going on.

(This should really have been a comment, but I don't want anything to do with Paypal so I can't pay Metafilter five bucks to sign up.)


I wasn't kidding the other day when I mentioned representational art -- uniforms are still very prominent in Japanese culture, and it is not at all uncommon to see special "one-off" uniforms in advertisements which turn their wearers into living representations of some product or even the company as a whole.

For example, check out MATSUURA Aya here, in a picture I scanned from a brochure:

She is Japan Post, or perhaps simply their "You-Pack" packaging range. Obviously, the colors are the main connection between her and the brand, but her Japan*-shaped shadow is a cute touch.

I am not sure that "a single, shiny, elbow-length rubber glove" was the wisest design choice, however. In fact, I do not think that a single rubber elbow glove is ever good, image-wise.

* Except Okinawa. Sorry, Okinawa!


Professional jealousy

New interpretation systems for soldiers stationed in Iraq.

"Will it replace the need for an interpreter when you're having some sort of high-level conversation? Absolutely not," said Kristin Precoda, speech technology research lab director at SRI International and one of the developers of the program that got underway in May. "But it is absolutely to the point where it could be useful in some carefully chosen situations."

Hey, that's great. Now all we need to do is ensure that soldiers stationed in a war zone only ever enter carefully chosen situations. While we're at it, let's issue them all a unicorn to ride too.


Words about sleeping

Pop quiz, hot shot: name the common modern Japanese verb X which had an older root/related form Y such that:

X : Y :: deru (出る) : idu (出づ)

Give up? neru. Both idu and inu were shimo-2-dan verbs, meaning they conjugated like this:

ide, ide, idu, iduru, idure, ideyo
ine, ine, inu, inuru, inure, ineyo

And, today, both neru and deru are vowel-stem verbs that conjugate like... well, like in the table I just linked to.

The difference is that the dictionaries are quite happy calling deru a contraction of idu, but the relationship between neru and inu isn't quite so clear cut. It seems that the ne is a root meaning "lie down"* and i is a separate root meaning, specifically, "sleep". So it's quite possible that the words started out independent and became synonymous/merged later on, rather than having a clear ancestor/descendent relationship.

i lives on in only one word that I know of: igitanai, describing someone who sleeps too much, and composed of i + kitanai (in this case, "~ in an unreasonable way, ~ like a fool"). I thought maybe inemuri was another example, but apparently it used to be winemuri, so probably not. Anyone know any others?

* nemuru, the other common Japanese word for sleep, was originally neburu, so it might be from ne (lie down) + buru (act in a certain way).


"Favorite airs from The Geisha"

Here. ("The Geisha" being an operetta.)

I have divided all Goethe into 29 parts

Again via Honyaku-L, specifically Wolfgang Hadamitzy: a page containing 29 ways to write "Goethe" in katakana:

  1. ゴエテ
  2. ギューテ
  3. ギェーテ
  4. ギョート
  5. ギョーツ
  6. ゲーテ
  7. ギュエテ
  8. ゲォエテ
  9. ゴアタ
  10. グウィーテ
  11. ゲエテー
  12. ゲーテー
  13. ゲェテー
  14. ギョウテ
  15. ギヨーテ
  16. ギョーテ
  17. ギョーテー
  18. ギヨテー
  19. ゴエテ
  20. ギヨテ
  21. ギヨヲテ
  22. ギヨオテ
  23. ゲョーテ
  24. ゲヨーテ
  25. ゴエテー
  26. ゲエテ
  27. ギヨエテ
  28. ゲイテ
  29. ギョエテ

Gyoutsu and guwiite are probably the most egregious.

There's even a senryuu by 斎藤緑雨 (SAITOU Rokuu) on the subject:

"'gyoute' to ha / ore no koto ka" to / geite ii
"'Gyoute'? You mean me?" says Geite.

I can actually imagine this being a serious problem in the days before internets. All of these katakanafications obviously come from the same source word, but if person A was talking about Giyoete and person B about Goata... I mean, even today, there are a lot of English speakers who never realize that Tao = Dao.


Thought for the day

It really wouldn't have taken very many individual orthographic decisions at certain points in history for us to have ended up with a world where Tupac and his imitators had "TUG LIFE" tattooed on their chests.


So many questions

This Olympic-themed commercial for Panasonic's plasma televisions is a little unclear to me. Is it some kind of Victorian representational thing, where Koyuki represent the ice upon which ANDOU Miki skates? More importantly, can ice skaters really create a road of ice to skate along in mid-air, like Iceman?! Now that would make the Olympics worth watching.


And we never spoke of it again

... Okay, dude.

This is probably as good a time as any to go on the record as a fan of the Junoesque Bagel -- the only bagels worshipped by all thirty curiae! And now available in convenience stores, like the one in Ueno right by the Shinobazu exit.

The Shinobazu exit is close to my heart because of the way it is written: 不忍. The 不 is the -azu (negation) and 忍 is the shinob- (to endure, or to hide). Why are they in the wrong order? Because that's how those elements would be ordered if written in Chinese. Ah, the good old days.

Where the blog No-sword passes, only flaming ruins are left

Another post by me here awaits your readulage.

Bonus link: that Konjaku Monogatari Shuu again, this time in Esperanto.


Once upon a time in Japan

I think I missed this the last time I posted about Kyoto U's incredible online facsimile collection: the 今昔物語集 (Konjaku monogatari shuu, or "Collection of tales of long ago"). The top section listed on that page, 透過インタフェース版 ("Transparent interface edition") has some encoding problems, but it's worth struggling through to get to the "glass view", which works like this.


A pleasing discovery

At my favorite karaoke place, the lyrics to "Sabotage" are ALL CAPS.


Creepy song corner

This is on a Western Swing box I own: The Eyes of Texas, sung to the tune of "I've been workin' on the railroad."

You cannot get away.


Mi estas loĝanto en ĉi tiu loko.

Many's the night I've lain awake and thought to myself, "Self, do you think there's any way Noh could narrow its audience even further than it already has?" Today, I found the answer: Noaj Komedioj -- en Esperanto kaj la japana.

I don't want to get all hyperbolic, but I think this might be the best webpage devoted to Esperanto translations of Noh and Kyogen that I've ever seen. It even has complete plays in mp3 format. To follow Statu-metiisto as it is read aloud to you goofily -- surely this, my friends, is what the Internet was invented for.

(If your appetite for parallel Esperanto-Japanese texts remains unsated, the current issue of Midnight Press magazine includes three poems by William Auld, translated by USUI Hiroyuki (臼井裕之).)


Pine! Bamboo! Plum!

Via the honyaku-L mailing list, an archive of commercials for Shouchikubai-brand sake, dating back to 1972.


Hello, alternate historians

For some reason a lot of you came here today. I don't fully understand why, but for what it's worth I read the Island in the Sea of Time series earlier this year and I thought its vision of a world where humanity starts polluting the air and using up the earth's non-renewable resources thousands of years ahead of schedule truly inspiring. I'm burning a plastic bag in my room as we speak.

Also maybe one of you can tell me if Harry Turtledove's "Colonization" follow-up to Worldwar is any good. Thanks!

I tried to post this five times already

Why does Blogger hate Margaret Cho and her thoughts on Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls?

Like a controlled experiment for language nerds

Together at last -- the translated nicknames of all 108 Heroes of the Water Margin, as rendered in five different translations of the work (four English, one French).

Some of them would be entertainingly suggestive, if I weren't so mature.


Completeness... crave completeness...

I don't know what the Hyakunin Isshu is doing at sacredtexts.com -- not even tanka poets worship it any more -- but I do know that they have the cleanest, niftiest, completest (including pictures!) and overall best online version of William Porter's translation I've seen to date.


Hide your shame

I can't believe that a perfectly clear word like sexagesimo-quarto has been replaced by sixty-fourmo. It's an outrage.

There's a book size in Japan called 菊判, kiku-ban or "chrysanthemum format"; the Koujien claims that this is because when the first books of that size were imported, there was a chrysanthemum logo on them, but some guy on the internet says that kikuban were originally introduced by newspapers, and so kiku is really the 聞(く) (to hear) of 新聞 (newspaper). I don't know, I wasn't there.

Kikuban are a little larger than A5 size, by the way, and sizes in general are relevant because in Japan it is possible, even easy, to buy lovely covers like these ones to protect your books from prying eyes and impure bodily fluids. Most bookstores will slap a paper cover on your purchase at the counter, too -- Yurindo even offers you your choice of color.

Weirdly, though, most bookstores draw the line at anything officially classified as a "magazine", even if it's book-shaped and much thicker (and more embarrassing) than your other purchases.

No view of any views of Mt Fuji

So, I went to the Hokusai exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum. Unfortunately, it sucked. It was too crowded to see anything properly -- although I don't blame the museum for that, and they did have signs up outside warning potential visitors of the crowdidity -- and they didn't seem to have the one thing I really wanted to see anyway.

So, sadly, although I like Hokusai a lot, I can't recommend this exhibition. Guess I'll have to get myself out to Nagano after all.


Creepy kid's song corner

If you've crossed many roads in a major Japanese city, you've probably heard Tooryanse. It's a song that plays when the little man goes green at many major intersections, and sounds like this. It's originally a kid's song, with a related London Bridge-style game, and like most great old children's songs, it sounds alright at first but gets more cryptic and ominous the more closely you examine it.* As near as I can tell, it translates to something like this. (The "gatekeepers" are the two children forming the arch, and the "parents" are the kids passing underneath it in a circle.)

ALL: Go on through now, go on through.
PARENTS: This narrow road here, where does it lead?
GATEKEEPERS: This narrow road leads to Tenjin Shrine
PARENTS: Let us through, then, let us go through.
GATEKEEPERS: People with no business there cannot go through.
PARENTS: This little child is seven years old:
   Time now to make our offering to the shrine.
GATEKEEPERS: Go, then, go, but dread the return.
   Dread the return but go on through!
ALL: Go on through, now, go on through!

The gatekeepers will drop the gate at one of the final "through!"s, and whoever gets caught takes one of the gatekeepers' place. Repeat forever. (There's a video of the general idea here.)

But what the hell does it mean? The most common theory (which doesn't at all make it the correct one) is that it's about Miyoshino Shrine in what is now Kawagoe city, in Saitama. The story is that back in the day that shrine was closely linked to the shogunate, and so commoners couldn't get in except for major festivals; and even then, there were guards there watching everyone closely and questioning people on the way out (hence the "dread the return").

My favorite theory, though, is that it's about the fact that after a child turns seven and makes that final visit to the shrine, they're officially on their own as human beings, no longer automatically under the kami's protection, and even going back home becomes dangerous.

In closing, if you would like to hear a different translation sung by an eerie man, the internet has what you need.

* Not least because, in my case, the very title phrase tooryanse is nothing like modern Japanese and difficult to parse. But I'm pretty sure it's toori (go through, go past) + yanse (imperative form of yansu, "do", which (in Standard Japanese, at least) is most common now as part of high-falutin' copula substitute de yansu and, in slightly modified form, yakuza -masu substitute -yasu.


Last of the rising suns

Today was Bunka no Hi, a.k.a. Culture Day. I bought some books at the Junkudo motherstore and received a couple of miniature playing card bookmarks wrapped in plastic as part of a promotion. When I opened them up I saw that I had a pair of 4s, which meant I'd won a prize! I went to claim it, and found out it was a copy of the Japanese edition of that quidditch book.

Nice try, Junkudo. You're gonna have to throw that crap away yourself, though.

Here is an image depicting light from the very first stars ever to appear in our universe. If you believe that God said "let there be light", and there was light, this is that light. (Sadly, it's all infrared now, but I suppose it's too late to revise things to say "let there be warmth".)



No-sword's outward trek has begun. Alert the shiplords and hide the ginger.

To keep the self-promotion quotient of this post down at Yellow, I also observe that Pinyin News has been on fire for the last few weeks. If you're interested in East Asian languages but aren't reading it, your aggregator is probably laughing at you.

The world turned upside down

I think the best thing about this story is imagining how it would be filmed.

GENERIC GRAD STUDENT: Professor! They've discovered that Bach didn't write the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor!
(Opening bars of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor ring out to underscore the horror)

While I'm throwing Metafilter links at you, this arcade sounds page is really quite exceptional.

You'll believe a man can fly

Speaking of 2D vs 3D, check this out. See, there's this manga in Super Jump called Donmai ("Don't mind!" = "Don't worry about it!"), drawn by WAKASA Takeshi (若狭たけし) and scripted by YAJIMA Masao (矢島正雄), and it's about to make the leap to the small screen. The heroine will be played by idol and ex-Mr Donuts image girl AIBU Saki, so naturally she got a photo feature in Super Jump.

So there were a few pictures of her in character, and then there was one of... well, the opposite:

I was quite fascinated by this and spent a while studying it, trying to figure out how cartoon characters can be drawn so unnaturally and yet still look so human. (Later, of course, I realized that I'd probably just looked like a disturbingly avid Aibu Saki fan.)


Don't eat the yellow fur

At last! Hard facts about G. Gordon Liddy Lewis "Scooter" Libby's novel, which takes place in a twisted version of turn-of-the-previous-century Japan.

One passage goes, “At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis."

He "struggled"? That's some penis.