When it's lexicographicky time down south

I finally got hold of a copy of SAKIHARA Mitsugu's Okinawan-English Wordbook, published earlier this year, and given the price, a finer Okinawan-English wordbook I could not imagine. The "Okinawan" here refers to, in the editors' words:

the language, not mutually intelligible with Japanese, traditionally used in the south-central part of the island of Okinawa. One of several Ryukyuan languages, Okinawan is based on the speech encountered in and around Naha and Shuri, that is, the area around the modern capital of present-day Okinawa Prefecture and the old capital of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. Formerly, it was also the lingua franca of the Ryukyuan kingdom that flourished for several centuries before the Ryukyus became part of Japan in 1879.

The Okinawan language recorded in this Wordbook is based on the speech of the late Dr. Mitsugu Sakihara, the original author of this dictionary manuscript, who was a native of Naha. He augmented the manuscript by checking it against a number of other sources [...] The current editors have also extensively checked Wordbook entries against the premier dictionary of Okinawan, the Okinawa-go jiten, published in Japanese in 1963, and against the speaker intuitions and unpublished notes of linguists at the University of the Ryukyus.

So, it's kind of a throwback to the days when dictionaries were put together by one cheerfully non-invisible editor, combined with modern editing techniques and scholarship. (For example, they've helpfully added Japanese cognates where known, although I think I see some they missed...) This adds up to my dream dictionary.

On the first two pages alone, we have:

  • aa, "bubble" (= J /awa/)
  • aakeejuu, "dragonfly" (= J /akizu/ [arch.])
  • aashimun, "lined kimono" (= J /awasemono/)
  • abiisuubu, "shouting match" (= O /abiin/ (shout) + J /shoubu/ (match))
  • abushibaree, "communal rite held in the fourth lunar month to rid rice paddies of vermin" (= J /abushi/ (protrusion, levee) [arch.] + /harai/ (exorcism))
  • achihatiin, "get sick of" (= J /akihateru/)

That last one also gives us wonderful, almost Edoic compound words like achihatibeesan (adjective, "fickle, capricious") and achihatijuugwachi (literally "boring October", so called because there are no traditional holidays then.)

I mean, come on. Achihatijuugwachi, man. The only trouble is deciding whether to use it as-is in all its palatalized glory, or use its Japanese cognates to get akihatejuugatsu. And either way, when some native speaker's all like "Whitey [or whatever you happen to be], that ain't Japanese none," you can just say, "Hey, after what happened in 1879, it's a Japanese word whether you like it or not."

(If they object that they weren't using "Japanese" in the sense of "[a language] native to an area within the current borders of Japan", but, rather, as a metonymic shorthand for "the Standard Japanese promulgated by the central government and reinforced by the media", quickly throw a Grice grenade to the floor and flee in the ensuing confusion.)

Hey, has it been proven to everyone's satisfaction that the English suffix <-er> was the inspiration for /amuraa/, the word referring to over-zealous, imitative fans of Okinawan singer AMURO Namie? Because it seems like in Okinawan, changing words so that they end in a long /aa/ is a fairly productive way of making a noun meaning "person or thing practising or associated with [X]", e.g. /amerika/ (America) => /amerikaa/ (American); /hataui/ (weaving) => /hatauyaa/ (weaver); /saataa/ (sugar) + /nanjichi/ (scorched food) => /saataananjichaa/ (scorched brown sugar), etc. Okay, just checking.

Popularity factor: 0

Comment season is closed.