The July issue of Gendaishi techō (現代詩手帳, "Contemporary Poetry Notebook") is a Gary Synderfest, in a sort of belated tie-in with his 2011 visit to Japan. One of the essays, by fellow poet Koike Masayo 小池昌代, is entitled Watashitachi no karada (わたしたちのからだ, "Our bodies"), and begins with a comment on Snyder's "The Bath", from Turtle Island:

One phrase appears every stanza (and is set in italics in the original). At first it is is this our body?; after two appearances like this, the intermediate form this our body appears; it then becomes this is our body, which is then repeated. That is, the initial interrogative changes, with one intermediate step, into a strong affirmative. I have read this poem many times over the years, and this is what remains with me.

In the Ainu kamuy yukar, there is a type of refrain known as a sakehe, a group of words the meaning of which is not well understood but which are retained for the importance of their sound and their function in the song). These words of Snyder's, too, strike me as a sort of modern sakehe, even though they do carry lingering meaning. (My translation)

More about sakehe from Sarah M. Strong's "The most revered of foxes: knowledge of animals and animal power in an Ainu Kamui Yukar" (2009):

As a native speaker of Ainu, Chiri Yukie knew orally the chants she had heard since childhood. For her, each kamui yukar was not a static, memorized "text" but rather a living oral tradition, and her written versions possess qualifies of oral performance. One feature of each chant that was clearly central to her experience of it was its refrain or sakehe. Because the refrain of each kamui yukar is unique to the particular chant it was traditionally used as a way of identifying the chant. Both in the earlier notebook versions and in the Ainu shin'yoshu text Chiri includes the sakehe as a defining title after first identifying the animal spiritual being who is singing its tale. Thus, in the case of the third chant of the Ainu shin'yoshu she names the chant as that "of the fox (chironnup) about itself" and further identifies it with its unique sakehe, haikunterke haikoshitemturi. Although the sakehe, with its long phrases, might seem puzzling for readers unfamiliar with the tradition, for those within Ainu oral tradition it serves as an easy way to distinguish this fox kamui yukar from others about the same animal spiritual being.

(The original title Strong is translating is "Chironnup yaieyukar, 'Haikunterke Haikoshitemturi'", and you can read it for yourself because the book is out of copyright and available at Aozora Bunko.)

Incidentally: <kamui> or <kamuy>? As I understand it, this just represents two different ways of transcribing diphthongs. My impression is that the <-y> form is standard nowadays, but I don't know the specific reasons for this. I suppose it has to do with reducing ambiguity by representing diphthongs explicitly rather than implicitly. (I wish I could dig better info up on this, but I don't anticipate seeing my Serious Books on Ainu again until I move...)

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I don't think that Ainu allows vowel hiatus, so there's no ambiguity if one writes <kamui>. However as far as I know there's no standard Romanization scheme for Ainu.


Is it not even allowed even in edge cases like compound words and obscure affixes and things? This is what I was unclear on... Also it probably helps distinguish end-of-a-diphthong [ɪ] from only-vowel-in-a-syllable [i], and especially to remind people who also speak Japanese that, hey, these are diphthongs here.

"Standard" -- my bad, I meant (and should have said) "most common" or similar.


Ok, Haley is a total barrette-a-holic. Funny, she is also a cuckape AND popsicle junkie. So, I'm thinking the cuckape and popsicle clippies.The English language. Good grief. I have never been more frustrated with it then (did I use this correctly? Or should it be than?) when Jason was learning to read. I was so glad when he was old enough to realize that sometimes it is what it is for no good explanation. But now I have Haley starting to question.Good enough reason to not get knocked up again.

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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