日曜日, 11月 27, 2005

My really, really long post on the Classical Japanese Verb

I have to thank Matt for his excellent posts on this. If there were any boxes on the Big Chart I had only half-memorized before now, those days are gone forever. Staring and staring, and this is what I've come up with.

Matt divides the verb up into three, like Gaul:

Consonant Stems - omoh(u), sak(u), and so on, all six stems are merely variations on the vowel added to the root. [yodan, NA-hen, and RA-hen]
Dual Stems - vowel roots ending in I or E, but taking a U in the renyoukei, rentaikei, and izenkei [kami ni-dan, shimo ni-dan, SA-hen, KA-hen]
Vowel Stems - vowel roots constant throughout the six stems
[kami ichi-dan, shimo ichi-dan]

This classification is traditional and sensible, and I accept it. So I thought of lots of ways to try and neaten or simplify the charts we know and love in ways that didn't rely on good knowledge of modern Japanese. Alas, not much progress. So I stepped back and thought on the three classes I started with.

Consider the V-class. Now it makes up the majority of Japanese verbs, but it started out really small back in the day. For E-roots there's only 蹴る keru. And for I-roots a mere 11 verbs, all monosyllabic roots (excluding obvious compounds). It seemed to me that this class had to be newer than the other two. No-sword's post on keru hints that there were historical reasons leading to its isolation, but when I played around with my dictionary, I found that at least with 干るhiru, there was an earlier hu in the Nara days, a D-class presumably conjugating like E-monosyllables 寝nu, 経hu, and 得u. That is to say,


Perhaps one or more of the eleven kami-iti V-roots had personal reasons like lonely keru for founding the class, but it's clear that it proved popular for other verbs like hu so short they lacked a sense of a definite stem. For similar reasons I'd bet that 寝nu, 経hu, and 得u were the first to join keru. This is where it gets interesting.

The more I looked at the new V-stem class, the more I realized how much it resembled not the D-class, but the C-class. For one, there's a constant unmodifiable root. Second, it also eliminates the distinction between the shushikei and rentaikei, a trend we know eventually led to their fusion in modern Japanese. All the irregular verbs (su, ku, na-row, and ra-row) as well as the older D-roots preserve the SSK and RTK distinction. Only the C- and newer V-roots do not. As a matter of fact, the only reason NA-row irregular verbs exist as such is because they differ from C-roots here:

NA-row irregularshinashinishinushinurushinureshine

I don't know whether C-roots always ignored the distinction, and NA-rows are prickly outliers, or whether NA-rows are the only holdouts (there are only two NA-row verbs, after all) against an innovation that swept the rest of the C-roots. I suspect the latter, but even going against history, if for simplicity's sake, we consider the basic RT ending to be ru, and the IZ re, we find it holds for all verbs of all classes! Even su, ku, and RA-row verbs. In fact, on a fancy, it would make sense if first the RA-verbs dropped an extra RT ru and IZ re, considering that it would lead to a repetitive aruru and arure, and the C-roots followed suit just in time for the beginning of recorded written Japanese.

So, first step in a unified chart: (1)SS = +u; (2)RZ = +uru, and IZ = +ure, except for C-roots whose final consonants carry the burden of the U and E on their own. (The NA-row twins being remaining fashionably nostalgic).

On the same principle of seeking a basic ending with explainable (as opposed to memorized) exceptions, we can say the RYK ends in +i, unless usurped by an existing vowel stem (i.e. E-root V-class verbs). This also works for the "irregular classes". Accepting that though the inherent vowel of 来ku is O (MZ kozu), and of su, E (MZ sezu), they take ki and si in the RYK, this leads me to think that once upon a time, the RYK of the D-class as well may have ended in +i.

Which leads me to the mizenkei. No stem is as weird as the MZK, and the C-roots take the only A on the chart here. There may be no connection with the A of ancient nominal bound forms that survive even today (ama-gutu rain boots, vs. ame rain), but if we assume there is, we can conclude that the MZ stem ending is actually ZERO. The consonant verbs would use the binding A to avoid an impossible consonant cluster, and vowel verbs from ko to se to mi to tabe all get to keep their original inherent vowel. The corollary to this would be that the MZ reveals the original character of the verb most clearly, a fact to take advantage of later.

This leaves only the imperative. At first I was confused by the seeming existence of two different endings: e for C-roots, and yofor the rest. But consider 来ku and su. The ko and se of their MZK's, provisionally accepted by me as the most original form of the verb, reappears only here. Why not, then, consider the imperative ending to be zero as well? A zero-ending imperative has a lot of cross-lingual precedent, after all. I feel further out on thin ice in saying this than anything else, but perhaps C-root e and V-root yo, like later ro, are all the various results of fused emphasis particles. shin- + binding a + i could reasonably become shine. And my chart has ko or koyo for the imperative of 来ku, which lends some support to the idea or an (originally) optional particle.

So, if anyone has read this far, here we have it:

RY : -i
SS : -u
RT : -uru
IZ : -ure
MR : ZERO + emphasis parrticle *i or *yo

With deviations explained thus:

(1) C-stems use the binding a to avoid a consonant cluster in the MZK

(2) C-stems rely on their own final consonant to support the u and e of the RT and IZ. (except the two NA verbs)

(3) All vowel roots (except ku and su) give precedence to their inherent vowel in the RY. Which practically only means, E-roots keep the E.

(4) The non-changing vowel roots of the new V-class give precedence to their native vowels in ALL stems. This has two consequences (1) RT=Vru, IZ=Vre, and (2) to preserve a SS ending in u, they must resort to ru, justified by the precedent of C-roots, which also have identical SS and RT stems.

And that takes care of everything, I believe.

If that looks like all of Japanese verbery devolving from what most closely resembles the irregular su/ku paradigms, I think it's only natural. Two of the most common verbs in the language are likely to preserve older forms and prove more resistant to innovations and simplifications. Heck, even nowadays it's still konai.

Pedagogically, I would suggest the following. The above system is accurate, but requires prior knowlegde of existing verbs to make sense. As a method for generating or recognizing forms, it won't help much if the student only learns the usual SSK, or even the more common RYK. I suggest (yay Classics!) a principal parts system. The MZK provides the most irregular forms of all verbs, and also makes it immediately clear if a verb is a C-root or not by the -a. The only ambiguity there is between D- and V-roots. For that the traditional SS should suffice. This also gives the irregular but very frequent RA-row SS ri. In fact, the only forms unpredictable from these two are the RT and IZ of 死ぬshinu and 往ぬinu, the two NA-row irregular verbs. This should pose little challenge to memorization, I think. My suggestion: the SSK, and the zu-negative, in that order.

saku, sakazu [yodan, C-root]
sugu, sugizu [kami-nidan, D-root]
tabu, tabezu [shimo-nidan, D-root]
miru, mizu [kami-ichidan, V-root]
keru, kezu [shimo-ichidan, V-root]
ku, kozu [KA-hen, D-root]
su, sezu [SA-hen, D-root]
ari, arazu [RA-hen, C-root]
shinu, shinazu [NA-hen, C-root *must memorize RT shinuru, IZ shinure]

For those of us who have studied MJ, I think this is useful too, since the big difference after all is in the SSK. ku, not kuru, ari, not aru, tabu, not taberu, and so on.

Feedback wo o-negai shimasu!

月曜日, 11月 21, 2005

Pillars in the Stream


「朽ちもせぬ  この河柱  残らずは  昔の跡を  いかで知らまし」

On the morning of the 17th, we left. Long ago in Shimōsa there was a man they called "Rich Man Mano." They said the place where we crossed the deep river by boat was the very spot of the house where he had a hundred, a thousand, innumerable bolts of cloth woven and bleached. There were four huge pillars still in the river they said were the old door posts. While the others were composing poetry, I thought to myself,

"Were it not for these river-pillars still standing so long, how would we know anything about the past?"

Question: Does anyone know anything about the traditional manufacture of clothing? 織るoru definitely implies the weaving he had his hired help do, Mr. Mano, but 晒すsarasu? Is there some reason to expose newly woven cloth to the elements? "Bleach" doesn't quite satisfy me.

Notes: This "mura", acting as a kind of measuring word for counting vast, vast quantities of cloth, apparently comes from the mure/mura for "crowd, flock". I guess that makes sense, though I wish I had a better sense of the deep, deep original meaning of the word.

日曜日, 11月 20, 2005

Departure (ch.1) continued


The place we had departed for (in Imatachi) had not the slightest fencing shrubbery. It was no more than a thatch-roofed hut for temporary shelter, without even a shitomi. There was just the barest screen, and a bit of curtain. To the south, one could see fields stretching into the distance. On the east and the west, the sea was nearby--very pleasant. In the eveing, the mists would rise and envelop us, and it was all so interesting I could never sleep late, always looking here and there, feeling sad and thinking it a pity we would eventually have to leave this place too. But on the fifteenth of the same month, on a day dark with pouring rain, we crossed the border and camped at a place called Ikata in the country of Shimotsusa (later and now, Shimōsa). It rained so hard it felt like our little shack might float away at any moment, and I was so afraid I could hardly sleep.

In the middle of the fields, we came across a small rise with a mere three trees. We spent that day drying our clothes soaked from the rain, and deciding to wait for those who had set out after us, we stayed there for the night.

How about that? A day after Matt's post on inu, it pops up not once, but twice in the next section of Sarashina I translate. First in 朝寝asa-i, "sleeping late (in the morning)", then in 寝も寝られずi mo nerarezu, "unable to sleep". Have to love coincidence

Other thoughts:

This place, Ikata, is thought by my book to be a mistake for Iketa, especially considering that there are records of an old neighborhood name 池田 Ikeda in modern Chiba City, near the 寒川(Samugawa??) area, right around where she should have been at this point in her journey. The connection seems very plausible to me, but not the part about the mistake. Especially in place names, there's a not uncommon a-mutation in Japanese compounds. For example,

風見 kaze + mi > Kazami (name)
金物 kane + mono > kanamono (old school word for "metals" before the upstart neo-sinic 金属)
白木 shiro + ki > shiraki (unvarnished wood, esp. for the construction of a Shinto temple, thanks 広辞苑!)

And so on. I find it most commonly in last names, and though I've never noticed a 田 triggering it, I don't see why it couldn't happen. Anyone know any examples of a-mutation before 田?

And while we're on derivations, notice the ultra-cool evidence of the origins of higashi "east". Supposedly from 日向風(hi-mu-kasi) "(the direction of) the sundwards wind", so old the mu hadn't become ku-ified yet.

金曜日, 11月 11, 2005

Name Change

Well, as it seems this is becoming a blog more generally about Classical Japanese, which is fine with me, I decided to change the name. I still plan to keep the Sarashina Nikki translation as the central project, but at least this way I can update more easily.

Also, a revelation: koso is ということ!
Today when I was flipping through one of those machine-toting Goro-gorogo study aids I mentioned before, this hit me on the first page, from Tsuredzure-gusa:

(英訳)The dwelling in perfect harmony, temporary shelter that it may be, is a very precious thing.

Before, besides stopping to note that koso was the trigger for izenkei in the associetaed verb, I've pretty much read through it without taking it very seriously. The modern sense is too heavy-handed, and ignoring it rarely impedes understanding, but today it came to me. Koso is the ancient equivalent of "...to iu koto wa". Wa is the marker for comparison-emphasis (This is great, not that!), and koso is for independent highlighting emphasis (This, this is great!)

This clears up so much. More examples tomorrow.

木曜日, 11月 10, 2005

My Tools

Amida asks me about my tools, online resources and the like. What am I using for this translation, exactly?

Well, today in Mito after another pointless and much begrudged ALT meeting, I went to Kawamata Shoten to pick up 平家物語 Heike Monogatari, which I've wanted to start reading in the original for a while. Of course I found it in the ubiquitous high school study aids section. Which raises a related point.

I first thought of Classical Japanese like Latin, which I majored in. The dead ancestor of a robust modern tongue whose speakers need special training to decipher it, kept alive by the flowering of culture it knew in its heyday as a spoken medium. The little I was able to find on it in the States sort of affirmed this view. There was the translated grammar of Ikeda, and a newer work by Akira and someone else I can't recall now. I assumed, not too far-fetchedly, that these were the tip of an iceberg awaiting me in the original when the Jet program finally bought me a ticket here. I was wrong.

When I first got here, I spent many a Tokyo afternoon after a long train ride from Ibaraki scouring bookstores on my own and pestering polite but annoyed store attendants to find this imputed treasure trove. Over and over again I was merely taken to the same high school study aids section I went to today. After a while I had to realize the truth: that despite it being a sort of natural cultural treasure, the classical language of Japan is by far and large mostly the preoccupation of high school students forced to study it for their entrance examinations.

I knew it was a compulsory subject before I came here, but I was sure I'd find more scholarly works as well. A grammar, I thought, the world for just one thick weapon-sized grammar. But...you just can't find them in bookstores. I persist in believing they do exist, and I know there are scholars of the langauge as such, not just as a vehicle for literature, but you can't get your hands on their works at even the biggest bokstores of the capital.

A lot of reasons for this, of course. Lack of customers, obviously, lack of consumers for the stuff. Though there certainly is a large body of available work ON classical literature to be had. And the texts are easily available through Iwanami bunko at prices to make the Western Classicists weep. Imagine: Homer for five bucks! Agh!
But I think it mianly comes down to the fact that for all the world of pain that the study is for high school kids, it really is much closer to modern Japanese than Latin to English, or even its own contemporary Italian. Or Ancient to Modern Greek for that matter. Or Old English to Modern. It takes training to learn to read, true, but I've come to feel that for actual readers and consumers of the Classical Japanese past, it's close enough not to merit a mediating scholarly apparatus in the form of grammars and the like. When I read it, I know it feels like I'm retranslating it into Modern Japanese terms in my head, though that's dangerous at times, where I assume the current meaning for an originally very different word.

So what do I do? Well, I line up with the kids and buy the same odd vocabulary books with machine-gun toting anime characters, "grammars" by "Madonna", which in Japanese terms means something like "attractive vibrant young woman", here referring to a teacher, and most of all, most of all, the texts annotated for grammar line by line that I've come to love. It's using them that has taught me what I know of the language for the most part.

And this, along with the Iwanami Bunko version based on the Fujiwara Teika text of Sarashina Nikki, with help from the various pieces of my garishly illustrated collection, is what I am using for this project.

水曜日, 11月 09, 2005

Have faith, reader(s?)!

Well, off to a roaring start on this blog, I see. I could beg of being at school past nine for like four of the last six days, and an entire weekend gone with more of the same, but that won't get me anywhere. Nothing to ward off the swift swoop of the digital slipper but to update, though.

mata asu kakamu

火曜日, 11月 01, 2005

Why not?

Left school after nine again, no time for any translation, unfortunately, but per suggestion, I thought I'd add some thoughts on the language of the parts I've translated so far.

One was the incredible continuity you see in Japanese.

I thought this when I saw (chapter 1, first paragraph]:
物語といふ物のあんなるを、いかで見ばやと思いつつ, ...
I heard people saying there were these things called "tales", and wanting so much to read them, ...

I learned the -baya of mibaya there as being equivalent to the desiderative -tai, as in 行きたい, "I want to go". But when I translated this section, I thought it was strange that baya didn't seem to have an obvious connection to the mizenkei -ba meaning "if" like the modern ba. Checking the pocket electronic dictionary I would probably grab after my wallet in the next Big Earthquake, I was pleased to learn it did.

広辞苑 Koujien, sort of a Webster's with no remaining competition, derives it from the same -ba plus ya", an exclamatory particle like yo or na nowadays. Which means that rather than a fixed ending without much independent meaning like tai, baya was just the ancient echo of the modern ~ばいいな, a very common expression for desire that literally means, "if X was so-and-so, that would be swell". That same ba has now reemerged on the izenkei with a parasitic re, and ya has died out, but even a thousand years later, the nature of the language, its subconscious idiomatic tendencies and imperatives haven't changed very much at all in a lot of ways.