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Japanese Sound-Symbolic Expressions

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  1. Japanese Sound-Symbolic Expressions Joshua Cole JPN494/598 Spring 2007

  2. Objectives • In this presentation I will: • Define sound symbolism and give examples of different types of sound symbolism • Give examples of some common patterns Japanese sound-symbolic expressions follow and show how they evolved over time • Give examples of historical uses/usage trends in Japanese literature • Discuss the lifespan of Japanese sound-symbolic expressions

  3. What is Sound Symbolism? • Words that sound like what they mean • Three major types in Japanese • Phonomimes • Phenomimes • Psychomimes

  4. Types of Sound Symbolism • Phonomimes (Onomatopoeia): “words which imitate the sounds made by animate or inanimate objects” (Ono v) • 擬音語(giongo):’sound’ onomatopoeia (inanimate) • Examples: snap, crackle, pop • 擬声語(giseigo):’voice’ onomatopoeia (animate) • Examples: whinny, meow, moo

  5. Types of Sound Symbolism • Phenomimes [擬態語(gitaigo)]: “words which express in descriptive and symbolic terms the states or conditions of both animate and inanimate objects, and of change, phenomena, movement, growth, etc. in nature” (Ono v) • Possible examples (?): twinkle, glitter, shimmer

  6. Types of Sound Symbolism • Psychomimes [擬情語(gijôgo)]: words which express in descriptive and symbolic terms human emotion/feelings or psychological states • Possible examples (?): blah, icky, woozy

  7. Examples of Japanese Sound Symbolism • Phonomime • うっ(utt): Expresses a gasping sound or action. A short groaning or growling sound. [e.g., ガス臭い。思わずうっと息をとめた。 (It smelt of gas. Without thinking, I held my breath.)] • Phenomime • ぷんぷん(pun-pun): Describes a strong enveloping smell. [e.g., この花はぷんぷんにおう。 (This flower gives off a strong smell.)] • Psychomime • のんびり(nonbiri): To be in a calm, tranquil state, both physically and mentally. [e.g., 若いうちのほうが、のんびりして、気ままな暮らしをしやすい。 (Just relaxing and living freely is easier when one is young.)]

  8. Common Constructions • Root • One-syllable root A • Two-syllable root AB • May be followed by と(to) • Required: forms ending in the 促音(sokuon) • Optional: Forms ending in the 発音(hatsuon) or り(ri) • ABAB form usually not followed by と • Commonly used as an adverb • ABAB form sometimes used as an adjective

  9. A(ふ) Aッ(ぎゅっ) Aン(ぽん) A-(ちゅー) AA(ここ) AッA(さっさ) AッAッ(へっへっ) AンAン(るんるん) A-A-(かーかー) Common Constructions:One-syllable root A

  10. Common Constructions:Two-syllable root AB • AB(がば) • ABッ(むかっ) • ABン(どかん) • ABリ(とろり) • AッBリ(ぴったり) • AンBリ(うんざり) • ABAB(そろそろ) • ABB(きりり)

  11. Common Constructions Historically • Nara (8 forms) • Heian (4 new forms) • Introduction of 撥音(hatsuonン) as う? • リ over ロ/ラ • Kamakura/Muromachi (22 new forms) • Introduction of 促音(sokuon ッ)、長音(chô’on -) • Edo (9 new forms) • Meiji – Present (12 new forms)

  12. Common Constructions:Conclusions • Frequent use of: • 促音(sokuon ッ) • 撥音(hatsuonン) • 長音(chô’on -) • ABAB most commonly used form

  13. Historical Use of Japanese Sound Symbolism • 万葉集(Man’yôshû) (c. 759) • Conjecture: earliest known use? • Example: 「この床のひしと鳴るまで」(一三・三二七〇) • ひし→ぎしぎし、みしみし(to creak) • 古今和歌集(Kokin wakashû) (c. 920) • Some examples of sound symbolism used as 掛詞(kakekotoba) • Example: 「ひとりして 物をおもへば 秋の田の 稲葉のそよと いう人のなき」 • そよ(gentle swaying motion) & 其よ(=そうですよ) • 源氏物語(Genji monogatari) (1021) • Novel use of sound-symbolic expressions in descriptions of particular characters in the story • Example: 「あざあざ」(色彩が鮮明で目の覚めるような派手やかさ)is used only in descriptions of Lady Murasaki

  14. Historical Usage Trends in Literature • Usage increases over time • 古代(Kodai) • 源氏物語(Genji monogatari): 33 instances • 今昔物語集(Konjyaku monogatarishû): 55 instances • 中世(Chûsei) • Selected 軍記物語(Gunki monogatari): 112 instances • 近代(Kindai) • 我輩は猫である(Wagahai wa neko de aru): 261 instances • 1/10 length of Genji79x more dense • 細雪(Sasameyuki): 305 instances • 1/3 length of Genji27x more dense • Conjecture: Japanese sound symbolic expressions always used in speech, usage in literature increased as differences between written Japanese became more like spoken Japanese(言文一致)

  15. Lifespan of Japanese Sound-Symbolic Expressions • Question: Are Japanese sound-symbolic expressions only in vogue for a short time, or do they have some staying power? • Short answer: It depends

  16. Examining the 今昔物語集(Konjyaku monogatarishû) • 53% of the sound-symbolic expressions in this work have survived to the present day (i.e., their meanings have not changed) • Total rises to 58% when you take into account the addition of 促音 & 長音 to the Japanese language and alter the expressions accordingly • 促音:「散と」→「さっと」 (extremely quick, adroit movement) • 長音:「ギ」→「ギー」 (low creaking) • Even among the 42% of expressions no longer used, with minor alterations some correspond to modern-day forms • ABABBABA: 「ツブツブ」→「ブツブツ」 (cutting into a thick object) • voicelessvoiced: 「ツブリ」→「ヅブリ」→「ズブリ」 (splashing, sinking into water)

  17. Changes in Expression Usage over 30 Years • Increase in number of electronic sounds • Goes hand in hand with proliferation of electronic devices (personal computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, etc.) • Decrease in “natural” sounds • Wooden sliding doorsmetal sliding doors • Glass bottlesPlastic bottles

  18. Changes in Expression Usage over 30 Years • Less emphasis on expressions denoting slow, relaxed actions • More emphasis on expressions denoting quick, dynamic actions • Conjecture: reflective of a more fast-paced society?

  19. Emphasis on Quick, Dynamic Actions: Example

  20. Lifespan of Japanese Sound-Symbolic Expressions: Conclusions • “Short term”: fairly dynamic • Words used reflect the environment/conditions of the time • “Long term”: surprisingly static • Once introduced meanings of surviving words don’t change much over time

  21. Resources • 大坪併治,「象徴語彙の歴史」,森岡健二編者,『講座日本語学・4―語彙史』,東京:明治書院, 1982,228-250. • 尾野秀一編著,『日英擬音・擬態語活用辞典』,東京:北星堂書店,1984. • 鈴木雅子,「むかしの擬音語・擬態語」,『言語生活』,第171号,12/1965,60-65. • 山口仲美,『犬は「びよ」と鳴いていた―日本語は擬音語・擬態語が面白い』,東京:光文社,2002. • Wikipedia article on “Sound Symbolism”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_symbolism