Linguisticsy introduction to the Japanese language

I started teaching one of my linguistics major friends how to speak japanese on AIM tonight, so I figure I would post the conversation here.

(01:54:58 AM) evilestmark: learn japanese Lesson 1. A. I. i. Saying your Name!
(01:55:19 AM) evilestmark:
Kurisu des
chris to-be

(01:55:32 AM) Chris: ahhh’
(01:55:46 AM) Chris: watishi-wa kurisu des
(01:55:53 AM) Chris: step 1
(01:56:00 AM) evilestmark: grade: A+
(01:56:32 AM) evilestmark: next: Asking someone else what their name is
O-namae-wa nan-des-ka

(01:56:54 AM) evilestmark: honorable-name-topic maerk
(01:57:08 AM) Chris: with rising intonation at end?
(01:57:13 AM) evilestmark: hai
(01:57:21 AM) Chris: kawaii!
(01:57:32 AM) evilestmark: inappropriate usage of kawaii
(01:57:42 AM) Chris: i can use kawaii whenever the hell i want
(01:57:46 AM) evilestmark: lol
(01:57:57 AM) Chris: ^__^
(01:58:17 AM) evilestmark: next step: copular sentence
(01:58:29 AM) evilestmark:
hon des

(01:58:36 AM) evilestmark: It’s a book
(01:58:46 AM) Chris: neko des
(01:58:49 AM) Chris: it’s a cat
(01:58:55 AM) evilestmark: idea on how you can ask, “Is it a book?
(02:00:22 AM) Chris: o-hon-wa nan des ka?
(02:00:59 AM) evilestmark: that would literally mean “What is your exalted book?”
(02:01:06 AM) evilestmark: just “hon deska?”
(02:01:11 AM) Chris: i mean, that’s what i meant
(02:01:26 AM) evilestmark: 🙂
(02:01:45 AM) evilestmark: also, theoretically “des” is really “desu”
(02:01:54 AM) evilestmark: but the final syllable get’s shortened to nothing most of the time
(02:02:39 AM) evilestmark: here’s a short word list of concrete objects in japanese
(02:04:42 AM) evilestmark:
hon – book,
isu – desk,
kyokasho – textbook
impitsu – pencil
pen – pen
neko – cat
inu – dog
sakana – fish

(02:06:34 AM) evilestmark: oh other good words
(02:07:02 AM) evilestmark:
denwa – phone
keitai – cellphone
teburu – table
kuruma – car
densha – train

(02:08:17 AM) evilestmark: second major grammatical lesson after copular sentences
(02:08:23 AM) evilestmark: existential remarks
(02:08:53 AM) evilestmark: whereas with the previous sentences it’s taken that you’re talking about an object you and your listener are both aware of and just specifying what it is
(02:09:00 AM) evilestmark: the following are actually statements of existance
(02:09:16 AM) evilestmark: for example
(02:09:49 AM) evilestmark:
hon-ga arimas(u)
book-sub exists
“There’s a book/There are books”

(02:10:11 AM) evilestmark:
impitsu-ga arimasu
pencil-sub exists

(02:10:16 AM) Chris: so there are no determiners in japanese?
(02:10:32 AM) evilestmark: kind of like korean, they’re not necessary most of the time
(02:10:36 AM) Chris: okay
(02:10:58 AM) Chris: but only necessary when saying “those” or “these” ?
(02:11:30 AM) evilestmark: so there’s a way of using demonstratives or deictic determiners in japanese as pre-nominals
(02:11:33 AM) evilestmark: it works like this
(02:12:03 AM) evilestmark:
kono-hon This book (by me)
sono-hon That book (by you)
ano-hon That book over there (not by either of us)

(02:12:17 AM) evilestmark: that works for any noun
(02:12:27 AM) evilestmark: you can describe any physical noun with those determiners as a noun-phrase
(02:12:38 AM) evilestmark: it will then act grammatically just like the noun itself
(02:13:11 AM) evilestmark: talking about abstracts is a bit trickier… because relative place isn’t implicit
(02:13:54 AM) evilestmark: so usually with abstracts it comes down to like… how close you feel to the noun you’re describing, whether you want to place it with yourself or the person you’re talking to
(02:14:16 AM) evilestmark: so
(02:14:24 AM) evilestmark: how would I say: “Are there any books?”
(02:16:37 AM) Chris: hmm
(02:16:39 AM) Chris: okay
(02:16:40 AM) Chris: so
(02:17:52 AM) Chris: hon-ga arimasu?
(02:18:05 AM) evilestmark: you can say that
(02:18:12 AM) evilestmark: but it’s better to say hon-ga arimasuka?
(02:18:25 AM) evilestmark: the ka can attach to any verb that ends in -masu
(02:18:31 AM) evilestmark: or -desu
(02:18:41 AM) Chris: hmm
(02:18:50 AM) Chris: and that means question mark?
(02:18:54 AM) evilestmark: yeppers
(02:19:07 AM) evilestmark: it’s not necessary in informal conversation, but those use different verbs
(02:19:37 AM) evilestmark: and typically you use a different post-positional verb marker to indicate that it’s a question
(02:19:46 AM) evilestmark: but i don’t like it.. because it sounds really demanding
(02:19:51 AM) Chris: hmm
(02:19:52 AM) evilestmark: ka is less demanding
(02:20:06 AM) Chris: what’s the more demanding one?
(02:20:26 AM) evilestmark: so… if i were going to ask you politely do you drink alcohol
(02:20:39 AM) evilestmark: i would say, “osake-wo nomimasuka?”
(02:21:00 AM) evilestmark: that’s “honorable-sake-object drink-?”
(02:21:06 AM) evilestmark: if i were asking my friend i would say
(02:21:17 AM) evilestmark: osake-wo nomuno?
(02:21:24 AM) evilestmark: and when i type wo it sounds like “o”

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More on names

As I think I have mentioned before, I’m very intrigued by names. There’s just something about them. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Billy Shakes had a lot to say about a lot of things. So did Gene Roddenberry, which brings me to my current point.

There is a character in Roddenberry’s Star Trek the Next Generation named Data (Brent Spiner). Data is an android (robot appearing like a human). He’s sort of comparable to Spock from Star Trek (the original series), but arguably more dynamic as he is on a quest to become more human.

At anyrate, in one episode (I’m not sure which, if anyone knows please comment), Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur)  refers to Data as [dæta] as opposed to [deita] as he is normally called. Data, in response, corrects Pulaski who then frustratedly says “what’s the difference?” To which Data replies, “One is my name, the other is not.”

So… both pronunciations of the word ‘data’ are accepted, and the character Data certainly is named after the word, roughly meaning ‘information’. But why then is it correct to pronounce Data’s name one way and incorrect the other?

Indeed many people are very defensive about their pronunciation of normal words, but even those that aren’t are usually quick to correct people’s mispronunciation of their own name. It seems to me that names mean much more to us than other words, and we would expect that to be the case. You probably have more memories associated with ‘Alex’ than you do with ‘memorize’. And when we hear someone mispronounce something we have a lot of thoughts, memories, and feelings about it seems much more wrong then if it were any other word being pronounced differently than the way we pronounce it.

Moreover, though there may be numerous acceptable pronunciations of a common word, each proper name deserves it’s own individual pronunciation. Although there are generalizations someone named Maera in one place might pronounce her name [Maira] and another Maera might pronounce her name [Mæra], but certainly both are correct in the case of the individual.

Hmm… just musing.

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Gender Identification Phonetics Experiment

For my Phonetics and Phonology class’s mid-term grade I was assigned with a project to design an experiment using PRAAT software to test subjects with a multiple forced choice test. I decided to see what could be done with pitch, and explore an area of interest to me: gender identification. The attached file is a write-up of my results.

Because this project was somewhat informal and the number of subjects was fairly small (10 total) it’s hard to say if the results accurately describe a larger population. I also did not do any hard background research but instead only received background information from class and reference from professors here at William and Mary.

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General Catch-up

I’ve completed my introductory linguistics courses: Study of Language, and History of the English Language.  I have some sort of basis for talking about things now I guess.

I Think that I’ve decided what I’m interested in doing long term research on:  The linguistics (particularly from a cognitive perspective) involved with real-time internet text chat through means like Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Other Chatrooms, AOL Instant Messager (AIM), Other Instant messaging utilities.  Perhaps with a comparison to spoken language and traditional written language, as well as the primary other forms of internet text communication: e-mail, message boards, etc.

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The History of English (Summary)

So I’ve had a request for a summary of the history of english.  I’m doing this without referencing my notes, so it may require future editing.  I’m trying to be as brief as possible but it’s kind of long.

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Etymology Assignment

For History of English we had to do an Etymology Assignment. It was kind of interesting so I thought I would post what I wrote. It’s kind of really long so I’m going to put it behind a break.

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Paper Topic

So I have to write a proposal for my term paper in History of English.

I’m thinking about writing about Ablauts/Strong verbs.  These are verbs whose inflection are within the verb itself like: Swim/Swam/Swum, Sing/Sang/Sang, Speak/Spoke/Spoke, etc.  More than just describing them I’d like to discuss the transition between the use of Ablauts to the common verb inflection in English today: Kick/Kicked/Kicked, Smoke/Smoked/Smoked.  Hopefully it will turn out well and not be suicidally hard to research.

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