PDA

View Full Version : plurals in japanese


Please visit our sponsor:
 

Aikido of Northern VA Seminars - Doran-sensei in Northern Virginia, March 2015


Ibaraki Bryan
05-06-2005, 04:01 AM
2 uchideshi or 2 uchideshis

My instinct from being in Japan for a while is to say 2 uchideshi. Same with 5 sensei rather than senseis.

What is your preference when using borrowed words for martial arts -- should we borrow the grammar too or just the root word?

:confused:

Bryan

PeterR
05-06-2005, 04:19 AM
Just think of sheep - no s added there.

Use Japanese convention for Japanese words.

Ibaraki Bryan
05-06-2005, 04:20 AM
Glad someone agrees... :)

batemanb
05-06-2005, 04:34 AM
Use Japanese convention for Japanese words.


I agree here totally, but there are those that will argue that using them in a western sentence means that the word should be changed accordingly. Sensei in front of a name is a prime one. If you're going to change it, why bother using it in the first place?

regards

Bryan

awh
05-06-2005, 06:35 AM
I think it depends on the word... to some extent, how "well-known" the word is. If the word is well-known enough that it has essentially become part of English, then it sounds correct to use it with English rules.

The following sentences all sound okay (though somewhat contrived):
- My family owns two Hondas.
- Different sakes have different flavours. (the Japanese word sake, not English)
- Tsunamis are bad.

Conversely, the following sound odd (to my ears, anyway):
- There's a group of old men outside. They're all wearing jimbeis.
- I ate 3 mikans for lunch.

"Sensei", I could go either way on. "Sempai" and "Kohai" I'd probably never add an s to.

But, this is just one guy's opinion, an opinion that may be coloured by the fact that I speak Japanese, and by conventions that for all I know might only be prevalent in the area that I grew up.

Kyudos
05-06-2005, 06:43 AM
I'd say the convention for borrowed words (not just Japanese) is to use 'conventional' grammar. By that I mean generally use your native grammar so people have a better chance of understanding you.

It depends on your audience...

If you refer to "Ueshiba Morihei O-Sensei" other aikidoka will understand, but "O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba" is clearer to the (western) man in the street because they expect the "title-first name-family name" construction.

If you're going to change it, why bother using it in the first place?

That is something of an odd argument...you might as well say "If you're are going to speak Japanese, don't go mixing in any of that English stuff" ;) .

For many aikidoka the only Japanese they know is from aikido - I don't suppose many have any idea about Japanese grammatical construction, so they would naturally use their native construction, and I can't see anything wrong with that.

Peter Goldsbury
05-06-2005, 07:01 AM
I think Mr Hamilton's mail sums it up concisely. Japanese nouns do not have a plural form, so in Japan it is a matter of finding the correct count-form, or using hitotsu, futatsu etc.

The issue becomes one of the degree of anglicization and the mileage might well vary with the language community involved. Perhaps among the foreigners living in Iwama, 'uchideshis' might be frowned upon because it jarrs on ears that are becoming attuned to Japanese.

On the other hand in Texas or Florida, a dojo might have one or more senseis, a few sempais and many more kohais, who all wear gis, and hakamas where appropriate. With no problem. If there was a "Japan Week" and a Japanese-style festival, the women might well appear in kimonos and the men in fundoshis and haoris.

Perhaps Jun is the best person to judge how far he would accept the anglicization of words that are native to him.

Best regards,

akiy
05-06-2005, 10:55 AM
Perhaps Jun is the best person to judge how far he would accept the anglicization of words that are native to him.
I personally do not use the "pluralized" form of (most) Japanese words when using them in an English language context. Similarly, I put words like "sensei" and "shihan" after the person's name. (As an aside, one dojomate who spent years in Japan noted that I'm one of the few people who pronounce the word "dojo" correctly, even when I'm speaking in English.) I use the term "dogi" or "keikogi" rather than "gi." And so on.

I don't think there is any sort of set rule when/why I retain certain Japanese linguistic constructs in the English language. For example, even though we use "last name, first name" when naming someone in Japanese, I don't use that when naming people in English, even if the person referred to is Japanese.

I guess it comes down to, as Peter put it above, how "jarring" certain contructs sound to my Japanese ears. When I hear someone say "dojos," "kenshuseis" and such, it just doesn't sound right to me -- just as "sensei Jones" and "shihan Smith" sounds extremely wrong to my ears as well.

Personally, I don't think it's out of the ordinary in the English language to "borrow" such rules as "don't add an -s to Japanese language nouns to pluralize," as there are many instances of such within the language itself (eg criterion to criteria, radius to radii). Even in the Japanese language, there are situations wherein such rules as "put the salutation/title after a person's name" gets overridden (eg "Mister" in front of the name (Mr Donut) rather than after). Heck, I doubt anyone would say "san Smith" rather than "Smith san," even in English...

Just my experience and my thoughts.

-- Jun

saoriw
05-06-2005, 12:20 PM
As a native Japanese, I think it all depends on how you want to refer/borrow Japanese words into your English as most of you are saying as above, so I think it is better to focus on who you are talking to rather than how the way it should be...

The way I do is like to put the words into " " , and keep them as Japanese as possible. Yet, for the sound, I try to sound them close to English just to be heard, one good example is my name "Saori" , it is almost impossible for English native to pronounce as in Japanese, (even I fail to make the same sound when I'm speaking English), so I make it sound differently in order to make a conversation easier.

To my Japanese ear, putting Sensei in front of a name doesn't quite fit, but it sounds like making much more sense to put it in front if you are talking to English natives who know the word Sensei...Actually, I was just telling how I feel about where to put Sensei thing to my teacher (Canadian) this week :) So, I was glad to find this thread today.

Thank you,
Saori

Chuck Clark
05-06-2005, 02:11 PM
Here's my two yen...

I agree completely with Jun. It seems to me that Westerners are using these terms as part of a technical language that should be used properly. When talking about Honda cars, for example, it seems appropriate to add an s for more than one because that name has become known world wide as the name of an automobile.

awh
05-06-2005, 05:32 PM
If you refer to "Ueshiba Morihei O-Sensei" other aikidoka will understand, but "O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba" is clearer to the (western) man in the street because they expect the "title-first name-family name" construction.

See, this sounds really strange to my (western) ears. I have never once heard "sensei" before a name until 2 days ago when I started reading these boards.

Certainly, in my first Japanese class ever, the teacher was Maruoka-sensei. Even years ago, during my (brief and unfortunate) experience with karate, the instructors were all (whoever)-sensei.

That said, in my head I think of my instructors as "Michael Stuempel-sensei" and "Roland Thompson-sensei" instead of putting the family name first the way I would if they were Japanese.

However, I come from a background of having studied Japanese before I ever knew much about martial arts.. Maybe I'd think differently in the other case...

Chuck Clark
05-06-2005, 06:23 PM
So, I guess with some people whatever they expect and are used to determines what's correct?? That's not the way I want to learn... or live. My expectations and what I'm used to are things I have to look past in order to learn new things.

People will do what they want to do anyway, but the correct form of language should be available so we can all make informed choices.

awh
05-07-2005, 03:51 AM
So, I guess with some people whatever they expect and are used to determines what's correct?? That's not the way I want to learn... or live.

Well, if you're going to go that far, then why do you accept any anglicization (not sure if that's the right word) of Japanese words at all? Do you wear your dogi to the dojo? Why not wear your dougi to the doujo? I assume that you study Aikidou instead of Aikido? Do I live in Toukyou?

Like it or not, there will always be some changes when words from one language get assimilated into another. From where I sit, in some coffee shop in Tokyo, I can see over 20 examples of words taken from English and other languages (not counting any of the Chinese-origin words I see), none of which are being used "correctly" according to English rules of pronounciation. Many of them have different meanings in Japanese than they do in English. Don't get me started on the grammar.

But is it "wrong"? No, because these are now Japanese words, adapted to the "expected" meanings and readings that Japanese people are "used to"... Similarly, in English, when importing words from Japanese, then it *is* what people expect or are used to that determines what's correct.. There aren't really any precedents set for situations like this, so the only way to determine what's correct is to wait until the natural evolution of the language takes its course...

Rupert Atkinson
05-07-2005, 03:56 AM
It also depends who you are talking to / writing for. Japanese people take English and thoroughly Japanise it for their own consumption. English generally takes words from other languages and uses them according to English grammar ways.

We, on the other hand, take certain Japanese words while being connected to Japanese culture through martial arts so are caught between what for most ordinary mortals would be two separate worlds. Accordingly, those who feel closer to Japan want to retain the original idiosyncrasies, those more distant tend to reformat the words towards general English usage.

While frustrating for both parties, both tendencies are entirely normal.

aikispike
05-09-2005, 04:27 AM
People will do what they want to do anyway, but the correct form of language should be available so we can all make informed choices.

Howdy,

We are adding new words to the English language, and there are no rules yet for some of our particular additions. No one can really say what the grammer rules for these words are until they get adopted into the broader community, and some recognised authority like Webster starts telling us how to do things <hehe>

On a couple of on-line dictionaries I found that "dojo" is accepted as an english word and is supposed to be pluralisied with an "s". "Sensei" in the plural can be either with or without the "S",

What we could do is all ban together and become J-E grammer zelots. We could insist that sensei, hakama, dogi etc are all non-countable words and insist whereever we can that they be writen that way. Eventually the non-countable will become standard and all will be good. Unless we put up a fight the English language will evolve in a way that really really grates on biligual J-E peoples ears....

oh ya.. i just finished reading "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"

Spike

PeterR
05-09-2005, 05:04 AM
oh ya.. i just finished reading "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"
The book is becoming Pandamic. I tried but didn't make it through. Appears the best part of the book was the title - maybe it got better later.

Victor Ioncu
05-09-2005, 07:53 AM
Hi,
Here's another aspect of using "plurals" for Japanese words:
In Romania, most of the martial arts information came from English or French. And, guess what? The information came with the final "s" for plural and some wise guys added the Romanian suffix for plural. Now one can hear words like "katas-urile" (for at least two certain kata), or even "perform the jo katas" for just one kata.

Rupert Atkinson
05-09-2005, 09:38 AM
Howdy,

What we could do is all ban together and become J-E grammer zelots. We could insist that sensei, hakama, dogi etc are all non-countable words and insist whereever we can that they be writen that way. Eventually the non-countable will become standard and all will be good. Unless we put up a fight the English language will evolve in a way that really really grates on biligual J-E peoples ears....

Spike

Nice try - but language lives - it is alive in its users - they will dictate how it is used rather than 'us'. People Englishize things according to certain rules, even if we don't know them, so you can't easily tell people to pronounce things a certain way to match the grammar of the language it came from.

PeterR
05-09-2005, 07:26 PM
Did no one get my Pun? :(

awh
05-09-2005, 07:35 PM
Did no one get my Pun? :(

Admittedly, only after you mentioned it and I looked more closely.

- Drew

aikispike
05-09-2005, 10:28 PM
Nice try - but language lives - it is alive in its users - they will dictate how it is used rather than 'us'. People Englishize things according to certain rules, even if we don't know them, so you can't easily tell people to pronounce things a certain way to match the grammar of the language it came from.

I agree that language lives and that speakers in general dictate how words are used. Common use will become stardardized and eventually codefied. That is why i would like to push for the use of the singular for Japanese words so that they become common use (actually i only half seriously suggest this).

English is pretty adaptable as to adoption of words... rules are somewhat flexible.The "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary" already recognises the plural form of "sensei" as being with or without the "S". I imagine that someone from Webster has had his ears grated by something like "Dude, did you see those kick ass Sensies from Japan?"

Spike

aikispike
05-09-2005, 10:31 PM
Did no one get my Pun? :(

Hey there Peter! I just thought you couldn't spell ;)

PeterR
05-09-2005, 11:14 PM
Hey there Peter! I just thought you couldn't spell ;)
Well there's that too. :D

Bronson
05-10-2005, 01:19 AM
Did no one get my Pun? :(

I got it, but I couldn't type a response as I was too busy clawing at my eyes :hypno:

Bronson