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Old 04-19-2010, 01:34 AM   #44
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,244
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 15

Hello Josh,

Many thanks for the response. I have not read anything by Neal Stephenson, but I will rectify this lack as soon as possible. I went to the Wikipedia article. An important question for me is how Stephenson regards semantics: how he believes that words actually 'mean'. I think this area is where kotodama derives its interest--or mystery--or irrelevance.

In my opinion, the works of Philip Pullman, J K Rowling, or J R Tolkien all display a relatively straightforward set of semantic conventions. When Harry Potter casts a spell, for example, the utterance of the words functions in a straightforward way. Similar conventions are displayed regarding the three instances of kotodama recorded in the Manyoshu.

With the later versions of kotodama, especially post-Kokugaku kotodama, the waters are muddied somewhat, since the presence of many homonyms in Japanese--and the fact that the writing of Japanese words in Chinese characters does not establish a one-to-one relationship between the character, the way it is read, and its meaning--adds a new element and one that it is clearly difficult to deal with. I think it is no accident that the so-called 'science' of kotodama-gaku never established itself outside a certain coterie of True Believers, which, of course, included Morihei Ueshiba.

Best wishes,


P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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