An Ainu–English–Japanese Dictionary/Chapter I/Section II


That, gramatically speaking, the Ainu language has no general affinity with present Japanese has already been conclusively proved by Prof. Chamberlain in the Memoirs. Taking my Grammar as a basis and comparing it with the results of his own personal studies of the subject among the Ainu themselves he has pointed out fifteen major points in which the two languages differ. In order not to mar what the Prof. has so well put I will take the liberty of quoting the passage in extenso.

He says:—(1) Japanese has postpositions only. Ainu, besides numerous postpositions, has also the two prepositions e “to,” “towards,” and o “from;” thus: E chup-pok-un chup ahun, “The sun sets to the West.” O chup-ka-un chup hetuku, “The sun rises from the East.

(2) The Ainu postposltions are often used independently, in a manner quite foreign to Japanese idiom thus: Koro habo, “His mother,” more literally “Of [him] mother.”—Tan moshiri ka ta pakno utari inne utara isambe paskuru chironnup ne ruwe ne, “The creatures than which there is nothing so numerous in this world are the crows and foxes.”

(3) Connected with the Ainu use of prepositions, is that of formative prefixes. Thus the passive is obtained by prefixing a to the active, as raige, “to kill;” a-raige, “to be killed.” A transitive or verbalizing force is conveyed by the prefix e, as pirika, “good;e-pirika, “to be good to,” i.e., generally, “to benefit oneself”; mik “to bark,” “e-mik,” to bark at; a-e-mik, “to be barked at.” The signification of verbs is sometimes intensified by means of the prefix i, as nu, to hear;” i-nu, “to listen.” All this is completely foreign to the Japanese grammatical system, which denotes grammatical relations by means of suffixes exclusively.

(4) The Ainu passive has been mentioned incidentally under the preceding heading. Note that it is a true passive, like that of European language,--not a form corresponding (as does the so-called Japanese passive) to such English locutions as “to get killed,” “to get laughed' at.” In fact, the habit of looking at all actions from an active point of view is one of the characteristics of Japanese thought, as expressed in the forms of Japanese grammar. By the Ainu, on the other hand, the passive is used more continually even than in English, although the abundant use of the passive is one of the features distinguishing English from all other Aryan tongues. Thus an Ainu will say Ene a-kari ka isam, “There is nothing to be done,” literally “Thus to-be-done-thing even is-not,” where a Japanese would say Shi-kata ga nai, literally “There is not a way to do.” Again, such a sentence as “In any case you must go viâ Sapporo,” would be in Ainu Neun neyakka Satporo a-kush, literally, “In any case Sapporo is traversed.” In Japanese it would be hard to turn such phrases passively at all. Much less would any such passives ever be employed either in literature or in colloquial.

(5) Ainu has great numbers of reflective verbs formed from transitives by means of the prefix yai, “self.” Thus yai-eram-poken, “to be sorry for oneself,” i.e., “to be disappointed”; yai-raige, “to commit suicide”; yai-kopuntek, “to be glad” (conf. se réjouir, and similar reflectives in French). Japanese has no reflective verbs.

(6) Whereas in Japanese those numerous but rarely used words, which foreign students term personal pronouns, are in reality nothing but honorific and humble locutions, like the “thy servant” of Scripture, and such expressions as “Your Excellency,” “Sire,” etc., Ainu has true pronouns. (E is “you”; kani, ku, and k’ are “I” in the following examples.) As a corollary to this, the Ainu pronouns are used at every turn, like the pronouns of modern European languages, thus:—

E koro shike, “Your luggage.”

Kani k’eraman, “I know;” more literally “Moi je sais.”

Satporo-kotan ta ohonno k’an kuni ramu yakun, ku koro eiwange kuru ku tura wa k’ek koroka, iruka k’an kuni ku ramu kusu, ku sak no k’ek ruwe ne, “Had I known that I should stay so long in Sapporo, I would have brought my servant with me. But, as I thought I should be here only a short time, I came without one.”

In Japanese, all these sentences would be expressed without the aid of a single word corresponding to a personal pronoun; thus:—

Go nimotsu, literally “August luggage.”

Wakarimashita, literally “Have understood.”

Kahodo nagaku Sapporo ni todomaru to shirimashita naraba, kerai wo tsurete kuru hazu de arimashita ga, wazuka bakari orimashō to omoimashita mon’ desu kara, tsurezu ni kimashita.

This last Japanese sentence is impossible to translate literally into our language, English (like Ainu) idiom insisting on the constant iteration of personal pronouns, which in Japanese would be, not merely inelegant, but ridiculous and confusing.

(7) Some traces of the use of “case,” as understood in Aryan grammar, exist in the Ainu first personal pronoun. The declension is as follows:—

nominative. objective.
Singular. ku, “I.” en, “me.”
Plural. chi, “we.” un, or i “us.”

Japanese is devoid of everything of this nature.

(8) Some traces of a plural inflection are found in the conjugation of Ainu verbs. For Ainu verbs turn singular n into plural p, viz:—

singular. plural. english.
ahun, ahup, “to enter.”
oashin, oaship, “to issue.”
ran, rap, “to descend.”
san, sap, “to descend.”

In a few cases the p (or b) appears in a less regular manner. They are:—

heashi, heashpa, “to begin.”
hechirasa, hechiraspa, “to blossom.”
hopuni, hopumba, “to fly.”

In the following instances, different verbs have been assigned by usage to a singular or plural acceptation:—

arapa, paye, “to go.”
ek, ariki (or araki), “to come.”

Probably further search would reveal the existence of more such plural forms.[1] Indeed, the Saghalien dialect, if we are to trust Dobrotvorsky as quoted in Pfizmaier’s “Erörterungen und Aufklärungen über Aino,” retains fragments of a plural formation in a few of its substantives as well. Thus kema, “foot;” kemaki, “feet;” ima, “tooth;” imaki “teeth.” Be this as it may, not only has Japanese no plural forms, whether inflectional or agglutinative, but the whole idea of grammatical number is as foreign to it as is that of person.

Thus far we have noted phenomena that occur in Ainu, and are absent from Japanese. We now turn to such as are found in Japanese, but not in Ainu, and observe that:—

(9) Japanese conjugates its verbs by means of agglutinated suffixes, which in certain moods and tenses, combine so intimately with the root as to be indistinguishable from what are termed inflections in the Aryan tongues. Thus, from the root ot and the stem otos, “to drop,” we have such conjugational forms as otosu the present, otose the imperative, otoshi the “indefinite form” (a sort of gerund or participle), where no analysis has hitherto succeeded in discovering the origin of the final vowels. In Ainu there is nothing of this kind. Save in the rare cases mentioned under heading 8, the whole conjugation is managed by auxiliaries. The original verb never varies, excepting when r changes to n according to a general phonetic rule which affects all classes of words indiscriminately.

(10). A grammatical device, on which much of Japanese construction hinges, is the three-fold division (in the classical form of the language there is a fourth) of verbal adjective forms into what are termed “attributive,” “conclusive,” and “indefinite.” This system, which is peculiar and complicated, cannot well be elucidated without entering into details beyond the scope of the present Memoir. The curious in such matters are referred to pp. 39, 47, 86, and 94 of the present writer's “Simplified Grammar of Japanese” (Trübner & Co., London, 1886). Suffice it here to say, that each tense of the indicative mood of Japanese verbs and adjectives is inflected so as to point out the nature of its grammatical agreement with the other words of the sentence, and that one of the results of the system is the formation of immensely long, sentences, all the clauses of which are mutually interdependent, in such wise that the bearing of any one verb or adjective as to tense and mood is not clinched until the final verb has come to round off the entire period. Of such distinctions of “attributive,” “conclusive,” etc., forms, Ainu knows nothing. They are not represented even by the help of auxiliaries.

(11) The whole Japanese language, ancient and modern, written and colloquial, is saturated with the honorific spirit. In Japanese, honorifics supply to some extent the place of personal pronouns and of verbal inflections indicating person. Ainu, on the contrary, has no honorifics unless we give that name to such ordinary expressions of politeness as occur in every language.

(12) A rule of Japanese phonetics excludes the consonant r from the beginning of words.[2] In Ainu no similar rule exists. Those who have most occupied themselves with the Japanese language, will probably be the readiest to regard the aversion to initial r as being, not the result of accident (if such an expression may be allowed), but truly a radical characteristic; for it is shared, not only by Korean, but by other apparently cognate tongues as far as India.

(13) Japanese constantly use what (to adopt European terminology) may be called genitives instead of nominatives. Thus, Hito ga kuru, literally “The coming of the man,” for “The man comes.” This is foreign to Ainu habits of speech.

Passing on to further points of contrast between the two languages, we notice that:—

(14) Japanese and Ainu treat the idea of negation differently. Ainu uses an independent negative adverb shomo or seenne, which corresponds exactly to the English word “not.” It also possesses a few curious negative verbs, such as isam, “not to be;” uwa, “not to know.” In Japanese, on the contrary, the idea of negation is invariably expressed by conjugational forms. Each verb and adjective has a negative “voice,” which goes through all the moods and tenses, just as Latin and Greek verbs have an infiected passive voice.

(15) The system of counting in the two languages is radically dissimilar. In discussing this point, we must of course set aside the Chinese system now current in Japan and which, owing to its superior simplicity, is beginning to make its way even into Ainu-land. The original Japanese system of counting consisted of independent words as far as the number ten. After ten, they said ten plus one, ten plus two, ten plus three, twenty plus one, thirty plus one, and so on up to hundreds, thousands, and myriads. In fact, the old Japanese numeration was not very unlike our own. The complicated nature of the Ainu method of counting will only be properly appreciated by those who will very carefully peruse Mr. Batchelor’s chapter on the subject. The salient points in it are the invariable prefixing of the smaller number to the larger, the mixture of a denary and a vigesimal system, the existence of a unit corresponding to our “score,” and the absence of any unit higher than the score. The idea of such units as “hundred” and “thousand” is foreign to the Ainu mind. They can say “five score” (100), and “ten taken away from six score” (110). But much higher than that, they cannot easily ascend. To take a concrete instance, if a man wishes to say that he is twenty-three years of age, he must express himself thus:—“I am seven years plus ten years, from two score years (!).” Not only is the method of combining different numerals totally unlike in the two languages. The manner in which the elemenatry numerals up to “ten” were originally formed, is also quite dissimilar. In Japanese, as in some other languages of the North-east of Asia, the even numerals seem to have been obtained by altering the vowel of the odd numerals of which they are the doubles; thus:—

hito,[3] “one”; it(s)u, “five”;
futa, “two” mu, “six”
mi, “three” ya, “eight”
yo, “four” to, “ten”

In Ainu, on the other hand, the first four numerals shine (1), tu (2), re (3), ine (4) seem independent. Ashikne (5) is possibly “new four” (ashiri[4] ine). The next four numerals are obtained by a process of subtraction from the higher number “ten.” Compare:—

ine, “four,” with iwan, “six” (i.e. four from ten),

re, “three,” with arawan, “seven” (i.e. three from ten),

tu, “two,” with tupesan, “eight” (i.e. two from ten),

shine, “one,” with shinepesan, “nine” (i.e. one from ten),

wan, “ten.”

There might be room for doubt as to the derivation of iwan, “six,” and arawan, “seven,” did they stand alone. Indeed, doubt is still permissible on their score. But tupesan is unquestionably “two (tu) things (pe) come down (san) [from ten]”; and shinepesan is as evidently “one thing come down [from ten].”

  1. Mr. Batchelor adds to the list sing. raige, plur. ronnu, “to kill.” But the present writer ventures to think that the difference is rather one of signification than of mere number, raige meaning “to kill,” and ronnu “massacre.”

    [To this I must reply that I still have no reason to doubt that ronnu is really what I have represented it to be. To “massacre” would be ushtekka. Anyhow, to be understood both the Ainu and I are obliged to use ronnu as if it were the plural of raige; I know of no other word to take its place.]

  2. Those whose knowledge of Japanese is limited may be startled by this statement, taken in conjunction with the appearance of hundreds of words beginning with r in the pages of Dr. Hepburn’s Dictionary. The explanation of the apparent contradiction is, that all such words are borrowed from the Chinese. In the latter language, the initial is l. But a very soft r is the nearest approach to l of which the Japanese vocal organs are capable. This Chinese li becomes Japanese ri, Chinese liang becomes Japanese ryō, etc.
  3. Hito and futa probably stand for earlier pito and puta, where the correspondence is more apparent.
  4. The author of the present work cannot agree to this, for there is no other case where k changes into ri or vice versa.