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


Refering again to the resemblance of the Ainu language to those of the Chinese type in respect of tone, it is pertinent to remark that in the matter of agglutinazation also there is a strong family likeness, only that in Ainu it is much more developed than in Chinese. Chinese is a preëminently monosyllabic tongue, for each word may be used either as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective or particle according to desire; what part of speech is meant being left to the context and position in the sentence. Indeed, as my old teacher at Hongkong used to try to impress upon me—“every root is a word, and every word a root.” Max Muller in the 4th vol. of his work draws special attention to this fact and also points out how that in the shi-tsé and hiu-tsé, i.e. “full-word” and “empty-word” of Chinese Grammarians we have the beginnings of agglutinization in this extremely monosyllabic language. It is probable that the ideographs with which Chinese is written has kept the language as it is, without radical change, for so many hundreds of years. Without them there would undoubtedly have been more change and much more agglutinization. Illustrations of compound or agglutinated or combinatory Chinese words are very abundant in Japonico-Chinese and many might be given as illustrations. But as the question here refers to Chinese exclusively I will give those only I find have been examined by Max Müller. Thus, shi, “an arrow,” jin, “a man,” shijin, “master of arrows.” Shui, “water,” fu, “a man,” shui-fu, “a water carrier.” Shui, “water,” sheu, “hand,” shui-sheu, “a steerman.” Kin, “gold,” tsiang, “maker;” kin-tsiang, “a gold-smith.” Shou, “writting;” sheu, “hand,” shou-sheu, “a copyist.”

The construction of the Ainu language as spoken to-day, and as exemplified in Dobrotvorski’s work, clearly points back to a time when Ainu was as monosyllabic in nature and construction as Chinese itself, for in a very large number of words the various component roots may be easily seen. And that Siberian Ainu is of an older form than that spoken in Yezo is sufficiently proved by the fact that the present day Ainu of Saghalien retain many plural particles in their speech which these of Yezo drop altogether. Besides the very long words, such for example as those given in section 3 the shorter ones are also worthy of attention. Take the words epetke and ise-po; both of which mean “hare,” as illustrations. E-pet-ke; e is an objective particle whose root meaning is “towards”; pet means “torn”; “slit”; ke is sometimes a plural intransitlve form of ki, "to do.” Hence epetke mean “the torn” or “slit one.” Why? an examination of the lip of this animal will soon tell us. The same word appears in epetke-guru, “a hare-lipped person,” and also in opetpetke, “ragged.” Turn now to Isepo. What is its derivation? I-se-po. Three roots. I, an intensifying prefix; se “to make a noise”; hence ise, “to squeal”; po, a diminative article, as for example, ponbepo, “a very little thing”; po “a child.” Hence isepo “a hare,” lit.: “the little squealler.” But why call a hare by this name! Let anyone wound or catch a hare in a trap and he will soon learn. The squeal of a hare is not easily foregotten any more than the bark of a wolf; and a “wolf is called in Ainu wose-kamui, “the divinity who calls wo,” the wo being an onomatpœia for its bark.

Having thus shown the manner in which Ainu words are built up it would be interesting for any person acquainted with some of the many dialects of China or with Tibetian or kindred languages to superimpose the tones he knows on each syllable of the Ainu contained in this book and see what the result would be. Let him, if he chooses, write or pronunce the Ainu words as follows:—When ch commences a word let it be tch, or if found in the body of a word pronounce it as through it was j, or z, or tz: Thus for chi write tchi, ji, or tzi; or for che, let it be je, ze, or tze. Again, let him write k as though it was kh or hk, gh or hg; or even as ch in some cases. P too might be aspirated and pronounced like ph; while t, like k, might even sometimes be changed into ch. All of these variations I have heard and do hear among the Yezo Ainu, both with and without tones slightly present. The tones however, are much more marked among the women than among the men. And it may also be remarked here that as among other barbarous races, so also among the Ainu, the women speak their language much more clearly and purely than the men. But alas, the language is fast dying out among both sexes; nay, it is to all intents and purposes dead. The language of to-day is not the same as that of 28 years ago when the present writer first commenced his studies and work among this people.

The gradual weakening of tones in Ainu till they have become lost and inessential may be sufficiently accounted for by the combination and assimilation of roots which the language has been undergoing for ages. We have presented day examples of this very thing in those Chinese words and phrases adopted and adapted by the Japanese, for such words and phrases are never intoned by the people when using them, though in China they could not be understood without them.

From all this it will naturally be concluded that the writer supposes the Ainu to have originally come to Japan through Amur-land or Siberia. Just so. If this be the case are there no traces of Ainu words in the geographical nomenclature of this region ? Yes, certainly there are. Thus for example, take the Russian adjectival ending sk in Tomsk away and what do we get. Just Tom. But Tom is distinctly Ainu and also Tartar! Or again, take ohkots and eliminate the final s. Okhot, oukot or ok-ot is left. Again purely Ainu words. There are many other words and names of a like nature which might be given, as the rivers Yenise and Ocha, and also the names, Atchan, Avatcha, Kamchatka, Paratopska and Utka, with Tarinsky, Porochinna, Paratoonka, Ischappina, Arapetcha Araumakkota, and many other places such as have kota after them; but let these examples suffice for present treatise.