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Basil Hall Chamberlain

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The language, mythology, and geographical nomenclature of Japan viewed in the light of Aino studies. By Basil Hall Chamberlain … g_djvu.txt




p. 41


Here a further question arises, the answer to which contains the most interesting information that Aino studies yield. The question is: if the Ainos have borrowed so much from the Japanese, are then the Japanese under no similar obligations to the Ainos?

No, and yes. On the one hand, it is at present impossible to point to any words of the standard Japanese language as being certainly derived from Aino. At most, we may assume it as not unlikely that the names of some few animals and plants, which belong to both languages, were Aino before they were Japanese. Thus rakko, **a seal,'* may have been originally Aino. The initial r, which is foreign to Japanese linguistic habits, favours the sup- position, together with the fact that the animal is known only in the northern portion of Japan, whither the Ainos were the first to penetrate. Taking a


wider view of the subject of such international borrowings, the analogy of the Celtic loans to French, Italian, and English, the adoption by the European colonists in America of such aboriginal American terms as "squaw*' and " wig-wam, '* and other instances, all the world over, of more civilized races occasionally borrowing from their less civilized predecessors, show that the chances are in favour of Aino having lent some words to Japanese, and lead us at the same time to infer that such loans have been confined within very narrow limits. But there is one portion of the field to which this reasoning does not apply. It does not apply to geographical nomenclature. Conquerors are rarely, if ever, at the pains of re-naming all the towns, rivers, and provinces of a country. They mostly begin by adopting the native names, mispronouncing them of course to a greater or less degree. It is only when they build new towns or villages, or when, in process of time, new associations here and there suggest new appellations, that they will invent names derived from their own language. The Americans built Salem, Portland, and Concord where no towns had stood ; and the names are English accordingly. But they have left the Potomac and the Mississippi, Niagara, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and scores of other aboriginal Indian designaiions, just as they found them. In time, as the alien names increase, so will the aboriginal names tend to disappear together with ancient landmarks. But they never can disappear completely. The names of several places in Normandy, indeed the word " Normandie " itself,
still testify, after the lapse of a millennium, to the presence in North-Western France of a race that has left scarcely any other trace behind. So with the Celtic name borne to this very day by Saxon Britain.







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One purpose which their language serves is to prove how widely they once spread over the country now Japan, where place-names alone remain to indicate a former Aino population. Some of these are unmistakeably Aino, as Yamashiro, which must have meant "land of chestnut trees," and Shikyu, "place of rushes." Others, if interpreted as Japanese, have a far-fetched sense, as, for instance, the villages of Mennai and Tonami, which, if treated as Japanese, would signify "inside permission" and "hares in a row"; whereas, if taken to be originally Aino they may bear the reasonable sense of "bad stream" and "stream from the lake." The inference from records and local names, worked out with great care by Professor Chamberlain, is "that the Ainos were truly the predecessors of the Japanese all over the Archipelago. The dawn of history shows them to us living far to the south and west of their present haunts; and ever since then, century by century, we see them retreating eastwards and northwards, as steadily as the American Indian has retreated westwards under the pressure of the colonists from Europe."



Imagine a peasant community seriously giving to its village such a name as '* Inside Permission," *' Name Flat,*' '' Rice-field Name Tribe," or *' Hares in a Row ! " It is impossible to imagine any set of people being so flighty, least of all the prosaic peasantry of the Far East. But that the Ainos should have called those same localities by names signifying respectively ** Bad (i.e. dangerous) River," ** the Cliff by the Stream," ** Long
    River," and '* the Stream from the Lake," is perfectly natural. Such names, taken from the physical features of the place, and especially from the peculiarities of its rivers, are in accordance with the geographical terminology of the Yezo Ainos at the present day.
They are, indeed, such as are found among all races who have had to do with the naming of a new country. That the Japanese, during their gradual encroachment on Aino-land, should have appropriated many Aino names together ivith the soil itself, is equally natural. Indeed, the phenomenon is still taking place in Yezo, where we can go and watch it, where we can see the simple Aino names in the very act of transformation into fantastic shapes, under the double action of Japanese mispronunciation and of the application of the Chinese character. From the very beginning, the Japanese who first used Aino names were no purists. Very few of them even spoke Aino. They pronounced the alien names as best they could, moulding them unconsciously into harmony with the phonetic laws of their own language.
    Then, at last, came the learned men, the priests. Knowing nothing of Aino, and despising it even if they had known it, these men completed and fixed the work of change, by dressing up the Japanese mispronunciations in the garb of the Chinese character, the universal medium of w-ritten intercourse. Sometimes, indeed, they avowed themselves non-plused, and transcribed the new names phonetically as best they could. In such cases the foreign origin of the names in question is still less open to doubt、To the modern investigator, the names written phonetically and the names written grotesquely are the two most valuable classes of Japanese place-names; for they are those in which the alien element is most easily detected.

The language, mythology, and geographical nomenclature of Japan viewed in the light of Aino studies. Basil Hall Chamberlain … g_djvu.txt


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