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Edo Japanese

Posted: April 2nd, 2008 7:51 pm
by josiah
ive been learning about japanese history
when im procrastinating my own japanese study
and ive realised one thing which has been nagging at me,
when the portuguese, dutch and other nations came to japan,
how did they communicate?
of course in the beginning they couldnt understand each other,
so did the foreigners learn japanese
did the japanese learn the foreign tongue?
how did they accomplish it in this day
in the 1600s 1700s?

thinking in contemporary terms,
if they could do it,
then us with our text books and
various other learning devices have it far easier!

Posted: April 3rd, 2008 3:49 pm
by markystar
some of the way that modern linguists know about the pronunciation of classical japanese is because of dictionaries and grammar books written by the spanish and portuguese in the late 1500's.

they spoke a kind of pidjin but also studied each other's languages. some modern japanese words date from this period, including "tempura" and "piman" among others... the englishman, william adams, who rose to the status of hatamoto (direct retainer of the shogun) was apparently fluent in the japanese of the day (no small feat considering the more complex system of honorifcs/etc!).

in the edo era, there wasn't really much contact with the outside word (鎖国), but there was limited relations with the dutch. so many medical and scientific terms came from the so-called "dutch learning."

when japan opened up in 1868, again people studied each other's languages but pidjin also prevailed. there is a fascinating book from this era called Exercises in the "Yokohama Dialect" which displays many aspects of the pidjin used at the time to do simple business transactions. one of my favorite is that they list "oh-my!" as the word for "you." this shows that at that time お前 still had it's original honorific meaning. really interesting stuff!

some dude scanned the book here:

Posted: April 3rd, 2008 6:45 pm
by josiah
thats really interesting... お前... for interests sake, and the fact that ive heard that marky has an interest in japanese history,
is there any further resources about the history of the japanese language, any good webpages?
and i thought romaji was bad, but this is far beyond bad! :shock:

Posted: April 3rd, 2008 7:11 pm
by markystar
and i thought romaji was bad

yeah, "die job" cracks me up! :lol:

not sure if this is what you had in mind, but you can hear some 時代劇っぽい日本語 at my expense here: ... ji-castle/

and tomorrow i'm recording a culture class about Classical Japanese with rebekah and yuicchi
should be coming out this summer :D

Posted: April 3rd, 2008 8:21 pm
by josiah
well not exactly, although i hope your next birthday party will be just as interesting :wink:

more in line with the history of how the language evolved and stuff like that...

these samurai guys a pretty interesting aren't they!

Posted: April 9th, 2008 11:09 am
by sTeVe aUsTiN

Where do you learn all this stuff??

Posted: April 9th, 2008 8:15 pm
by josiah
i would say research.
internet and books is the only place aside from first-hand experience to such encounters.

Posted: April 15th, 2008 7:44 am
by Taurus
A lot of these westerners who arrived in Japan were experts in commerce and trade, who would have probably have been fairly experienced in communicating in foreign languages. In fact, some of the best language experts in the early modern world were the Jesuits - who were basically like the Catholic Church's special forces. They were very smart and competent missionaries and diplomats, who were also highly educated (even today, they are best known for their involvement in education).

I don't know too much about the Jesuit's activities in Japan, but according to Wikipedia, they were granted the feudal fiefdom of Nagasaki in 1580. Outside of Japan, one famous Jesuit was Matteo Ricci, who arrived in China towards the end of the sixteenth century and learnt how to speak and write Chinese. One of the things that helped him learn the language was the 'memory palace' technique that the Jesuits taught. It's essentially an elaborate mnemonic system, and you can read about it here and here- it may even help your Japanese!

Posted: April 15th, 2008 8:45 am
by Javizy
I saw a three part series on the History Channel which covered from Tokugawa Ieyasu's birth up until the country opened up. They were quite a colourful few centuries, and about the only interesting thing I've seen on that channel apart from some of the world war stuff.

There's a lot of stuff covered on wiki, and I've even seen some of those parallel texts about Japanese history. The closest thing I have is a manga called 日本史人物 :lol:

Posted: April 15th, 2008 9:01 am
by Taurus
Javizy wrote:I've even seen some of those parallel texts about Japanese history.

These sound fascinating. Where can I find out more?

Posted: April 15th, 2008 9:54 am
by Javizy
Taurus wrote:
Javizy wrote:I've even seen some of those parallel texts about Japanese history.

These sound fascinating. Where can I find out more?

Turns out the book I was thinking of was just about historic figures:

There are lots of bilingual books on that site about different elements of culture that you might want to check out though

Posted: April 15th, 2008 11:32 am
by Taurus
Excellent! Cheers!