龚勋 Gong Xun explained to me how mainland Japanese uwo 'fish' could have developed from Proto-Japonic iwo: i assimilated to the following w. I had been similarly thinking that i had assimilated to the following wo (labial glide plus labial vowel), but I couldn't think of any other cases of iwo > uwo, and I am reluctant to propose sui generis changes.

On the other hand, I'm fine with proposing a shift of wo to yu in the second syllable of 'fish'

Proto-Japonic *iwO > Proto-Ryukyuan *iyU (Thorpe) > Okinawan ʔiyu

(*O = *o or *ə; most likely the latter, but there's no way to be sure)

because it has precedents elsewhere. The PJ accusative marker *wO corresponds to Old Okinawan <yo> and the Japanese topic marker wa < fa < pa corresponds to Okinawan ya. How did *w become y? My guess is that *w originally shifted to y after palatal vowels (and glides?), and y-allomorphs were later used after all vowels:

After palatal vowels and glides After nonpalatal vowels
Stage 1 wo, wa wo, wa
Stage 2 yo, ya
Stage 3 yo, ya

The topic marker わ <wa> (not は <fa>!) after the nonpalatal final vowel of けお <keo> 'today' in Omoro soushi VII: 376 may be a trace of stage 2.

Modern Okinawan has lost <yo>, so the accusative has zero marking whereas the nominative is indicated by ga (for human subjects and pronouns) or nu (for other subjects; also indicates the genitive). Are there other languages that have nonzero marking for the nominative but zero marking for the genitive? 琉球血涙新書 LƯU CÂU HUYẾT LỆ TÂN THƯ

潘佩珠 Phan Bội Châu (from last night's entry) drew parallels not only between Japan and Vietnam, but also between the Ryukyus and Vietnam. Shiraishi Masaya (1988: 57-59) wrote:

In 1903 or 1904, a few years before his departure for Japan, Phan wrote an essay entitled [琉球血涙新書] Lưu Câu Huyết Lệ Tân Thư (New Letter with Blood and Tears on the Ryukyus). The original text, unfortunately, has been lost, but according to his autobiographies, he wrote the essay in order to alarm his compatriots about the fact that the Vietnamese nation, which had already lost her sovereignty, was being destroyed by the French, just as the Ryukyus had been completely annexed by Japan.


He hoped his nation would avoid the same fate as that of the Chams [who were conquered by the Vietnamese] and the Ryukyus, and to identify it with a strong and successful Japan.

Phan died in 1940 without ever seeing an independent Vietnam. Ironically, Japan became Vietnam's next conqueror:

In September 1940, shortly after Phan Bội Châu's death, Japan launched the First French Indochina Campaign and invaded French Indochina, mirroring their ally Germany's conquest of metropolitan France. Keeping the French colonial administration, the Japanese ruled from behind the scenes in a parallel of Vichy France. As far as Vietnamese nationalists were concerned, this was a double-puppet government. Emperor Bảo Đại collaborated with the Japanese, just as he had with the French, ensuring his lifestyle could continue.


In March 1945, Japan launched the Second French Indochina Campaign and ousted the Vichy French and formally installed Emperor Bảo Đại in the short-lived Empire of Vietnam.

The French reclaimed Vietnam after WWII only to lose it for good less than a decade later. Today, French rule is a distant memory in Vietnam. But Japan still rules the Ryukyus, and the Ryukyuan languages are far worse off than Vietnamese ever was.

There was a Ryukyu Independence Party (now Kariyushi Club - with a half-English name!) but it never got much support:

[Party founder] Sakima became a candidate of the 1971 House of Councillors election, but failed it with 2673 votes.


[Party member] Yara became the candidate of the 2006 Okinawa Prefectural Governor election, but failed with 6220 votes, or 0.93% of the entire vote. Critics believed this is because the vast majority of Okinawans think independence is unrealistic.

Do they?

In 2005, British-Chinese Lim John Chuan-tiong (林泉忠), associate professor of the University of the Ryukyus, executed a telephone poll of Okinawans over 18. He obtained useful replies from 1029 people. Asked whether they considered themselves Okinawan (沖縄人), Japanese (日本人), or both, the answers were 40.6, 21.3, and 36.5% respectively. When asked whether Okinawa should become independent if the Japanese government allowed (or did not allow) Okinawa to freely decide its future, 24.9% replied Okinawa should become independent with permission, and 20.5% in case of no permission from the Japanese government. Those who believed Okinawa should not declare independence were 58.7% and 57.4% respectively.

I wonder what the figures for Hawaiian identity and independence are. ARE PLANETS CONFUSING, PLAYING, OR JUST PLAIN GOING?

A Wikipedia entry on the 1967 Japanese TV series 怪獣王子 Monster Prince mentioned aliens called 遊星鳥人 Planetary Birdmen. That got me thinking about the term 遊星 yuusei 'planet' (lit. 'play-star') which seems old-fashioned. The current term for 'planet' is 惑星 wakusei (lit. 'confuse-star'). Today I found this article on the history of the Japanese words for 'planet' including the extinct 行星 gyousei (lit. 'go-star') and the dubious 迷星 meisei (? lit. 'lost-star'). 惑星 was first attested in 1792, 遊星 in 1823 (as 游星; even though I assumed it was older than 惑星!), and 行星 around the late 1850s via Chinese. The first two of these terms may have been attempts to loosely calque Dutch dwaalster 'planet' (lit. 'wander-star'; cf. Greek πλανήτης αστήρ 'wandering star') and the third might have been a loose calque directly based on Greek.

Korean has three terms for 'planet': 遊星 yusŏng, 惑星 hoksŏng, and 行星 haengsŏng. The first two are borrowings from Japanese pronounced in Sino-Korean and the third (which dominates today) is presumably from Chinese rather than via Japanese.

I was surprised to find that the Southern Min Wikipedia article on planets was titled He̍k-chheⁿ (惑星) rather than 行星, which is the word for 'planet' in the Maryknoll English Amoy Dictionary. I presume 惑星 is from Taiwanese via Japanese and may not be understandable to non-Taiwanese Southern Min speakers.

The only Vietnamese word for 'planet' that I know of is hành tinh (行星), presumably from Chinese. I can't find any du tinh (遊星) or hoặc tinh (惑星) corresponding to Japanese 遊星 yuusei and 惑星 wakusei, though Vietnamese does have words like ngôn ngữ (言語) 'language' which might have been borrowed from Japanese: cf. J 言語 gengo and K 言語 ŏnŏ but Md 語言 yuyan with the elements in the opposite order. Such Japanese-based borrowings may have been brought to Vietnam by these students:

Large numbers of Vietnamese students began to choose Japan as a destination in the early 20th century, spurred by the exiled prince Cuong De [彊柢; bio] and the Đông Du [東遊] Movement (literally, "Travel East movement" or "Eastern Travel movement") he and Phan Boi Chau [潘佩珠; bio] pioneered. By 1908, 200 Vietnamese students had gone to study at Japanese universities.

Phan Bội Châu viewed Japan and Vietnam as sharing

同種 đồng chủng 'the same race'

同文 đồng văn 'the same culture'

同洲 đồng châu 'the same continent'

See pp. 54-57 of this PDF about him for a detailed look at his perception of Japan. UCHINAAGUCHI PART 41: FISHING FOR VARIATION

I thank 龚勋 Gong Xun for leading me to this map of Japonic words for 'fish' which is part of a bigger site on Japonic dialectology. In part 39, I mentioned Thorpe's Proto-Ryukyuan *iyU 'fish' which didn't match Old Japanese uwo but did match Middle Japanese iwo and modern Izu Ooshima iwo (to the south of Tokyo, far from the Ryukyus) and Kagoshima io (in southern Kyushu, north of the Ryukyus). The map only lists sakana for Izu Ooshima but confirms io in Kagoshima. I was surprised to see io for a certain type of fish even as far north as Akita (even further from the Ryukyus than Izu Ooshima). Since Akita and Izu Ooshima could not have borrowed an i-word for 'fish' from distant southern Japanese or the Ryukyus - or vice versa - I wonder if the i-word can be reconstructed at the Proto-Japonic level. Perhaps the i-form survived on the periphery while a new u-form spread from the center.

But how did the u-form develop from the i-form? Could this u ~ i variation

- have been in Proto-Japonic? (In other words, did Proto-Ryukyuan lose variation that was retained in the Japanese side of the family? That's possible, but I'd rather not project variation present in only one branch back into Proto-Japonic, the ancestor of two branches.)

- reflect two different (but related?) substratal languages' words for 'fish'?

- reflect a single substratal language word for 'fish' with ü-?

I doubt that there was a substratal language or set of related (or at least contiguous) substratal languages that stretched from the Ryukyus all the way up to modern Akita, so I'd answer the last two questions with "no." I assume that Japan prior to the arrival of Japonic was linguistically diverse, though perhaps not to the same degree as Papua New Guinea which has over 800 languages. UCHINAAGUCHI PART 40: IN THE FUTSZ-TEPS OF NEVSKY

Although I haven't written about Tangut since February, I haven't forgotten about it.

It's fitting that this blog covers Ryukyuan languages as well as Tangut since NA Nevsky worked on both. His Folklore of the Miyako Islands was published posthumously in 1978. I presume he learned at least some Myaakufutsz 'Miyako language' (< *Miyako + kuti 'mouth'*; online dictionary) unless he conducted all his work in standard Japanese. (Nevsky also wrote two beginning Japanese textbooks in Russian.)

Nevsky's work also encompassed Ainu in northern Japan and Tsou (lit. 'person') on Taiwan (which was part of the Japanese Empire).

I last wrote about Ainu at length in 2009 and briefly mentioned it the following year.

Tsou is a very distant relative of Hawaiian. Unlike Hawaiian, Tsou permits initial and medial consonant clusters, including many that do not exist in English: e.g., pts-, fk-, vh-, ɓn-, mz-, tŋ-, tsʔ-, nm-, ŋv-, ʔp-, ht-. I suspect Old Chinese also had similar clusters long before any variety of Chinese was in Taiwan.

Here are a few Tsou-Hawaiian cognate sets from Robert Blust's online Austronesian Comparative Dictionary. (Thanks to Bob for giving me the link in person!) Click on each gloss for more cognates.

Gloss Proto-Austronesian Tsou Hawaiian
die *ma-aCay m-cói make
eight *walu voru walu
fire *Sapuy puzu ahi
I (1st person pronoun) *aku na-ʔo (w)au
rain *quzaN m-əchə < *q-um-uzaN ua
six *enem nomə ono

Note how Hawaiian preserves Proto-Austronesian 'eight' unchanged.

More Tsou words and their PAN sources here.

*You can figure out from the name of the language that

- *ku became /fu/ (arguably just /f/). Other examples from the 与那覇 Yonaha dialect of Miyako in Pellard (2007) with Japanese and Okinawan cognates:

fsa 'grass' (cf. J, O kusa)

fmu 'cloud' (cf. J kumo, O kumu)

- *i became /z/. Other examples from Yonaha in Pellard's (2007) phonemic notation:

zzu [zzʊ] 'fish' (cf. Proto-Ryukyuan *iyU [Thorpe 1983: 286], O iyu)

kzn [ksɿn] 'kimono'

pztu [pstʊ] 'person' (cf. Proto-Ryukyuan *pito [Thorpe 1983: 315])

usz [ʊs] 'cow' (cf. J, O ushi)

szta [sta] 'bottom' (cf. J shita, O shicha)

mtsz [mts] 'road' (cf. J michi)

Tangut fonts by Mojikyo.org
Tangut radical font by Andrew West
All other content copyright © 2002-2011 Amritavision