Jomon Language; Restructuring attempts
Jomon Language orig: 97/08/27
A big and more than 5,000 year old remains was found in Aomori prefecture, 700 km north of Tokyo in highway mileage. It is called San-nai Maru-yama remains.

Perhaps, triggered by the finding, a group of witful linguistic scholars "created" a Jomon language for a fun. (So, wrote I previously. Later, I find the attempt is more serious than for fun.[99/05/21]) I consider that their attempt is not only just a play but shows us how scholars think the way Japanese language was built and how the language is a mixture of other languages.

I'd like to introduce their attempt with my attempts to determine derivation of those words. Reference is made to Asahi Shimbun New Paper dated February 6, 1997. It is an advertisement article by JR Higashi Nihon (Eastern Japan.)

In a calicature fashion of the presentation, a professor is writing on a blackboard. In the following, bold letters are what the professor writes. Comments in normal fonts are mine.

Words from North:

damban (mountain):

    Yeah, certainly a Mongolian has "daba" which means "to go beyond a mountain" from which a word had been reconstructed "*daban" that means a mountain.

    In Japanese, "yama" means a mountain. So, the professor is showing that "yama" comes from Mongolian "damban." There is another example of Mongolian "d" corresponding with Japanese "y". That is, Mongolian "dorben" is considered in parallel with Japanese "yoru", meaning a night. Present day Mongolian says "uul" for a night, however.

detu (valley):
    If I use a proposed rule that Mongolian "d" corresponds to Japanese "y", such Japanese words as Yachi, Yatsu, meaning a wet land or small valley or river, do look relating. Current Mongolian says "gol" for a river.
juki (snowj:
    Since current Japanese word for snow is "yuki", so, "juki" is very close to this. However, I could not find other possible candiate for the origin of "juki". Current Mongolian word for snow is "chas." Ainese has it as "upas."

Words from South:

kama (sky or heavenj:

    Murayama reconstructs an Austronesian ur-language of "*langit" for this meaning. I could not associate the proposed Jomon word "kama" to any other language.

    Ainu word for sky is "nis" or "kanto".

wasa (ocean or sea):
    Indeed, in ancient Japanese, sounds of t/ts/s were confused or interchangeable to some extent. So, "wasa" is close enough to a Japanese old word "wata" which means a sea or an ocean. A word "*pata" has been proposedly reconstructed as a ur-Japanese/Korean language.

    Malaysian says "laut" and Ainu word is "atuy" for the meaning here.

guru (cloudj:
    Well, well, Ainu has a word "kur" for a man or a shade. "Nis-kur" literally is "Sky's shade", therefore, a cloud.

Another presentation is a conversation between an old man and a young boy. In the following:

Original: means as copied from the news paper
Word for word: Japanese words are associated with Jomon words, word by word, by myself.
Comments: My comments

Original : A ba naa Kitakata (My name is Kitakata.)
Word for word: I of name Kitakata.
Comments :
  • First person singular subjective here seems proposed as "a". Indeed the sound is used in Japanese and Ainese for "I". It is assumed that "ba" is a suffix to modify "I" to "my".
  • "Naa" appears to mean a name and to base on reconstructed Austronesian "*agan" or the Philippines Tagalog language, "ngalan". Murayama thinks these (last two) words are connected with Ainese "re", all meaning a name.

Original:Anu, na-ba wata dum mudu-ri? (When will you be back from the sea?)
Word for word: When you sea from return
  • Anu may correspond to when. Ainese "nehi" may be referenceable. Ainese nep (what < what+matter/thing ), ne (that, this.), or, Malaysian's "apa" (what) may have to be considered.
  • In the previous sentence, I thought that "ba" is a modifier that turns "I" out to "my". In this line, "ba" does not look to be used to make a possesive.
  • "Mudu-(ri)" is proposed to mean to return, I assume. Current Japanese is "modor(u)".

Original:Kupasi-ki tuma-ni ma-mi-ye-bu-ru tukuy (when I meet a pretty person)
Word for word: pretty body meet when
  • Kupasi may be reconstructed based on an old Japanese word, kuhashi or kupashi, that meant pretty or beautiful. Today's meaning of the word is "detail(ed)."
  • Would "tuma" which I interpreted as a body, have meant a wife which Japanese current word is "tsuma".
  • Ainu word "tumam" that means a body, a trunk, a wall or to intercourse could have a connection with this proposed Jomon word.
  • In Malay, "tuma" means a louse.
  • The next sequence, ma-mi-ye-bu-ru, is difficult. Japanese expression "ma-mi-e-ru" is immediately associated, however, the Japanese expression would not be any older than hundreds of years, too young for a candidate word of thousands of years ago.
  • The last word, "tukuy", to represent "when" (as used in, e.g. when I am hungry, I eat) appears too modern, again, if one associate it with current Japanese word, "toki". I could not find a possible foundation for the Jomon expression.

Original: A-ba mudu ra-mu (I will retun)
Word for word: I return will
  • "Muduramu" is very close to Old Japanese expression "modoramu" which exactly means "(I) will return." Whether Ancient Japanese had this indepth expression, future tense, is uncertain.
  • However, it is interesting to note that "ramu", an auxliary verb meaning "will, intention, prediction" is very close with Ainu's "ramu" that means "think."

    Ainu also has a word "ramat" to mean "heart", either as the physical organ or the mental heart.

It has been interesting to note that the playing professors did not use a sound "to" (or "do") for the Jomon language. Instead, "tu" or "du" is used, relatively ofen. Interesting---, becasue it suggests that the professors were aware of the hypothesis proposed by OHNO Susumu, that there were only 4 vowels in ancient Japanese. By Nara age, in the 8th century, dipthongs of the four were created to make up 8 vowels. By sometime in the 9th century, the 8 vowel system has gone and only 5 started to be practiced till today.

    I use the words, ancient, old and present (or current) in this order of time sequence.
Professor SAKIYAMA, in checking the draft of the news paper article, says "Jomon language is a mixture of languages from North and South....."

To this word play which professors would have seriously played, I believe, I also searched derivations or foundation thereof quite seriously.(^_^)

Thank you.

P.S. Page 6 gives a brief description of my favorite Ainu language researchers.

I intend to continue this kind of writing, as audiences hopefully grow. Your kind comments from the mail-form will highly encourage the writer. Thank you.