Daily Archives: 15 September 2008

Prepositions from Body Parts

About a dozen years ago, I had a chance to review for Oceanic Linguistics an interesting M.A. thesis by John Bowden (now a professor at ANU) that was published under the title, Behind the preposition: Grammaticalisation of locatives in Oceanic languages (Pacific Linguistics, 1992). The thesis was inspired by a 1989 work by Bernd Heine’s on adpositions (prepositions and postpositions) in African languages. Here are few things that struck me.

Heine examined sources for African locatives in five categories, ON, UNDER, IN, FRONT, BACK, to which Bowden added SEA, LAND, and OUT for Oceanic languages. In both Africa and Oceania, body-part nouns provide the most common sources for locatives in the categories ON, IN, FRONT, and BACK, whereas landmark nouns (‘earth’, ‘soil’, ‘shadow’) predominate for UNDER. As might be expected, landmark nouns also predominate for SEA and LAND locatives in Oceania. The exceptional cases are instructive. For instance, in both Africa and Oceania, ‘head’ is the most common source (‘sky’ is next) for ON, while ‘face’ is the most common source for FRONT. But among some quadruped-herding populations in Africa, FRONT derives from ‘head’, while ON derives from ‘back’. Similarly, the directionals SEA(SIDE) and LAND(SIDE) nearly everywhere in Oceania derive from ‘sea, shore’ and ‘land, earth’, respectively. But among the atoll-dwelling Pukapukans and Rarotongans, the opposition comparable to SEA vs. LAND is rendered more like outside (< ‘back’, a body-part term) vs. inside (< IN, a locative reconstructible for Proto-Polynesian). I should add here that this is not only true of atolls. In two coastal languages of New Guinea, Jabêm (listed in Bowden’s sample) and Numbami, the body-part term ‘backside’ also means the outside, seaside, or windward side of an offshore island (Ja. dêmôê, Nu. dume), while ‘inside’ means the lee side facing the mainland (Ja. lêlôm, Nu. awa). Numbami also has three different words for ‘inside’: lalo, awa (< ‘mouth, hole’), and ketu (< ‘egg’). The last shows a semantic extension unattested in Bowden’s sample. The most common sources for IN are (in order): ‘tooth’, ‘belly’, ‘heart’, ‘liver’, ‘bowels’. Among the few verbal sources for Oceanic locatives are ‘precede’ (> FRONT), ‘follow’ (> BACK), and ‘exceed’ (> ON (TOP) or FRONT), none of them very surprising. Bowden alludes to a more interesting development in a footnote: locatives that come full cycle and yield euphemistic terms for body parts (‘down below’, ‘inside’, ‘backside’, etc.).

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Another Basho, Another Scandal

Japan’s Fall Grand Sumo Basho is underway, and Jack Gallagher, writing in The Japan Times, updates us on the latest scandal to hit the sport.

The resignation of Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi last Monday was just the latest in a litany of black eyes for sumo.

In fact, the 55-year-old former yokozuna illustrates precisely why sumo is in its current state.

He was the head of the JSA for more than six years, but under his tenure things didn’t stay the same, they got progressively worse.

What defies comprehension is his seeming unawareness to what was going on around him and refusal to take responsibility until an incredible amount of harm had been done to sumo’s standing with the public.

So clueless was Kitanoumi that he practically had to be strong-armed out the door. It is precisely this kind of stubbornness and arrogance that has brought sumo to this point.

Kitanoumi should have been forced out last year, following the beating death of Tokitaizan, a young wrestler in the Tokitsukaze stable, but passed the buck and continued on.

When Russian wrestler Wakanoho was expelled by the JSA last month following his arrest for possession of marijuana, Kitanoumi again had a chance to take responsibility but refused. It was a pathetic show of power.

Only after the most recent embarrassment, the failure of Russian wrestlers Roho and Hakurozan (a member of Kitanoumi’s stable) to pass drug tests administered by the JSA, and prodding from his colleagues, did Kitanoumi finally go.

Gallagher also suggests some innovations that might help revitaize the sport.

• Make better geographic use of the six annual tournaments. Having half of them in Tokyo every year makes no sense at all. Hold one in Sapporo and another in Sendai.

• Change the starting times of the makuuchi bouts. Having them on television between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day makes it very difficult for a large number of viewers to see them live. People are either at work, on their way home, or otherwise occupied.

• Establish a marketing department that knows how to do something besides just pick up the phone. Take a page out of the J. League’s book and be aggressive. Target youngsters and female fans.

• Archive all of the tournaments’ videos on the Internet with commentary in English. With the time difference it is tough for folks outside of Japan to see the bouts live. The one place that sumo has retained its interest is with fans overseas. Give them a better chance to follow the sport and increase the international fan base.

via Japundit‘s Japan News Junkie

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