The Language of Nature, Oct. 15 2011

Changing My Approach

Truth be told, the demand for learning Japanese is pretty anemic in the West. I had hoped for more, but more has simply not materialized. What I will do is use language as a tool, prop, sock puppet, what have you, to show things about Japan, hopefully in an eye-catching way.

The above portrait is the Brooks Mountain Range, in Alaska. In Japanese, a mountain range is called sanmyaku (山脈、さんみゃく), a combination of the kanji for “mountain” and “vein.”  In this sense, the mountains course across the earth, running across its surface like a pathway of stone.

There is a forest, or mori (、もり) shown at the base of the mountains.  The kanji is three instances of the word for tree, which as a stand-alone word is pronounced ki (,  き). Three of anything represents a large number. A grove or small forest would be a hayashi (、はやし) showing only two instances of ki (), indicating a decent but not overwhelming number.

The snow on the surface of the mountains is yuki (、ゆき). Long-time readers may recall my post on Yuki Onna, a supernatural being from Japanese myth and legend.

An individual mountain is pronounced yama (、やま). A mountain priest of Buddhist inclination is known as a yamabushi (山伏、やまぶし). This is a rare example of the “Japanese” reading being used in a compound word. – J

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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