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Knowledge Co-Creation - Profiles of researchers

Going beyond space-time
Pursuing language accents

Kazuaki Ueno
Professor at Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Revering the world of the sounds of ancient languages

When I was at junior high school, my Japanese teacher was a Manyoshu researcher and that set me on the Japanese linguistics path. He taught me, using works written in Manyo-gana (Japanese writing found in Manyoshu), about the expanding world of Japanese in ancient eras, and how by painstakingly examining each character in those works, how to understand the characteristics of the era and differences in sound, and furthermore, by listening to talks from people who researched that, I remember having a feeling dignified.

From that experience, I felt I wanted to study Japanese Classics, not as literature though, I had embraced the thought that I wanted to research ancient Japanese, so I majored in Japanese literature at the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I at Waseda University. At the time there were three Japanese linguistics professors in the Japanese literature course, and they each specialized in grammar and honorific expressions, characters and lexicon, and tone and accent. Of those, I turned to Professor Kazue Akinaga, who specialized in tone and accent, for guidance.

Professor Akinaga specialized in tone, especially accent, and in addition to her historical research such as the major publication "Kokin Wakashu Seiten Bon no Kenkyu", she has been extremely active in compiling "Meikai Nihongo Akusento Jiten" and researching the Tokyo dialect. I have carried my tape recorder and accompanied her on that research.

When I was at graduate school the professor lent me a photograph of "Heikyoku Fuhon" (※), which was in the possession of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, and instructed me to research Edo period Kyoto dialect from the heikyoku chant that was written there. From that time until now, I have continued researching the history of the Kyoto dialect.
(※Heikyoku: The art of passing down the poetry and prose of Heike Monogatari while playing a Japanese lute)

Why did I choose the Kyoto accent? As material reflecting the spoken language, to get remaining material going from the Edo period back to the Muromachi period, and even further back in to the Heian period, there is only the long-term cultural centre of Kyoto and its surrounding areas. Originally, Heikyoku was passed down by mouth by blind Japanese lute players and there was no need for music books, but from the Edo period, Heikyoku spread among sighted people, and the trend to write down in characters the art of passing down reached a peak, and furthermore, because of the protective policies of the shogunate, it was recorded in the form of a book of traditional Japanese music. However, the passing down of heikyoku by Japanese lute players continued in Kyoto. My work involves inferring the accents of words and phrases attached to the musical notations in the music books.

In heikyoku there are many parts with no melody, or parts with weak melodies, and it can be thought that the musical notations that are written down reflect most of the Kyoto dialect in the Edo period when those music texts appeared. In the photograph below, on the previously mentioned "Heike Monogatari" in the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Collection, linear notes have been written to the right and left of the main script. The red lines to the right are the original notes of this text, while the black lines to the left have been written in and changed the notes to the "Heike Mabushi" linear notation style, a style that gradually came into use at that time.

Photograph 1 Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Collection『Heike Monogatari』 (from the facsimile series of the Waseda University collection of『Maeda Ryu Fuhon Heike Monogatari』Waseda University Press, 1984-85)

I mainly researched this "Heiki Mabushi" musical notation. This was compiled by Kengyo Tomonoichi Ogino during the An'ei era, and it is thought that the Kyoto dialect of the era just before the compilation is reflected more in the notation of the non-musical tune "Shirakoe", than it is in the notation of the slightly musical tune of "Kudoki", from around the time of the compilation of "Heike Mabushi".

Accents from music text accents heard in Shikoku

By the way, the Kyoto accent has changed with the times. For example, in modern Kyoto, the words "akai (red)" and "shiroi (white)" are spoken in an HLL (H=high, L=low) manner, with the first sound pronounced in a high tone. However, we know that a generation ago they had separate pronunciations, with "akai" being HHL and "shiroi", HLL. "Shiroi" today is the same as it was in the past, whereas "akai" has changed, taking on the same accent somewhere along the line.

I believe that Tokyo has been progressing in the same manner. People over a certain age have distinct differences where "akai" is LHH and "shiroi", LHL. However, young people today pronounce them both with the same LHL accent. In the way the accent differences have merged, and there appears to be a phenomenon of systematic changes which can be found beyond ages and regions.

About 20 years ago, when I was teaching at the University of Tokushima, I undertook research into dialect accents with my students. Tokushima and Kochi can be seen to be regions that have kept the form of the ancient Kyoto dialect. Therefore, it wouldn't be strange to have an accent that is no longer used in modern Kyoto remaining in regions such as these. And, as predicted, when we investigated in Anan City, Tokushima Prefecture, we could hear the same "akai" = HHL and "shiroi" = HLL accent that was reflected in the musical notation of the Heikyoku text.

In our research in Tokushima City we discovered that verbs can also be classified into several groups according to accent, but of those, in a verb group called "3-mora verbs category 2", the coexistence of both old and new accents on the boundary of certain age groups, and within that group there was a difference in time of change between the five-tier conjugation of verbs and the single-tier conjugation of verbs, and that there was also a difference in the accents of the new verbs post-change.

For example, "amaru (remain)" is a five-tier conjugation verb and "okiru (get up)" is a single-tier conjugation verb, and both are in the predicative attributive form in the ancient accent, being HLL where the first sound is high. But in the new accent, they are separated into different forms with "amaru" becoming HHH, and "okiru" LLH. These new accents are both the same to what can be heard in Kyoto today.

What is even more interesting is that in the change of "amaru" and "okiru" there was a time difference of about 25 years. That is plain to see when the research results are graphed (Figure 1). The research data is from around 1990, but at that time, the old an new accents could both by heard from people in their 30s for "amaru", and people in their 50s-60s for "okiru". The similar verbs had formed groups, and then transformed into new definite accents. Even more, while having the exact same HLL predicative attributive form of accent before the change, they split into separate HHH and LLH accents post-change.

Figure 1 Predicative attributive form accents heard in the 3-mora verbs category 2 verbs of "amaru" type (five-tier conjugation verb) and "okiru" type (single-tier conjugation verb) in Tokushima City (from Japanese Language Series 36 "Tokushima-ken no Kotoba" Meiji Shoin 1997 Please note that ● represents H and ○ L)

These kinds of accent change have been occurring from the mid-Edo period until today, but there is also a period before then when large transformations took place. That appears to be around the Northern and Southern Courts period, and during that time the Kyoto accent system was greatly rearranged. Why during the Northern and Southern Courts period? With the Samurai coming to power in Kyoto Imperial Court society, I like to imagine that something happened to cause a huge change from traditional to new.

In this way, social movements are unknowingly moving in the behind language accents. In that case, even in the background of "akai" and "shiro" having the same pronunciation in modern Tokyo accents, maybe a great change in values has taken place where the traditional meaning has gradually been lost.

Toward the challenge of language research

After many years of Heikyoku music texts, in 2011 it was finally put together and published in 『Heikyoku Fuhon ni Yoru Kinse Kyoto Akusento no Shiteki Kenkyu (Early-Modern Kyoto Accent Research Through Heikyoku Music Texts)』(Waseda University Press). This research was rated highly and awarded the Shinmura Izuru Prize, named after the former editor of "Kojien", the late Professor Izuru Shinmura. This prize has been awarded to researchers who have made great contributions to Japanese linguistics and linguistics, and my former tutor, Professor Akinaga, also received this prize, making me wonder if I am truly worthy of such an honorable award.

『Heikyoku Fuhon ni Yoru Kinse Kyoto Akusento no Shiteki Kenkyu (Waseda University Academic Series 15)』
Kazuaki Ueno, Waseda University Press, March 2011

In the future I would like to challenge work that looks the overall research of accent history. At any rate, there is a vast amount of materials and research making it tough, but I believe, in order to convey this research to the wider society and future generations, it is work that somebody must do.

Also, in research about accents of Japanese expressions originating from Chinese, I think I would like to research an even wider range of materials. For example, in Buddhism-related materials from the middle ages to early-modern times, there are some remaining with footnotes in the accent of expressions originating from Chinese. I want to try reading more of these materials. These expressions entered Japan as ancient Buddhist words etc. The readings of kanji have also come via various paths from China, and in Japan, the Chinese pronunciation from a different period has been noted down each time. For example, the kanji 「明」has various sounds such as myou, mei and min, but they are unique to Japan. In China, the old readings were forgotten at the change of an era, and were replaced with the new readings. Therefore, in Japan there are many cases of kanji in Japan remaining where the reading corresponds to a pronunciation that has disappeared in China.

The Han reading of kanji was brought back to Japan around the Nara and Heian periods by Japanese envoys to China and Buddhist monks who studied in China, but before that, a different sound called Wu had been established in Japan. For example, 「明」is mei in Han, but myou in Wu. In regards to the tones of Han, they have also been passed down in Japan in Chinese dictionaries, and are also recorded in Chinese-Japanese dictionaries. By the way, I don't know much Wu. The tones are apparently completely different from Han. Because the correspondence between the two isn't that simple and there are some areas which run against the rules, it is very difficult to research and compare the two. I am also working on compiling a database, with cooperation from my colleagues, on accents of Japanese expressions originating from Chinese that constitute such kanji.

Language is something that is bestowed on everybody when they are born and they enter that world. Through an accumulation of moving forward together by using that language and understanding each other, the world of our language is formed, but we must be aware that it is constantly changing. There are still many things there that we don't understand. Revealing the makeup of this strange world called language, while following history and lending an ear to dialects, is the image I have of Japanese linguistics and linguistics.

Kazuaki Ueno
Professor at Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Born in Takada City (now Joetsu City), Niigata Prefecture in 1953. Majored in Japanese literature and graduated from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University. Completed his doctorate at the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Teacher at Tokyo Metropolitan Norin High School from 1978 (part-time course), assistant at the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University from 1984, lecturer at the Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences, University of Tokushima from 1986, assistant professor in same faculty from 1990, assistant professor at Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University from 1997, and current position as professor from 1998. Ph.D. (Literature). Major publications include 『Heikyoku Fuhon ni Yoru Kinse Kyoto Akusento no Shiteki Kenkyu』, 『Nihongo Akusento Shi Sogo Shiryo』compilation and research editor (co-editor),『Japanese Language Series 36 Tokushima-ken no Kotoba』 (chief editor).