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‘sonsonete’ in João Rodriguez’s ARTE DA LINGOA DE IAPAM

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:33 pm In Abstracts for 2013, History, Philosophy and Religion | Comments Disabled

Baba Ryoji, Professor

Faculty of Letters

Prefectural University of Kumamoto


João Rodriguez was a Jesuit in 15th century in Japan. He wrote two Japanese grammar books in the seventeenth century, that are ARTE DA LINGOA DE IAPAM (Japanese Language Grammar) and ARTE BREVE DA LINGOA IAPOA TIRADA DA ARTE GRANDE DA MESMA lingoa, pera os que começam a aprender os primeiros principios della (Brief Grammar of the Japanese Language Abridged from the Great Grammar of This Language for those Starting to Learn its Primary Principles). The former is commonly called Arte Grande and was edited for advanced Japanese learners, published in 1604-1608 in Nagasaki; the latter is called Arte Breve and was edited for beginners, published in 1620 in Macau. These are the oldest grammar books in the history of Japanese language teaching.

Rodriguez used nine ‘sonsonete’ in Arte Grande, and one in Arte Breve.

Hashimoto Shinkiti wrote in his paper (1932) that sonsonete means ironic and oratorical intonation and Doi Tadao wrote in his book (1955) that it means pronunciation with a nasal tone in ironic expressions.

The oldest Portuguese dictionary describes the meaning of ‘sonsonete’ as ‘oratorical accent with which you can express some kind of irony or bad thinking.’ ‘Oratorical accent’ in this context means ‘intonation,’ but Hashimoto might have understood it as the intonation of ‘public speech.’

I researched these ten ‘sonsonete’ in their contexts and established that the word has four meanings as follows;

1. Some peculiar intonation of haughty and consequential manner; Ano quio< uo conataye

toritai, Nanigaxi uo yobitai.

2. Some local accents; for example, to widen the second vowel of the two continuous

vowels as narumá for narumai in Chu<gocu, xecae for xacai, yoe for yoi,

amae for amai, daeji for daiji, foroe for firoi and curoe for curoi in Fijen, Figo

and Chicugo..

3. Portuguese accent as cono mono for co<no mono, xotocu for xo<tocu, danco for danco<

and dobucu for dôbucu.

4. Nasalization before voiced consonants as tonga for tòga, vareranga for vareràga,

Nangasaqui for Nàgasaqui, māda for mada and āgjuai for agjuai.

Rodriguez used ‘elegância,’ a Portuguese word that means ‘elegance’ in English, 104 times in Arte Grande and 31 times in Arte Breve. He used them for marking the good points of the Japanese language and its important items.

‘Sonsonete’ came from Spanish to Portuguese in the 16th century and in Spanish it means a monotonous and unpleasant tone or mode to speak, to pray or to read something aloud. Rodriguez used ‘elegância’ for good items of Japanese language and ‘sonsonete’ for bad points of Japanese pronunciation.

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