LINGUIST List 12.1906

Thu Jul 26 2001

Sum: "Arigato" and "Tempura"

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Karen S. Chung, Sum: _arigatoo_ and _tempura_

Message 1: Sum: _arigatoo_ and _tempura_

Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 09:27:48 +0800
From: Karen S. Chung <>
Subject: Sum: _arigatoo_ and _tempura_

 Many thanks to the following people - hope I didn't miss anybody -
who responded to the inquiries on Japanese _arigatoo_ and _tempura_. I
got lots of information on cooking in addition to etymology! And it was
really nice to hear from so many Japanese and Portuguese speakers!

 Maria Carlota Rosa <>
 Chris Cl�irigh <>
 Nicolaas Hart <>
 Junji Kawai <>
 Bart Mathias <>
 Victor Petrucci <>
 Marc Picard <>
 Eduardo Rivail Ribeiro <>
 Helena Sampaio <>
 Karl Teeter <>
 Douglas G. Wilson <>
 Watanabe Yasuhisa <>

 and of course

 Jonathan Lewis <>

 who got the ball rolling with his sum on the origin of _arigatoo_.

 (1) _Arigatoo_:

 It is clear that the story that Japanese _arigatoo_ 'thank you'
comes from Portuguese _obrigado_ is *wrong*. There are records of the
use of _arigatoo_ long before the arrival of the Portuguese, and it is
unlikely also on phonological grounds. The following is from Bart

> Hi. I'm the one who wrote the very truncated response quoted as
> "Aaaarrrggghhh" to Jonathon Lewis' question.

> You are certainly right that the fact that a word is written with
kanji is
> no real evidence of the word's origin. I didn't think the response to
> question that brought up the kanji was really relevant.

> What counts is that the word "ar-" = "be (there); be (so)" and the
> "kata-" = "hard, tough; difficult" have been around since the first
> records of Japanese, several centuries before contact with the

> "Ar-" was written with the hanzi for "yeou" (sorry about my
> spelling--that's as in "woo mei yeou kwaytzu") and "tzay" ("Nii tzay
> naal?") from the beginning. When used as the deverbal
> suffix "-gata-" = "difficult to ..." as well as otherwise when meaning

> "difficult," "kata-" was written with the hanzi "nann." Of course,
> were also often written with kana.

> The sentential form of "arigatoo" (the form "arigatoo" itself results
from a
> completely regular loss of "k" in adverbial "arigataku" followed by an

> equally regular mutual assimilation of the "a" and "u"), namely
> = "unlikely to be; rare; welcome" shows up written in kana in the
> Man'y�sh? an 8th century poetry collection. It shows up, e.g., in the

> form "arigataku" in _Genjimonogatari_, an early 11th century novel.
> shows up already as "arigatau" in _Heikemonogatari_, a 13th (? 14th?)
> century epic. There is no question of the pure Japanese pedigree of
> word.

> But one shouldn't need to know that! The hypothesis is absurd on
> phonological grounds. Why on earth would Japanese hear "obrigado" and
> "arigatoo" instead of "oburigado"?

 I will certainly remove the reference to _arigatoo_/_obrigado_ if
there is a second printing of _Language Change in East Asia_. It's not
the first fish story I've heard and believed, and it certainly won't be
the last. I am again indebted to the Internet and enthusiastic linguists
for efficient and on-target feedback.

 (2) _Tempura_:

 Apparently Kenkyusha had the right source word, _tempero_, but wrong
source language. _Tempero_ is Portuguese for 'spice, seasoning'. This
etymology is also given in several English-English dictionaries (e.g.
the _Shorter Oxford_, _Webster's_, though Webster's puts in a question
mark) and has been confirmed by many respondents; one (Maria Carlota
Rosa <>) included this reference:

> KIM, Tai Whan. 1979. Etymological and semantic notes on Ibero-romance
> in Japanese. Arquivos do Centro Cultural Portugues. Paris: Funda��o
Calouste > Gulbenkian. vol. xiv. 697pp. p.579-621.

 Again, from Bart Mathias:

> It's usually identified as /Portuguese/ "tempero." (On the grounds of
> phonological argument against "arigatoo" replacing *"oburigado" I have
> wonder why the Japanese didn't keep "tempErO," well within Japanese
> phonotactics. But it's a much smaller change.)

 Hope that wraps things up on these two words for a while!

 With grateful regards,

 Karen Steffen Chung
 National Taiwan University

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