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Summary Details

Query:   "Arigato" and "Tempura"
Author:  Karen S. Chung
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Language Documentation

Summary:   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 Mathias:

> Hi. I'm the one who wrote the very truncated response quoted as beginning
> ''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 the
> question that brought up the kanji was really relevant.
> What counts is that the word ''ar-'' = ''be (there); be (so)'' and the adjective
> ''kata-'' = ''hard, tough; difficult'' have been around since the first written
> records of Japanese, several centuries before contact with the Portuguese.
> ''Ar-'' was written with the hanzi for ''yeou'' (sorry about my old-fashioned
> spelling--that's as in ''woo mei yeou kwaytzu'') and ''tzay'' (''Nii tzay
> naal?'') from the beginning. When used as the deverbal adjective-forming
> suffix ''-gata-'' = ''difficult to ...'' as well as otherwise when meaning
> ''difficult,'' ''kata-'' was written with the hanzi ''nann.'' Of course, they
> 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 ''arigatasi''
> = ''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. It
> shows up already as ''arigatau'' in _Heikemonogatari_, a 13th (? 14th?)
> century epic. There is no question of the pure Japanese pedigree of the
> word.

> But one shouldn't need to know that! The hypothesis is absurd on purely
> phonological grounds. Why on earth would Japanese hear ''obrigado'' and say
> ''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 words
> 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 my
> phonological argument against ''arigatoo'' replacing *''oburigado'' I have to
> 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

LL Issue: 12.1906
Date Posted: 26-Jul-2001
Original Query: Read original query


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