Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

On the Etymology of the Eastern Japanese Word Tego

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

On the Etymology of the Eastern Japanese Word Tego

Article excerpt

In this paper I detail the weaknesses of the previously proposed etymologies of the Eastern Japanese word tego 'third daughter; maiden', which is exclusive to Eastern Old Japanese (EOJ) and the modern Hachijo language. I then offer a new hypothesis in which the original form of this word was a morphological hybrid consisting of Proto-Ainu *dE 'three' (borrowed into EOJ as te), the EOJ adnominal copula no, and the EOJ word ko 'gir?, which contracted to tego and had the meaning 'girl who is third'. Furthermore, I claim that the primary meaning of tego is 'third daughter' and that it developed the secondary meaning of 'maiden' in EOJ. I argue this hypothesis is stronger than the previously proposed etymologies in phonetics, morphology, and semantics, and more importantly it allows us to account for this word in both EOJ and Hachijo.


The purpose of this paper is to re-examine the etymology of the word tego, which is exclusive to Eastern Old Japanese (EOJ) and the modern Hachijo language--both of which are Eastern Japanese languages in the Japonic language family. (2) In EOJ this word is attested eight times, and the predominant view is that it means 'maiden' (Omodaka et al. 1967: 483, Mizushima 1986: 109-10), although there is also the viewpoint that it carries the meaning 'baby' in Man'yoshu poem 3485 (Omodaka et al. 1967: 483, Ono et al. 1990: 907). In contrast, its meaning in present-day Hachijo is 'third daughter' (NINJAL 1950: 372, (3) Asanuma 1999: 150, Yamada 2010: 34). Asanuma (1999: 10) pointed out the similarity between the Hachijo word and the EOJ word, but he did not go beyond that and offer an etymology. Three hypotheses have been presented for its etymology. In this paper I discuss the merits and weaknesses of these etymologies and I offer a new etymology that is based on multiple pieces of linguistic and philological evidence.

EOJ is attested exclusively in a few hundred poems in books 14 and 20 of the Man'yoshu (MYS) verse anthology, and based upon this linguistic record it is known to have been spoken in almost all of the easternmost provinces of Japan during the eighth century, with the exception of Topotuapumi and Suruga provinces, where a distinct variety of Old Japanese (OJ) was spoken (Kupchik 2013: 5).

At present, Hachijo is a moribund language spoken across the Izu archipelago, which lies to the south of Tokyo. Five of its dialects (Mitsune, Okago, Kashitate, Nakanogo, and Sueyoshi) are spoken on Hachijo-jima, while another dialect is spoken on Aogashima. In the past, two dialects (Utsuki and Toriuchi) were spoken on Hachijo-kojima, but that island has not had occupants since 1969 (Yamada 2010). Hachijo is generally considered to be a daughter language of EOJ due to the linguistic features shared between the two languages. The strongest grammatical evidence for this claim is the retention of the innovative EOJ tentative mood marker -unam- in the Hachijo form -unou- (Kaneda 2001: 179). The EOJ form appears to be the result of regressive nasal assimilation (*r > n) of the Proto-Japanese form *-uram- (cf. Western Old Japanese (WOJ) -uram-). Hachijo also retains the EOJ interrogative form an- (< *ani 'what')--as found in the EOJ words aze 'why; what' (< *ani se 'what do') and ado 'why' (< *ani to 'what say') (cf. WOJ nazo 'why' and nado 'why')--in words such as ani 'what' and adan 'anyhow'. (4)


In the sections that follow I describe the strengths and weaknesses of the previously proposed etymologies of tego. It should be noted that all of these hypotheses are concerned exclusively with EOJ tego, and the Hachijo meaning 'third daughter' is not discussed by any of the scholars who put forth these hypotheses.

2.1 Matsuoka's Hypothesis

In Nihon Kogo Daijiten [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], published in 1929, Matsuoka Shizuo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] proposed that EOJ tego is a compound consisting of WOJ ti 'spiritual power, vital force' and ko 'girl', and that the syllable te in EOJ is the result of a later, sporadic ablaut. …

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