|首页 导航地图 为龙正名 媒介 外国漫画中的“龙” Loong
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Japan talks its way into trouble with Georgia
Richard Lloyd Parry in Tokyo
For all its subtlety and beauties the Japanese language has one weakness — despite a love of borrowed foreign words it has great trouble pronouncing them.
This is the country where globalisation is rendered as guroubarizeeshyon and an hors d'oeuvres is oudoburu.
Now this unique way with words has become a diplomatic matter, after the Georgian Foreign Minister demanded that Japan change its mangled version of the name of his country.
Instead of the current term for Georgia — Gurujia — Grigol Vashadze wants his country to be known in Japanese as Joujia. Mr Vashadze has made a formal request to Tokyo and bureaucrats there are studying the proposal earnestly.
The request has as much to do with politics as aesthetics. "Guruujia is based on the Russian name for Georgia [Gruziya]," Mr Vashadze told Hirofumi Nakasone, his counterpart in Tokyo. "So we want you to change it."
Japan's problems with loan words arise because, despite the complexity of its grammar and writing system, it is a relatively simple language to pronounce. Foreign words are rendered in an alphabet known as katakana, whose characters represent each of the 46 basic Japanese sounds.
A language such as English has many sounds for which there is no Japanese equivalent: such as "th" and a distinct "l" and "r" — hence the mangling as foreign diphthongs and trills are squeezed into the narrow confines of katakana. The results range from the straightforward (Itaria — Italy) to the near incomprehensible (Rosanzerusu — California).
The system produces strange confusions: in Tokyo, Austrians (who live in Osutoria) are only a syllable away from being mistaken for the inhabitants of Osutoraria (Australia).
Matters are further confused by the names of some countries having been introduced to Japan by third countries. It was 16th-century Portuguese sailors who told the samurai about Inglês, hence the Japanese word for Britain: Igirisu. In some countries control of how a name is pronounced has been a matter of intense importance. The far-right Indian political party Shiv Sena has threatened repeatedly to attack institutions that use the old name Bombay instead of Mumbai.
In 1997 the Chinese Government demanded that The Times adopt the word Beijing instead of Peking.
Japan is considering whether to accede to Guruujia's request to become Joujia. "It's a serious complaint and we'll give consideration to the matter."
首页 导航地图 为龙正名 媒介 外国漫画中的“龙” Loong 的英文解释 Loong 的应用实例
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