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Rethinking Orient

In Search of Sources and Inspirations


Adam Bednarczyk, Magdalena Kubarek and Maciej Szatkowski

The contributions in this book address a vast variety of questions concerning the sources and mutual inspirations in Oriental and European literatures. The authors discuss selected texts from both historical and synchronic perspectives. They reveal and scrutinise the sedimented layers in their search for the original as well as for the repetitive and universal. The book revolves around the creative reception of one’s own cultural heritage and of works which originated in other cultures.

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Challenges of Language Re-Documentation: a Case of Miyakojima-no uta (Aleksandra Jarosz)


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Aleksandra Jarosz

Nicolaus Copernicus University Poland

Challenges of Language Re-Documentation: a Case of Miyakojima-no uta

Abstract: The earliest source on Miyakoan folk songs, which are often referred to by the name of aagu or ajagu, are the late nineteenth-century handwritten records by Risaburō Tajima, labeled by their author as Miyakojima-no uta 宮古島の歌 ‘songs from the Miyako island[s]’. Miyakojima-no uta contain 147 pieces of multiple genres, such as ritual songs, epic songs, or improvised feast songs. They use a peculiar hiragana syllabic notation which could be best described as a mixture of morphophonological Japanese conventions, randomly inserted kanji characters, and an attempt to represent Miyakoan phonetically. The result is an extremely low legibility of the material: one cannot decode the sound unless they are sufficiently familiar with the thus transcribed language. Tajima also did not translate the songs; while a number of pieces were more or less systematically glossed or commented upon, several of them had been left with no commentary whatsoever. In short, it takes a specialist’s knowledge to decipher and use Tajima’s source as it is available now. In this paper, this author provides an introduction to the form and contents of Miyakojima-no uta. A song recorded by Tajima retranscribed into a phonetic alphabet and analyzed linguistically is presented as an example of how Tajima’s work can be utilized today in the study of the endangered Miyakoan language and culture.

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