origami (ȯr-ə-ˈgä-mē)

"Hojyo Takashi's Violinist" by Joey Ilagan.

Hello everyone!

For the last two weeks, I was at the Ohio State University studying Linguistics as part of their Summer Linguistics Institute for Youth Scholars, also known as SLIYS (pronounced SLICE).

It was a great opportunity to learn about the sounds of languages, the meaning and structure of words, and different writing systems. I also learned about how linguists gather data about languages through consultations with a native speaker of a foreign language. During my first week, I worked with a native speaker of Farsi. I had to figure out linguistic rules, morphosyntactic agreement, and how to create consonant and vowel charts for Farsi. It was particularly challenging because our consultant was not allowed to speak English on the first day. I also learned about many other languages such as Greek, Japanese, and Tagalog.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a couple of Japanese words and talk about rendaku – a linguistic phenomenon that occurs in the Japanese language.

Most everyone is familiar with origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into beautiful figures. The word origami is a compound word that consists of the Japanese word ori meaning fold and kami meaning paper.  Yes, you read that correctly. Logically, the word should be ori-kami, not ori-gami. Here’s where rendaku comes in.

The reason the word is ori -gami and not ori-kami is because of rendaku. Rendaku occurs when the second part of a compound word changes from a voiceless consonant to a voiced consonant. If you can feel a vibration in your throat when you say a certain consonant, that means it is voiced. If you cannot feel the vibration in your throat, that means that the sound is voiceless.

In this example, the k-sound in kami becomes a g-sound when it is added to ori. Below is a chart of other sounds that can be changed:

K ———–> G

T ———–> D

CH ———> J

S ———-> Z

Rendaku doesn’t always occur. For example, when the first word ends with an voiceless sound, rendaku usually doesn’t happen.

I look forward to sharing more linguistics-related posts as I delve deeper into the field! Please comment and let me know if you enjoyed this post.

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