November 25, 2003

Understanding Complex Nominals

When I lived in Osaka I used to walk by a place whose sign identified it as the:

     Higashi-ku Kyoosantoo      Seikatsu   Soodan        Sentaa
     East-ward  Communist-Party Lifestyle  Consultation  Center

I puzzled for months as to what this might be. I was pretty sure that it was a center run by the Communist party in the East Ward for consultation about seikatsu, which means something like "way of life, lifestyle, livelihood". It didn't seem likely, for instance, that it was a center for consultation about the seikatsu of the East Ward Communist Party. But what sort of consultation about seikatsu might this be? Did the Communist party propose to help me decide whether to take up tennis? I eventually asked a friend who told me that it dealt with problems such as unemployment, marital discord, and alcoholism.

Incidentally, of the ten morphemes in this phrase, only one, "east", is native to Japanese. /sentaa/ is borrowed from English. All of the rest are loans from Chinese.

Posted by Bill Poser at November 25, 2003 01:37 PM