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Re: [Lingo] 間 vs 間

> On 12/05/30 05:31, steve wrote:
> > How does one know when 間 is pronounced あいだ and when it's ま?

I think the simple answer to this question is: there's no rule - you
just have to know based on context. It seems to be entirely idiomatic.

On Wed, May 30, 2012, at 14:39, Stephen A. Carter wrote:
> My impression is that in idioms and set phrases, it's generally
> ま. E.g.:

Yes, I think so too, altough there are also idioms like the following
(copy/pasting straight from WWWJDIC :-)

  間に立つ 【あいだにたつ】 (exp,v5t) to mediate; to intervene

and there are evidently cases where it can be read either way (ibid):

  間を置く 【あいだをおく; まをおく】 (exp,v5k) to pause; to have a short intermission

> And when it means "room," like in the fancy names hotels give their
> banquet rooms, it's always 間.

I think you meant to write ま here :-)

As for the semantics of them, I don't think there's any space/time or
abstract conceptual distinction. They both seem to mean something like
an interval between endpoints.

I have recently been doing some heavy-duty reading in Nara Period (aka
"Old") Japanese (the oldest stage of the language attested with
substantial texts), mostly poetry from 万葉集 (Man'youshuu), but also a
little bit from 古事記歌謡 (Songs of the Kojiki) , 日本書紀 (Nihon Shoki), and
others, under the guidance and tutelage of a professor who knows this
stuff inside and out, and keeping it all in a searchable plaintext
format I developed, with complete exegesis, notes, translation. All of
which is just to explain how I know that....

Apparently both ま and あいだ[1] are very old words, because I have a few
examples of each in my "database", which are translated with the same
meaning they have today. I don't recall that we discussed the etymology
of either one in class, but since they seem to have the same meaning,
there's a good likelihood that one of them is a borrowing, probably from
Korean (there are evidently *quite* a few words in Japanese that are
considered 和語 nowadays, but that are best understood as having been
borrowed, mostly from Old Korean, during the centuries prior to what we
have record of. Now that I think of it, it may well be that the /ai/ of
あいだ is the same as the infinitive stem of あう (meet). Since あう is
definitely native vocab, this leads to the (very tentative :-)
speculation that ま may have been borrowed.


[1] This word, back then, still had a /p/ in it; it was something like
    "apiNta", where Nt represents a prenasalized /t/, which was then in
    the process of turning into the /d/ we have today.

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