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Re: [Lingo] 黒犬 vs. 黒い犬

On 09/01/2017 01:44 AM, Jim Breen wrote:
On 1 September 2017 at 14:28, Stephen J. Turnbull
<> wrote:
My guess is that translate has a rule based on phonology.  (For those
who don't know much technical linguistics, phonetics is stuff like
"English doesn't have the glottal stop 'small tsu', Japanese does, but
it doesn't have 'l'."  Phonology explains how sounds combine.  For
example, in pluralization in English you "add s" in spelling, but in
speech you say pigS, but foxeZ.  It's possible to say foxeS, consider
exceSS, but you don't.)  In Japanese, ○くk- has a phonological rule
that changes it to ○っk- (where "k-" indicates any of かきくけこ).
So here こくけん -> こっけん.

Why does translate apply this rule?  Well, I can't find 黒犬 in the
dictionary (and in my IME くろいぬ -> 黒 + 犬, not 黒犬, of course an
immediate confirmation enters the jukugo).  So it's probably not in
Google's dictionary either.  Without the dictionary entry or the gobi
い (ie, 黒い犬), translate appears to guess that it's an on-yomi word,
reads the characters as こくけん, and then applies the phonological
rule to get こっけん.

I agree with Steve's analysis.

Well, Japanese do love their contractions, and here probably 黒犬 is a
descriptive name for the dog, rather than just a description.  I would
imagine that it would be read kun-yomi, as くろいぬ, and 白犬 as
しろいぬ.  If it were supposed to be read くろいいぬ, I would think it
would be written 黒い犬.

黒犬/くろいぬ can be found various places, including the Unidic morpheme
lexicon and Halpern's Japanese linguistics database. Googling for it
and looking at the images shows a squillion black dogs.
白犬 is in the same places, and is even in 広辞苑 meaning:


Thanks for the replies.
I also asked her what she would say if reading aloud to her son.  Her reply:
>> In that case I pronounce it くろいぬ. I'd never say こっけん
>> and can't read it as くろいいぬ.
Which echoes what Steve said about 語尾.

I think maybe one shortcoming of Google Translate -- which is now using extensive AI -- is that it's trained with text only.

As always, I appreciate the insight into the language when nothing quite makes sense.

Steve Smith

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