It's been a bit. I've been pretty busy with classes and not sleeping well lately, so I haven't been incredibly productive. I've even gotten a bit behind on all my shows! It's reading week now, though, so I should have plenty of time to catch up on sleep and all that good stuff.
Something that I’ve recently been into again is YouTube. Maybe not for the reason you might think, though. I’ve signed up for a free month of YouTube premium because I realized the other day where all the podcasts I want to listen to have been hiding: on YouTube. Since podcasts aren’t very big in Japan (partially due to the lack of sponsors for monetization, I assume), I always found it hard to find podcasts that I really enjoy listening to. However, it would seem that YouTubers have realized that recording audio only content and posting it on YouTube where they can have ads is a legitimate source of extra income. Some Youtubers, especially “virtual YouTubers”, often do live streams where the video itself is completely optional to understanding what’s going on, too. Not only that, lots of *ahem* very legal reposts of radio programs and audio dramas are often posted to YouTube as well.
I normally have no patience for these when I’m sitting at my desk, so I never really listened to any of this stuff before, but I recently realized I was missing out on a lot of free, compelling content. I started looking into all sorts of means of saving audio form YouTube so I could listen to it later when I was walking or didn’t have an internet connection. The problem is, I did this in the past with internet radio, and I found I got sick and tired of downloading, converting and syncing the audio on my phone and just gave up. That’s when I realized that YouTube Premium is available in Canada now, so although I try not to be too dependent on Google services, I signed up for YouTube Premium. The amount of time I spend listening to Japanese audio has maybe doubled since, so I think I’m going to have to suck it up and dole out the $12 a month for YouTube Premium.
I normally talk about pitch accent a lot, but I honestly don’t have much to say on the subject right now. I’m just really happy that I decided to finally learn it. When I went to the Japanese conversation club at my university the other day, the group that I was with somehow got on the topic of different Japanese dialects, and we started to discuss accent as a part of that. If I had never studied pitch accent I probably would have just sat there thinking what in the world is going, but it was actually an interesting conversation and I realized that I had been pronouncing 授業 as  and not  because one of the Japanese students said that she found it weird that everyone in Tokyo said 授業 and not 授業 like her family and friends did in her home prefecture, Fukushima.
A similar thing happened while I was listening to some YouTubers talk the other day, when they got caught up on the pronunciation of たけのこの里. It was another one of those moments where normally I would have been completely lost and felt incredibly out of the loop, but because I can actually hear the difference now, I knew what they were talking about. Pitch accent may not be the most important thing in learning Japanese, but to me, it’s starting to feel like a bit of common knowledge like 聖徳太子 or 源氏物語 that everyone doesn’t necessarily know everything about but are familiar enough with that it does come up in everyday conversation. And so, if you know nothing about those things, it’s not that your Japanese is bad, it’s just that you don’t have the same cultural background and might feel left out.
I'm very much enjoying Classical Japanese. The structure of our class basically consists of front-loading grammar to then tackle real texts, so as of yet, we haven't read much at all in Classical Japanese. We were however given an exercise in preparation for our midterm on part of the ninth section of The Tale of Ise.
This text doesn't really have anything incredibly difficult to it, except perhaps the poem at the end, but for a Heian period text, it's surprisingly accessible. Obviously, a certain knowledge of vocabulary, orthography, and auxiliary verbs particular to classical Japanese is necessary to work through the texts, but it's possible to guess the meaning of certain bits if you're a perceptive learner with lots of exposure to modern Japanese. For example, the first auxiliary verb to appear in the text, けり, is rather opaque without context. Knowing that the text speaks of past events, it's easy enough to guess that it's some sort of marker of the past tense, but if we ignore that and think only about our knowledge of modern Japanese, we might come up with the expression けりをつける, which means to settle something or to put an end to something. This けり is actually a reference to the past tense auxiliary verb けり that we can find in the above text and is basically taking a hypothetical sentence (that would express the difficulties the speaker is describing) and saying, "Let's take the verb in that sentence, and make it past tense (just like my problem)". It's actually a cute little expression, now that I think of it.
There's a couple examples of the perfective ぬ (至りぬ, きぬる, ほとびにけり), as well, which doesn't appear much if at all in modern Japanese, except maybe in titles like 風立ちぬ (The Wind Rises). Though I was interested to figure out if 風立ちぬ was intended to have a perfective meaning, or the meaning of certainty, and given the original line from "Le Cimetière Marin" by Paul Valéry, "Le vent se lève", I can't really say I know any better. The perfective meaning seems wrong given that there is no implied end to the rising of the wind (it’s not “the wind had/has/will have risen”). It might just be my lack of familiarity with classical Japanese, but certainty also feels somewhat wrong to me, since the wind is already rising and one’s opinion on the matter doesn’t matter. It’s likely that the ぬ is perfective and that I’m just overthinking things, but to me, the beauty of “Le vent se lève !… Il faut tenter de vivre !” is that both actions feel concurrent. It’s not because the wind is already going strong that you need to go with it; it’s because it’s currently picking up and so the time is ripe to pick yourself up along with it. I feel like 風立ちたり or 風立てり would be a more literal translation. I have absolutely no productive skills in classical Japanese, though, so maybe I’m just overthinking things.
Anyway, moving along, there’s another part in the text that I find fascinating: “橋を八つ渡せるによりてなむ八橋といひける”. I think it’s so interesting that verb conjugation can be affected by the particles used earlier in a clause. Classical Japanese verbs almost feel like nouns in an inflexional language to me. The comparison breaks down pretty easily, but the idea that Japanese verbs have 6 forms that change depending on how they’ll be used and that the presence of certain words can force a specific form with absolutely no regard for the meaning of that verb form kind of reminds me of Indo-European cases. In the example above, the emphatic bound particle なむ causes いひけり, which would normally be in the final form, to become いひける in the attributive form. It’s not uncommon to find the attributive form at the end of a sentence, however contradictory that may seem, because classical Japanese had a tendency to drop implied nominals (a phenomenon that can still occasionally be seen in modern Japanese with phases like 行くが良い or 残るは～～), but there are more striking particles like こそ which puts the final verb into the perfective form.
Another tricky bit for people with no knowledge of classical Japanese is the four uses of the auxiliary verb り (知れる, 渡せる よめる, よめりければ). The first and second are a case of its resultative function and the third and fourth of its perfective function, and in neither case is it the potential form that we would interpret it as in modern Japanese. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this in modern Japanese, though I’m sure there are examples out there.
Well, that’s enough from me.