The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.


Yasugi, Yoshiho
An Essay on the Logo-Syllabic Kanji-Kana Writing System
Sakiyama, Osamu
Austronesian etymologies and semantic change of plant names in Madagascar
Goto, Masanori
Dialogue in Ethnographies: The Irreducible in the Transition of Soviet Ethnography in the Time of Cultural Revolution

An Essay on the Logo-Syllabic Kanji-Kana Writing System
YASUGI Yoshiho
The Japanese writing system is logo-syllabic, using logographic kanji and syllabic kana. Though the system is said to be complex and difficult, we can now write Japanese freely by means of a word processing program. We input Japanese using letters of the Roman alphabet and it is transformed into the kanji-kana system. Before the development of computers, Japanese language reformists criticised its complex system and suggested replacing it with a Roman alphabetic system. We tend to apply western standards to our systems and deny our valuable culture. However, Japanese writing has survived for more than 1000 years, although kanji and kana reforms have been carried out many times.
The essence of writing is to express the meaningful elements of a language, that is, words. We combine letters to form words when we use an alphabet. Although each component is simple, the combination of letters is just as logographic as kanji. The kanji-kana system does not meet western standards but seems appropriate for the agglutinating Japanese language. Even if it is not the best, we cannot deny our long history of employing it. It is unique and therefore we have a duty to maintain it and pass it down to posterity.
Key Words: logographic, syllabic, writing system, cultural bias, Mesoamerican script

Austronesian etymologies and semantic change of plant names in Madagascar
Osamu Sakiyama
The following set of Austronesian-inherited Madagascar plant names is the third of the sequels supplementing and revising Sakiyama (1991 and 1999). In this contribution, I have added new Madagascar data to Dempwolff (1938), Verheijen (1984), Blust (1980-1989; 1988) and Wolff (1994) and shown some Sanskrit names (S) which are suspected of having been borrowed at the Proto Western Malayo-Polynesian stage. Added items are printed in bold type, and a plus sign (+) before an entry implies a revision to my previous papers.
Semantic change brought about in Madagascar gives in some cases interesting examples; PMP *baliDa/*baliga (by-form) ‘weaver's sword, beater-in’ has become valiha’ ‘bamboo sword’ involving its material ‘Dendrocalamus strictus’ (a species of bamboo with long haulms) in Betsimisaraka. The Merina makes use of this type of bamboo in marking the musical instrument called valiha, which Dempwolff ignored for his reconstructed form *balija, presumably because of the great difference in meaning. Another type of change took place on the analogy of plant shapes; PMP *bu(n)tungBarringtonia spp.’ (fish-poison tree) transformed into vontona ‘Adansonia digitata’ (digitata baobab) in Sakalava due to the resemblance of their flowers with white petals and brush-like stamens with numerous pink and white filaments. A few cases show plant names turned into common substantives; *kanangaCanangium odoratum’ (ylang-ylang) has come to mean ‘luscious’ in the Merina hanana/hananganana, while *pulut ‘Urena lobata’ (hibiscus burr) naturally changed into folotra/folo-polotra ‘low trees, bushes or anything which intercepts the sight’ in Merina.
Key Words:Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Malagasy, Plant name, Baobab, Semantic change, Sanskrit, Loanword

Dialogue in Ethnographies:
The Irreducible in the Transition of SovietEthnography in the Time of Cultural Revolution
Masanori Goto
In this paper, I will examine two different aspects of the dialogism of Mikhail Bakhtin by following the historical transition of Soviet ethnography from the end of the 1920s to the 1930s. It is pointed out that there are two distinct aspects to Bakhtin's dialogism: one is concerned with the epistemological pursuit of language, and the other with the sense of otherness. I will demonstrate that the “polyphonic” nature of the ethnographies written by the Chuvash non-Russian native ethnographers at the end of the 1920s was caused by their keen sense of the limitations of reducing objects to oneness and thus “objectifying” their own culture. At the same time, the ethnographies written along the official lines for ethnographic reform under the Soviet regime were found to be those that excluded “otherness” from objects, regardless of their recognition, to a great extent, of the efficacy of the concept of “hybridity”. After examining how these quite distinct types of ethnography are connected with each aspect of Bakhtin's theory, I will suggest that it is indispensable to be aware of the difference between the two irreducible aspects in order to maintain dialogue in ethnographies.
Key Words:ethnography, Soviet Russia, Bakhtin, dialogue, hybridity