The present paper aims to analyse the influence Sanskrit studies exerted on Japanese Buddhist scholars in their attempts to identify the category of grammatical gender in Japanese. After a short review of the first Chinese and Japanese accounts of Sanskrit morphology, the interpretation of the monk Sengaku (13th cent.) will be considered, with a special focus on the formal and semantic criteria he used in assigning “genders” to Japanese nouns. Building on the model of the Sanskrit nominal declension, he analyses a set of Japanese nouns that show an alternation in the terminal vowel, while preserving the semantic value (like ama/ame ‘heaven’): he considers “masculine” the -a variant, while “feminine” all the other variants. On specific occasions he is also guided by a purely semantic criterion, i.e. the sex of the referent. Later Japanese grammarians adopted a very similar formal perspective, which generally revealed an imperfect knowledge of Sanskrit. It is also claimed that another criterion that was taken into consideration by the Japanese monks dealing with Sanskrit and Japanese grammars was rooted in some esoteric Buddhist theories that considered “masculine” and “feminine” different syllables of siddham, the sacred alphabet of the Buddhist scriptures.

Buddhist Sanskrit and the invention of "gender" by pre-modern Japanese grammarians / D'Antonio, Corinne. - In: INDOEVROPEJSKOE AZYKOZNANIE I KLASSICESKAA FILOLOGIA. - ISSN 2306-9015. - XXV(2021), pp. 253-263. [10.30842/ielcp230690152515]

Buddhist Sanskrit and the invention of "gender" by pre-modern Japanese grammarians

Corinne D'Antonio
Primo
2021

Abstract

The present paper aims to analyse the influence Sanskrit studies exerted on Japanese Buddhist scholars in their attempts to identify the category of grammatical gender in Japanese. After a short review of the first Chinese and Japanese accounts of Sanskrit morphology, the interpretation of the monk Sengaku (13th cent.) will be considered, with a special focus on the formal and semantic criteria he used in assigning “genders” to Japanese nouns. Building on the model of the Sanskrit nominal declension, he analyses a set of Japanese nouns that show an alternation in the terminal vowel, while preserving the semantic value (like ama/ame ‘heaven’): he considers “masculine” the -a variant, while “feminine” all the other variants. On specific occasions he is also guided by a purely semantic criterion, i.e. the sex of the referent. Later Japanese grammarians adopted a very similar formal perspective, which generally revealed an imperfect knowledge of Sanskrit. It is also claimed that another criterion that was taken into consideration by the Japanese monks dealing with Sanskrit and Japanese grammars was rooted in some esoteric Buddhist theories that considered “masculine” and “feminine” different syllables of siddham, the sacred alphabet of the Buddhist scriptures.
Sanskrit grammar; Japanese grammar; gender; Buddhism
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Buddhist Sanskrit and the invention of "gender" by pre-modern Japanese grammarians / D'Antonio, Corinne. - In: INDOEVROPEJSKOE AZYKOZNANIE I KLASSICESKAA FILOLOGIA. - ISSN 2306-9015. - XXV(2021), pp. 253-263. [10.30842/ielcp230690152515]
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11573/1553995
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