The Japanese Pithecanthropus: Interpreting Japanese Unfamiliar Compounds
Takao Suzuki’s Model of Conceptual Combination Through kun-Glossing
With ‘kun-glossing’, I refer to the method of interpreting unfamiliar compounds proposed by Takao Suzuki (1926-2021), a well-known Japanese scholar. Readers assign a semantic gloss to each constituent kanji, combine those meanings into a new, complex concept and attempt to validate the result(s) encyclopedically. In this essay I verify kun-glossing’s processing power by applying it to eleven compounds, beginning with enjin 猿人 (Pithecanthropus). I conclude that this method is only effective in interpreting words that are structured as descriptions, as the neoclassical compounds of science often are, and cannot be considered a universal method to infer the meaning of novel compounds.