Defining the Verbs for “Understanding and Interpretation” of Japanese Sake

Defining the Verbs for “Understanding and Interpretation” of Japanese Sake

Hiroki Fukushima (Kyushu Women's University, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4864-6.ch004


In this chapter, the author attempts to define the verbs in the description of Japanese sake taste by employing 1) a usage-based approach, 2) “encyclopedic semantics” rather than a “dictionary view,” and 3) sense-making theory, drawing on data from a “sake tasting description corpus” (approximately 120,000 words). The chapter selects eight verbs of high frequency (e.g., hirogaru ‘spread') and defines their sense(s) in a bottom-up and abductive fashion, based on a score indicating the strength of co-occurrence between terms. In this study, the authors deal with the verbs for “Understanding” or “Interpretation ”; it means, verbs that contribute to narrating the personal, individual story (contents) of the tasters. This study suggests the verbs for understanding have senses related to [Timeline] and [Space]. On the other hand, verbs do not tend to collocate with [Movement] and interestingly, the [Structure], as same as the tendency of adjectival-nouns.
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In this study, the author attempts to give encyclopaedic definitions to the verbs in a Sake corpus based on Sake tasting related terminology. This study is in a series of Sake terminology studies. In the previous study (Fukushima 2020b), the author tried to give encycropaedic definitions to adjectives and adjectival-nouns. In this terminology series, the author emphasizes the importance of predicates (verbs, adjectives, and adjectival nouns). They are the starting point of our cognition of taste or flavor as an “event”.

As is often the case with wine sommeliers, the expression or description in Sake tasting tends to be regarded as a reductional 'flavor-finding' process. However, in this study series, the author respect Sake tasting expressions as the fruits of the dynamic event construction and sense-making process.

There are some Japanese linguistic studies on Sake taste terms (e.g., (Matsuura, 1992; Otsuka, Suwa, & Yamaguchi, 2015; Utsunomiya, Isogai, Iwata, & Nakano, 2006), but the investigation is in its infancy, largely because of the historical context of the Sake brewing industry.

As the flavors of Sake have expanded, more expressions have been required. However, the study of the development of verbal expressions for Sake has been neglected. Technical terms for brewing and descriptive terms used to indicate some of the off-flavors of a Sake are emphasized, leaving terms to describe appealing flavors unstudied. In response, Fukushima (2014) compiled a small encyclopedia listing Sake taste words. Considered epoch-making in the Sake industry,1 this work has inspired other work, leading to the development of a method of defining Sake taste terms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

SAKE: Sake (Japanese Sake , also spelled saké ) is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from rice, commonly referred to as Japanese rice wine. For more information, see Appendix 1.

Sense-Making Theory: A semantic theory advocated by Fukaya and Tanaka ( Fukaya & Tanaka 1996 ; Tanaka & Fukaya, 1998 ). Fukaya and Tanaka claim that the sense of a single word cannot be determined a priori; rather, the sense is cooperatively “made” during the ongoing communication process.

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