THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD 'BONZE' AND WHAT SURROUNDS IT IN THE HISTORY OF JAPANESE
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The word stocks of most European languages include a word meaning 'Buddhist priest' that is regarded as a direct or indirect borrowing from Portuguese (Spanish, Italian) 'bonzo'. The lexeme has been adopted into Hungarian in the form 'bonc'. With respect to its etymology, several views have been put forward in the relevant dictionaries. Potential sources include the following Japanese words: 'bonzo ~ bonso' (a common priest, an ignorant priest), 'bonso' (a Buddhist priest, an Indian priest), and 'bozu' (a Buddhist priest). Although semantically it is the third item - having several other meanings as well - that comes closest to Portuguese 'bonzo', in terms of their form, the first, and perhaps even the second, items could also be taken into consideration. However, the first two words have been rather infrequent in comparison with the third - that was originally coined in Japan, rather than in China - ever since the 17th century. This word, involving a long nuclear -o-, is included in a monumental Japanese-Portuguese dictionary (1603) in the form 'Bozu' as a headword, following the Portuguese-style transcription of the day, but in the Portuguese definitions, it occurs several times as 'Bonzo (Bozo)'. On the basis of the Portuguese spelling, it cannot be determined which of the two existing forms of pronunciation 'bonzo' approximates, as both were in use in the 17th century This paper tries to clarify certain issues with respect to the history of this item, with particular emphasis on written documents and the historical phonology of Japanese.
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