What Planet is This?

10 Aug 2005

Kigo and Gismu

Kigo is the name of the season word in haiku. It seems that more people know that haiku ought to have a word indicating the season than know what that word is called. There are, indeed, dictionary-like books listing kigo (it's an autoplural) called saijiki, which is pronounced sigh-gee-key. Because seasonal influences differ from region to region, even across an island the size of Japan, saijiki come in regional variants. Whether or not a word is a kigo therefore depends on where you use it.

Gismu is the name given to the basic words of the invented logical language called Lojban. They all follow the format CCVCV or CVCCV, where C is a consonant and V a vowel, and there are some heavy restrictions on which kinds of consonant pairs are allowed. There are some gismu lists, which also serve provide the argument structure for the word. Note that words in Lojban are automatically derived from a number of input languages. The "i" and "m" in gismu come from the English word "primitive".

Of course there are gismu which are also kigo. One of the first that I found is in the second of a group of haiku by Jorge Llambías:

selmorji ba'a
mi le crisa ca le nu
ru'u mi snime

Roughly translated, this means "full expectation / I remember lost summers / around me, the snow". You can even listen to a recording of it being spoken out. The kigo gismu in this haiku is "snime", meaning snow, setting it as being in winter. It's pronounced somewhat like snee-may, only with purer vowels. Though the middle line of haiku refers to the summertime as well, note that it's not the present tense season of the poem.

If the author is from the southern hemisphere (yes, people do live there notwithstanding the clamour of the kookaburras), snime would still be the kigo and the poem would mean the same thing. As one Australian Kigo page explains, it's the occurence of the seasons that's inverted, not their nature. So summer is still hot and winter still cold, but January is in summer and July is in winter.

Cite: Palmer, S.B. (2005). "Kigo and Gismu", in: What Planet is This?
Archival URI: http://inamidst.com/notes/kigogismu


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The author is indeed from the Southern Hemisphere, namely "the Argentyne", which is why his surname Lojbanizes as "cambi,IAs" in accordance with the local pronunciation of Spanish "ll".

John Cowan, Wed Aug 10 08:32:24 2005


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