Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/145

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On the Interjectional and Imitative Elements.

or Interjections proper, Imitations of natural sounds, and cries of calling and driving away.[1]

Beginning then with Interjections, which are words or "parts of speech used to express some passion or emotion of the mind," we find the Chinese using these on all kinds of occasions. Some of them are to be heard now in nearly every part of the empire, while others do not travel beyond certain limited districts. Few of these exclamations can be written out in letters so as to give a fair idea of the way in which they are uttered, for they are made up not only of vowels and consonants but also of tone, emphasis, and other elements. The characters used to represent them in writing, moreover, are not constant, and in most cases little importance should be attached to the characters employed. As these ejaculations are in many cases well known, we need not do more here than merely notice a few.

One that may be heard every day is the ai-ya of Mandarin, with its variations oi-ya and hai-ya. This is an exclamation of surprise, or pain, or admiration, according to the circumstances in which it is used, and sometimes, when uttered slowly, it is expressive of great suffering. It may also be used as a noun or verb, as when it is said of a man that he ai-ya-liao, that is, shouted ai-ya, literally ai-ya-ed. We sometimes find this exclamation heading the burden of pathetic and other songs. Thus we have Ai-ya-i-hu-hai (printed 哎呀𠲔呼唊) which makes the sad refrain of a song in which a disconsolate wife mourns the departure of her husband on a fighting expedition. So also wa or wa-wa is a very common exclamation of surprise or delight or great distress. It also forms part of the refrain of some melancholy songs, as in the Wa-hu-i-wa-hu (printed 哇呼一哇呼) of the pitiful "Ten Flowers." The character used to represent the sound wa has several other uses which seem to be mainly imitative in origin.

It also stands for other sounds, such as wo, ho, and it is of very old

  1. Farrar's "Language and Languages," p. 74; Endlicher's Ch. Gr., S. 350. For much information and guidance in connection with the subject of this chapter the author is much indebted to the two works here quoted, to Lect. xiii. of Prof. Marsh's Lect. on the Eng. Lang., and to Tylor's "Primitive Culture," vol. i., chaps. v. and vi.