Waza waza

waza waza

waza waza, Gomi 1989:193 · © 1989

I came across this lovely Japanese ideophone in my own copy of Gomi’s Illustrated Dictionary, 1 and I’m sharing it waza waza just for you to enjoy.


  1. Gomi, Taro. 1989. An Illustrated Dictionary of Japanese Onomatopoeic Expressions. Transl. by J. Turrent. Tokyo: Japan Times.


  1. Thanks to Mami Maruko of the Japan Times, who unearthed one last copy in the bookclub storehouse even though the title has been out of stock for quite some time![]

4 thoughts on “Waza waza”

  1. Hi Mark,

    Not having worked with heavily ideophonic languages, I’m really impressed by this example. From my naive and uninformed perspective ‘Waza waza’ doesn’t seem like the kind of concept that would normally get expressed by ideophony — but is it really as unusual as it seems to me? My real question, though, is how this element is identified as an ideophone. Is it because it patterns morphosyntactically with elements that are obviously ideophonic?

  2. Hi Lev,

    I can confirm your intuition: this is certainly not the most common kind of concept encoded by ideophones. It is somewhat of an outlier in the dictionary too, but such a nice one that I couldn’t resist posting it.
    And yes, it’s considered an ideophone (Japanese linguists say gitaigo or mimetic) because of its reduplication and its morphosyntactic patterning.

  3. Waza waza can actually be considered an ideophone (on formal grounds), yet we cannot be so sure of its purely mimetic nature. The first thing that comes to mind is an ordinary Japanese lexeme 技 わざ waza, meaning ‘art, technique’, which makes us think whether waza waza is not a kind of mimeticized morpheme (i.e. non-mimetic lexeme adapted to a mimetic subsystem of gitaigos), if you allow such a formulation.

  4. This is quite probable, and I would definitely allow such an analysis. Once a language has the idea of having ideophones, it seems to be very easy to “ideophonize” or “mimeticize” even normal material. Thanks for the input!

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