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 Post subject: Big ponnuki
Post #1 Posted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:33 am 
Oza

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I just came across this in a commentary by Yasunaga Hajime. He said the ponnuki capture at A by White was horrible for Black.

I have spent fruitless years trying to convince people that ponnuki is not a shape. It is a capture (nuki) made with a sort of kerpow (pon) feeling. It conveys a feeling that clarity has come to a game, as if the clouds have suddenly parted.

It is sometimes even written as pon to nuku. The number of stones captured is not fixed. But ponnuki captures larger than one stone, while not like hen's teeth, are uncommon enough to take special notice of. I've seen bigger than this one but can't remember the biggest.

In our dance classes we often have cases where the instructor says things like, "take hands by the left" and sometimes several people will stick out their right hands, to which the instructor patiently responds, "no the other left".

I suppose I'll have to learn to accept the "other ponnuki". But sticking with the English ponnuki is just another way of sticking with the western obsession with shape, which I happen to believe that (along with invasions) is the biggest way western go has hobbled itself. I've always been struck by the fact that Japanese talk much less about shape than we do (they prefer dynamic suji over static katachi), then, when the Koreans dazzled the world, the idea of mostly dynamic haengma took over. Now I've been even more struck over recent lockdown weeks by the fact that the old Chinese masters do not use shape as a concept at all. They are totally dynamic - a style commonly but erroneously labelled as all-out fighting. The example above came from a commentary by Yasunaga on an 18th century Chinese game, which he put under a heading "Amazingly accurate reading: Cheng Lanru versus Xu Xingyou". He gushes over Cheng's moves, but mainly his strategy, not his tactics. Interestingly that strategy was based on a much earlier "English ponnuki" of one stone. But it was good because it was dynamic: it forced Black to answer locally, then in an adjacent group, so that White could turn to yet another group on the other side, which led to an attack on an ajcent group there, all in what Yasunaga called a "swastika" strategy (we might say "windmill").

Now let's get on to tomahtoes...

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 Post subject: Re: Big ponnuki
Post #2 Posted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 11:58 am 
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Words don't so much enter a foreign language as are hijacked by it. There'll always be a connection between the two but for all intents and purposes as soon as a word becomes accepted by a foreign language, it starts a new life independent of its origins. Whether you're bothered by this or not brings to light whether you're a descriptivist or a prescriptivist.

That said, I don't see "ponnuki" as merely a shape. For me, it's a shape that results from capturing a stone. If it didn't result from a captured stone, then it's not a (proper) ponnuki. So, at worst, it's a static result of a dynamic action. As for the number of stones that can be captured for it to still be called ponnuki, I admit that I immediately think of a single stone. The more stones are added the less it feels like a ponnuki to me.

Again, this is just my understanding of the term. Other players might see it differently, which brings me to the prototype theory and the idea of a prototypical example of a concept. For instance, I'm probably not too far off the mark if I say that most people's prototypical idea of a chair is one with four legs and a backrest, possibly a simple wooden chair. A three-legged stool or a car seat, on the other hand, have less "chairness" and are closer to the fuzzy boarder of this concept. My understanding of a prototypical ponnuki would then be a: strong shape [that resulted from a capture of] [a single stone]. For a non-prototypical idea of a ponnuki, the contents of the two square brackets are negotiable. Also included in my broader idea of the term is the fact that a ponnuki does indeed resolve a position and that this shape has an inherent strength that can be used for attack or to gain an advantage in some other way. So, for me, it is a somewhat dynamic concept.

One problem here is that the English go term "shape" is very vague. If you asked a hundred go players what it means you just might get a hundred different answers. Let's say you place a keima or a one-space jump on an empty board then those just might be shapes in its purest form and they are indeed static. On the other hand, we use keimas in games to attack groups and to enclose corners just as we use the one-space jump to well... jump, escape or to take the opponent's base. I understand haengma as shape in action or shape that has a specific function and while we don't have an equivalent concept in English, we certainly use shape in dynamic ways as well as for specific purposes in our games and that's also reflected in the language we use when we speak about shape. I don't understand any of the Asian languages so I may be missing something but to me it just seems that the West perhaps has a more diffuse and covert understanding of the dynamic aspects of shape while certain Asian nations have a more concrete and overt understanding. I do, however, agree that a more overt understanding along with new concepts and theories would only benefit us.


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 Post subject: Re: Big ponnuki
Post #3 Posted: Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:02 am 
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schrody wrote:
Words don't so much enter a foreign language as are hijacked by it. There'll always be a connection between the two but for all intents and purposes as soon as a word becomes accepted by a foreign language, it starts a new life independent of its origins. Whether you're bothered by this or not brings to light whether you're a descriptivist or a prescriptivist.


Not to put words into John's mouth, but I believe that he is being unabashedy prescriptivist here. An authority, Yasunaga Hajime, refers to the capture at A, above, which is plainly good for White, as a ponnuki. John sees value in Yasunaga's usage, which has not been adopted in the West.

Where I beg to differ with John in these cases is that he often leaves the impression that the problem lies in poor translation. That is partly the case here.

schrody wrote:
That said, I don't see "ponnuki" as merely a shape. For me, it's a shape that results from capturing a stone. If it didn't result from a captured stone, then it's not a (proper) ponnuki. So, at worst, it's a static result of a dynamic action. As for the number of stones that can be captured for it to still be called ponnuki, I admit that I immediately think of a single stone. The more stones are added the less it feels like a ponnuki to me.


John Fairbairn wrote:
I have spent fruitless years trying to convince people that ponnuki is not a shape. It is a capture (nuki) made with a sort of kerpow (pon) feeling. It conveys a feeling that clarity has come to a game, as if the clouds have suddenly parted.


Ponnuki is not a shape, it is a capture. Go terminology, like all language, evolves. Usage today is not what it was 100 years ago. I have not ever seen Yasunaga's usage in modern writing. Today's usage is reflected here: https://www.ntkr.co.jp/igoyogo/yogo_901.html The site says that capturing a single stone with four stones is ponnuki, showing a capture in the center, while capturing a single stone with 8 stones is not. That usage is clearly the one in the proverb, Ponnuki is worth 30 points, which antedates Yasunaga. Another site, https://www.godictionary.net/term/ponnuki.html , talks of cleanly capturing one stone, but shows only the four stone shape. That page links to one about the tortoise shell, which it calls a shape, instead of a capture. To me, this suggests that there are a number of Japanese amateurs who think of ponnuki as a shape.

Unfortunately, other sites that I found last night, in contradistinction to those from some years ago about go terminology, link to the go terminology page of the Japanese wikipedia. Of the terms on that page, only one does not have its own wikipedia page, and that is ponnuki. Instead, ponnuki is defined on that page, and completely wrongly. It says that ponnuki is the capture of a single stone, and it also says that it is the resulting shape. :shock: :evil:

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 Post subject: Re: Big ponnuki
Post #4 Posted: Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:47 am 
Oza

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Bill

I think it is always a bit of a cop-out to say language evolves. It might be more accurate to say it mutates, and some mutations are "variants of investigation" (like 'cool' and 'wicked'))and some are "variants of concern" (or downright concern - such as the "?evolution" of the word 'inflammable'.)

It seems wisest to start from the standpoint that words have a purpose, not a right to life and thus a free pass to evolve as they like. That purpose is to communicate information from one person to many others, and the maximum amount of accurate information should be conveyed. Even in what seems utterly trivial cases, that principle can be usefully applied. For example, the word 'vaccine' has become, shall we say, pandemic. But many people seem confused over where the stress is. Even our prime minister pronounced it VACCine and vaccine in the same sentence, but many other people, even medical people for whom the word is routine, seem unsure how to say it. My guess is that all these well educated people do know how to pronounce it but are trying to say it they way they think the yobs say it so that they can get the 'get a jab' message over better. But beyond that hypothesis, does it matter? Not really , but knowing the root is to do with cows and cowpox [u]is[/u] useful, and knowing that, I would suggest, would lead to put the stress on the cow or la vache qui rit..

As to being prescriptivist, in the sense I assume you mean I am not. My stance is to make recommendations about how to think about a word, and those recommendations are based on what I think is valuable. In the case of ponnuki, long experience has taught me that very many people think of it first and foremost as a shape. There are many people who even call it a 'diamond shape'. The problem there, as I see it, is that that accentuates the deleterious tendency to play go in terms of shape. There are players who make such pretty shapes and think they have won the game. It is easy to laugh that off as a beginner's syndrome, and it is true that it is more prevalent among beginners, but I have seen it even among amateur dans.

A more insidious problem is among those who pay too much heed to the numbers in 'a ponnuki is worth 30 points' and a 'turtle-shell is worth 60 points'. I have come across people who try to work out where the 30/60 points come from. I have even seen people arguing that a ponnuki without a capture (impossible!) is worth 29 points. Again, it is easy to dismiss this as sign of inexperience in the game and it will soon wear off. But reality is that it helps fix an obsession with numbers that does not wear off.

If it is unwise to think in terms of shape or size for ponnukis, what does the wise man do? My analysis on the road to understanding is as follows. The key part of the word is 'pon'. We can infer this from the intended dramatic effect of using any onomatopoeia. But also we can note that some Japanese like to differentiate between the capture of a single stone and capture of several by reserving ponnuku for the former and pon to toru for the latter (i.e. pon is the only constant element; but others don't bother with the distinction, and the biggest ponnuki I have seen referred to as such by a Japanese pro is 9 stones). There is also the double ponnuki described as pon pon nuki. In other words, pon is the main element. If I were a true prescriptivist I would be telling people to say "kerpow capture." I don't. But I do urge people to think about the word in such terms, as a way of getting a more accurate sense of what the purpose of the communication made by the speaker actually was - not what you think it should be or could be.

In the case of ponnuki, if you think of it as a kerpow moment, the parting of the Red Sea, the dawn sun burning off the mist or whatever, you suddenly know what the commentator who mentions it is really telling you. He is saying that this is a big, strategically decisive moment in the game. By extension, if a capture is not so mentioned, it may still make a pretty shape but he is, by inference, telling you that that capture is not strategically significant. This is useful information. Instead of saying to yourself in a game, "I can capture a stone - it makes a pretty diamond shape, so must be good, and is worth 30 points even if I can't see how" you can say, "Is that a kerpow capture?" That change of emphasis seems important to me. It is always such change in thinking I am recommending, and usually not a particular word.


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 Post subject: Re: Big ponnuki
Post #5 Posted: Thu Apr 22, 2021 8:17 am 
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So, what's the definition of a ponnuki? Because if a word is used to convey precise information, it should have a precise meaning.

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 Post subject: Re: Big ponnuki
Post #6 Posted: Tue May 11, 2021 10:35 am 
Oza

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I suspect part of the issue with translations like this is that Japanese tends to be a high-context language/culture while English is generally a low context one. That is to say, in English things are generally spelled out quite explicitly while in Japanese there is a higher level of inference and context-dependent understanding that occurs when communicating.

Trying to map a word from one context to the other can lead to a lot of imprecision or over-exact specification compared to the language it is coming from because of the different expected listening environment. When a word is used in Japanese for a situation, it probably has a much wider set of meanings that could be applied, of which the context (both go and the specific situation) inform how it is to be interpreted, while this is less the case in English. In addition, many of the words used in go in Japan have non-go meanings that inform how listeners view them, but it's unreasonable to expect this to be the case when the word is imported into English as technical vocabulary with no outside context.

To take a different example, I expect that most English speakers don't think much about the fact that chef and chief both were borrowed from the same French word at different times in history. When you talk about the chef in a restaurant in french, it's clear he's the head of the kitchen or entire restaurant, and not just someone who cooks. On the other hand, chef is clearly an English word now, and it's unreasonable to apply standards to it based on an entirely different language that doesn't match with the way it is used in English. If you disagree, please let me know how often you talk about things like tribal chefs, or the chef of state of a country, and how well your language use is received.

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