The Ainu language: the morphology and syntax of the Shizunai dialect

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The Japanese government, in an attempt to unify their country to keep out invasion, created policy for the assimilation of the Ainu diversity, culture, and subsistence. More recently, the Japanese government has acknowledged the Ainu people as an indigenous population. In general, Ainu people are hard to find because they tend to hide their identity as Ainu. Despite this, there is an active movement to revitalize the language, mainly in Hokkaido but also elsewhere such as Kanto.

The Ainu Language: The Morphology and Syntax of the Shizunai Dialect

Due to the Ainu Cultural Promotion Act of , Ainu dictionaries transformed and became tools for improving communication and preserving records of the Ainu language in order to revitalize the language and promote the culture. Ainu language classes have been conducted in some areas in Japan and small numbers of young people are learning Ainu. Efforts have also been made to produce web-accessible materials for conversational Ainu because most documentation of the Ainu language focused on the recording of folktales.

On 15 February , Japan approved a bill to recognise the Ainu Language for the first time. Thus, it is a language isolate. Ainu is sometimes grouped with the Paleosiberian languages , but this is only a geographic blanket term for several unrelated language families that were present in Siberia before the advances of Turkic and Tungusic languages there. The most frequent proposals for relatives of Ainu are given below.

John C. Street proposed linking Ainu, Korean , and Japanese in one family and Turkic , Mongolic , and Tungusic in another, with the two families linked in a common "North Asiatic" family. Street's grouping was an extension of the Altaic hypothesis, which at the time linked Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic, sometimes adding Korean; today Altaic sometimes includes Korean and rarely Japanese but not Ainu Georg et al.

From a perspective more centered on Ainu, James Patrie adopted the same grouping, namely Ainu—Korean—Japanese and Turkic—Mongolic—Tungusic, with these two families linked in a common family, as in Street's "North Asiatic". Joseph Greenberg — likewise classified Ainu with Korean and Japanese. He regarded "Korean—Japanese-Ainu" as forming a branch of his proposed Eurasiatic language family.

Greenberg did not hold Korean—Japanese—Ainu to have an especially close relationship with Turkic—Mongolic—Tungusic within this family. The theory is now seen as discredited. Shafer presented evidence suggesting a distant connection with the Austroasiatic languages , which include many of the indigenous languages of Southeast Asia. Vovin presented his reconstruction of Proto-Ainu with evidence, in the form of proposed sound changes and cognates, of a relationship with Austroasiatic.

In Vovin , he still regarded this hypothesis as preliminary. A analysis using the Automated Similarity Judgment Program resulted in the Japonic languages being grouped with the Ainu and then with the Austroasiatic languages.

Numerous linguists have argued for a relationship between Ainu and several Native American languages. A linguistic research in the year proposed a genetic relation of Ainu to Native American languages. In , the linguist Anna Bugaeva , an associate professor of linguistics at the Tokyo University of Science , and one of the few specialists in the Ainu language, says that the grammar system, phonological elements and syntax of the Ainu language is closest to languages of Native Americans on the western coast of North America.

She claims that Ainu is closest to the Athabaskan languages. The Ainu appear to have experienced intensive contact with the Nivkhs during the course of their history. It is not known to what extent this has affected the language. Linguists believe the vocabulary shared between Ainu and Nivkh historically spoken in the northern half of Sakhalin and on the Asian mainland facing it is due to borrowing. The Ainu came into extensive contact with the Japanese in 14th century. Analytic grammatical constructions acquired or transformed in Ainu were probably due to contact with the Japanese language.

A large number of Japanese loanwords were borrowed into Ainu and to a smaller extent vice versa. Due to the low status of Ainu in Japan, many ancient loanwords may be ignored or undetected, but there is evidence of an older substrate, where older Japanese words which have no clear etymology appear related to Ainu words which do. An example is modern Japanese sake or shake meaning "salmon", probably from Ainu sak ipe or shak embe for "salmon", literally "summer food".


  1. Conlangery 139: Ainu (natlang).
  2. Conlangery 139: Ainu (natlang).
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  4. Catalog Record: The Ainu language : the morphology and syntax | HathiTrust Digital Library.
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Several linguists suggest a relation between Ainu and Indo-European languages , based on shared vocabulary, proposed cognate s and grammatical similarities. The theory of a Indo-European—Ainu relation was popular until , later linguists did not follow the theory anymore and concentrated on more local language families. Until the 20th century, Ainu language was also spoken throughout the southern half of the island of Sakhalin and by small numbers of people in the Kuril Islands.

Only the Hokkaido variant survives, in three main dialects, [21] the last speaker of Sakhalin Ainu having died in Hokkaido Ainu is moribund , though attempts are being made to revive it. The Japanese government made a decision to recognize Ainu as indigenous in June As of there are approximately 30, Ainu people in Japan, [19] though that number is uncertain because not all ethnic Ainu speakers report themselves as such. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Please see the relevant discussion.

The page should not be moved unless the discussion is closed ; summarizing the consensus achieved in support of the move. Languages spoken by Ainu ethnic groups in Hokkaido, Kuril and Sakhalin. Language family.

Ainu languages

Language isolate or one of the world's primary language families. Writing system. Historically attested range of the Ainu solid red and suspected former range pink based on toponymic evidence red dots [Vovin ], Matagi villages purple dots , and Japanese isoglosses. In the middle of a polysyllabic word, it is a final consonant preceding the initial with a same value e. Unlike Japanese, it does not become other sounds such as nasal vowels.

Final h exists in Sakhalin dialect only. Glottolog 3.

Majewicz Trends in Linguistics Series. Walter de Gruyter. Retrieved Japan encyclopedia. Harvard University Press.

Glottolog - Ainu

The living past 4 ed. Retrieved 23 April In a young and industrious theologian went to visit the Ainu. His name was John Batchelor, and he was a scientist and missionary. He got to know the Ainu well, studied their language and customs, won their affection, and remained their staunch friend until the end of his days.

ISBN 13: 9788772880204

Why Japan was strong 4 ed. John Batchelor set about to learn the Ainu language, which the Japanese had not troubled ever to learn. He laboriously compiled an Ainu dictionary. He singlehandedly turned this hitherto but spoken tongue into a written language, and himself wrote books in it. New Science Press. Collected works , vol. Acta Borealia. Japanese Studies. Intercultural Education. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics 32 1 : pp.


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    Refsing 1986

    Media and Communication Studies. Heritage Language Journal. Archived from the original on Japan Times Online. Retrieved 29 March Sufficient criteria have not been given that would justify talking of a genetic relationship here. Published online before print September 24, The Asahi Shimbun. The Languages of Japan and Korea. He was the first to write in Ainu and use a writing system for it.

    Other books written in Ainu include dictionaries, a grammar, and books on Ainu culture and language. A Unicode standard exists for a set of extended katakana Katakana Phonetic Extensions for transliterating the Ainu language and other languages written with katakana. The extended katakana are based on regular katakana and either are smaller in size or have a handakuten. This is a list of special katakana used in transcribing the Ainu language.

    Most of the characters are of the extended set of katakana, though a few have been used historically in Japanese [ citation needed ] , and thus are part of the main set of katakana. A number of previously proposed characters have not been added to Unicode as they can be represented as a sequence of two existing codepoints. Example with initial k :.

    Since the above rule is used systematically, some katakana combinations have different sounds from conventional Japanese. The Ainu have a rich oral tradition of hero-sagas called yukar , which retain a number of grammatical and lexical archaisms. Yukar was memorized and told at get-togethers and ceremonies that often lasted hours or even days. The Ainu also have another form of narrative often used called " Uepeker ", which was used in the same contexts.

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    It is often reported that Ainu was the language of the indigenous Emishi people of the northern part of the main Japanese island of Honshu. Under pressure from the Japanese conquest, some Emishi migrated north to Tohoku and Hokkaido. The historical Ainu of southern Hokkaido appear to be a fusion of this culture, known archeologically as Satsumon , and the very different Nivkh - and Itelmen -like Okhotsk culture of northern Hokkaido, with Satsumon being dominant.