- Ainu language
nativename= _ai. アイヌ イタク "Aynu itak"
Hokkaidō; formerly also southern Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula(disputed), and the Tōhoku Regionin Honshū(disputed)
speakers=near-extinct, 15 speakers in Japan were known in 1991 [SIL Ethnologue, 15th edition (2005)]
Unclassified language; various opinions; often classed as language isolate
iso2=ain [cite web | title=ISO 639-2/RA Change Notice - Codes for the representation of names of languages (Library of Congress) | url=http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/codechanges.html | accessmonthday=15 November | accessyear=2005 ] |iso3=ain
Until the twentieth century, Ainu was also spoken throughout the southern half of the island of
Sakhalinand by small numbers of people in the Kuril Islands.
It is often reported that Ainu was the language of the indigenous
Emishipeople of the northern part of the main Japanese island of Honshu, and that it was also spoken on the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The main evidence for this is the presence of placenames that appear to be of Ainu origin in both locations. For example, the "-betu" common to many northern Japanese place names is believed to derive from the Ainu word "pet" "river". [Miller 1967:239.] [Shibatani 1990:3.]
Relation to other languages: different theses
Ainu has no generally accepted genealogical relationship to any other language. The most frequent proposals for relatives of Ainu are given below. None have received wide acceptance
as of 2008.
A language isolate
Ainu is a
language isolate, that is, a language that has no demonstrable relationship to any other language or language family.
It is sometimes grouped with the
Paleosiberian languages, but this is merely a blanket term for several unrelated language families that were present in Siberia prior to the advances of Turkic and Tungusic languagesthere. The "Paleosiberian" languages do not form a language family, that is, a group of languages descended from a common ancestral language.
A relationship to Japanese and Korean
John C. StreetStreet, John C. (1962). Review of N. Poppe, "Vergleichende Grammatik der altaischen Sprachen", Teil I (1960). Language 38, 92–98.] (1962) 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 in its more common form links Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic, often adding Korean and fairly often Japanese (see Altaic languages).
From a perspective more centered on Ainu,
James PatriePatrie, James (1982). "The Genetic Relationship of the Ainu Language". Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii. ISBN 0-8248-0724-3.] (1982) 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 GreenbergGreenberg, Joseph H. (2000-2002). "Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives". Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3812-2, ISBN 0-8047-4624-9.] (2000-2002) likewise classed Ainu with Korean and Japanese (or more precisely "Japanese-Ryukyuan"). He regarded "Korean-Japanese-Ainu" as forming a distinct subgroup within his proposed Eurasiatic language family. He did not hold Korean-Japanese-Ainu to have an especially close relationship with Turkic-Mongolic-Tungusic within this family, partially contradicting the theses of Street and Patrie.
A distant relationship to Austro-Asiatic
Alexander VovinVovin, Alexander (1993). "A Reconstruction of Proto-Ainu". Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-09905-0.] (1993) presented evidence suggesting a distant connection with the Austro-Asiatic languages, which include many of the languages of Southeast Asia, with outliers in India. He regarded this hypothesis as preliminary.
A link to Austronesian
The eminent Japanese linguist
Shichirō Murayamatried to link Ainu to the Austronesian languages, which include the languages of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Polynesia, through both vocabularyand cultural comparisons, and in recent years this approach has been further developedfact|date = September 2008.
A member of the Austric macrofamily
Some linguists believe that Austro-Asiatic and Austronesian are linked in a larger family, called Austric.
John Bengtson[Bengtson, John D. (2006). "A multilateral look at Greater Austric." Mother Tongue (Journal) 11, 219–258.] (2006) has suggested that Ainu is an Austric language.
Two broad categories
These various proposals for classifying Ainu fall into two broad categories: proposals that group Ainu with other languages of northern Eurasia and proposals that group Ainu with languages of the more southern Pacific.
Interaction with other languages
The Ainu appear to have experienced intensive contact with the
Nivkhsduring the course of their history. It is not known to what extent this has affected the language. Some linguists believe the shared vocabulary between Ainu and Nivkh (spoken in the northern half of Sakhalinand on the Asian mainland facing it) is due to borrowing.
There are also
loanwords from both Ainu to Japanese and Japanese to Ainu.
Ainu is a moribund language, and has been endangered for at least the past few decades. Most of the 150,000 ethnic Ainu in Japan speak only Japanese. In the town of
Nibutani(part of Biratori, Hokkaidō) where many of the remaining native speakers live, there are 100 speakers, out of which only 15 used the language every day in the late 1980s. The number of speakers today (by whatever definition one may use) is not known with any certainty. In all of Hokkaidō, it is estimated that there are perhaps 1,000 native speakers, almost all older than 30.Fact|date=February 2007 Among Ainu speakers (broadly defined), second-language learners presently outnumber native ones.
However, use of the language is on the rise. There is currently an active movement to revitalize the language — mainly in Hokkaidō but also elsewhere — to reverse the centuries-long decline in the number of speakers. This has led to an increasing number of second-language learners, especially in Hokkaidō, in large part due to the pioneering efforts of the late Ainu folklorist, activist and former Diet member
Shigeru Kayano, himself a native speaker.
syllables are CV(C) (that is, they have an obligatory syllable onsetand an optional syllable coda) and there are few consonant clusters.
There are five
There are long vowels in Sakhalin dialect. Either
circumflexor macronis used in Latin, long vowel sign (ー) is used in katakana.
Example with initial "k":
The Ainu have rich oral tradition of hero-sagas called
Yukar, which retain a number of grammatical and lexical archaisms.
List of Ainu terms
References and further reading
* Bengtson, John D. (2006). "A multilateral look at Greater Austric." "Mother Tongue (Journal)" 11, 219–258.
* cite book | author=Greenberg, Joseph H. | title=Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives | publisher=Stanford University Press | location=Stanford | year=2000-2002 |id=ISBN 0-8047-3812-2, ISBN 0-8047-4624-9
* Street, John C. (1962). Review of N. Poppe, "Vergleichende Grammatik der altaischen Sprachen", Teil I (1960). "Language" 38, 92–98.
* [http://jinbunweb.sgu.ac.jp/~ainu/biblio/european.html#AinuLib1 Literature and materials for learning Ainu]
* [http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Japan/ainu.htm The "Book of Common Prayer" in Ainu]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ain Ethnologue entry for Ainu]
* [http://www.rosettaproject.org/archive/language-isolate/asia/ain/view?searchterm=Ainu Information at the Rosetta Project]
* [http://city.hokkai.or.jp/~ayaedu/ Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Ainu] in
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A17278257 "A Grammar of the Ainu Language"] by John Batchelor
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC25339975&id=Cd0hAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage "An Ainu-English-Japanese Dictionary", including "A Grammar of the Ainu Language"] by John Batchelor
* [http://jdbengt.net/articles/Austric.pdf "The 'Greater Austric' hypothesis"] by John Bengtson (undated)
* [http://www.unilang.org/course.php?res=58 "Ainu for Beginners"] by Kane Kumagai, translated by Yongdeok Cho
*jp icon [http://www.stv.ne.jp/radio/ainugo/index.html Radio lessons on Ainu language presented by Sapporo TV]
*jp icon [http://www.geocities.co.jp/HeartLand-Gaien/6362/aynu.htm Ainu word list]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.