Ainu language(s) (/ˈn/;[2] Ainu: アイヌ・イタㇰ Aynu=itak; Japanese: アイヌ語 Ainu-go) are a small language family (or a language isolate) originally spoken on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō, the southern half of the island of Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Ainu
Ainuic
EthnicityAinu
Geographic
distribution
Hokkaidō; formerly southern and central Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and possibly northern Honshū
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Proto-languageProto-Ainu
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5ain
Glottologainu1252[1]
Historical expanse of Ainu.png
Historically attested range of the Ainu (solid red) and suspected former range (pink) based on toponymic evidence (red dots) [Vovin 1993], Matagi villages (purple dots), and Japanese isoglosses

It is often supposed that Ainu was the language, or at least one of the languages, of the indigenous Emishi people of the northern part of the main Japanese island of Honshu, a supposition supported by placenames that appear to be of Ainu origin (see Ainu language). The varieties of Ainu are alternately considered a group of closely related languages,[1] or divergent dialects of a single language isolate. The only surviving member is the Hokkaidō Ainu, which is considered critically endangered by UNESCO.

No genealogical relationship between Ainu and any other language family has been demonstrated, despite numerous attempts.

Contents

VarietiesEdit

Shibatani (1990:9) and Piłsudski (1998:2) speak of "Ainu languages" when comparing the varieties of Hokkaidō and Sakhalin. However, Vovin (1993) speaks only of "dialects". Refsing (1986) says Hokkaidō and Sakhalin Ainu were not mutually intelligible. Hattori (1964) considered Ainu data from 19 regions of Hokkaido and Sakhalin, and found the primary division to lie between the two islands.

  • Data on Kuril Ainu is scarce, but it is thought to have been as divergent as Sakhalin and Hokkaidō.
  • In Sakhalin Ainu, an eastern coastal dialect of Taraika (near modern Gastello (Poronaysk)) was quite divergent from the other localities. The Raychishka dialect, on the western coast near modern Uglegorsk, is the best documented, and has a dedicated grammatical description. Take Asai, the last speaker of Sakhalin Ainu, died in 1994.[3] The Sakhalin Ainu dialects had long vowels and a final -h phoneme, which they pronounced as /x/.
  • Hokkaidō Ainu clustered into several dialects with substantial differences between them: the 'neck' of the island (Oshima County, data from Oshamambe and Yakumo); the "Classical" Ainu of central Hokkaidō around Sapporo and the southern coast (Iburi and Hidaka counties, data from Horobetsu, Biratori, Nukkibetsu, and Niikappu; historical records from Ishikari County and Sapporo show that these were similar); Samani (on the southeastern cape in Hidaka, but perhaps closest to the northeastern dialect); the northeast (data from Obihiro, Kushiro, and Bihoro); the north-central dialect (Kamikawa County, data from Asahikawa and Nayoro); and Sōya (on the northwestern cape), which was closest of all Hokkaidō varieties to Sakhalin Ainu. Most texts and grammatical descriptions we have of Ainu cover the Central Hokkaidō dialect.

Scanty data from Western voyages at the turn of the 19th–20th century (Tamura 2000) suggest there was also great diversity in northern Sakhalin, which was not sampled by Hattori.

ClassificationEdit

Vovin (1993) splits Ainu "dialects" as follows (Vovin 1993:157).

External relationshipsEdit

No genealogical relationship between Ainu and any other language family has been demonstrated, despite numerous attempts. 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. Another suggestion is that Nihali and Kusunda are remnants of a northern division, that once extended to Japan. The most frequent proposals for relatives of Ainu are given below.

Alexander Vovin (2016)[4] notes that Ainu has had early contact with the unrelated Nivkh language, and that this contact had most likely happened on Hokkaido island. Today, Nivkh is spoken only on Sakhalin island and at the mouth of the Amur River. Ainu of Sakhalin has more recent influence from Nivkh that Ainu of Hokkaido does not have.

AltaicEdit

John C. Street (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 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. 1999).

From a perspective more centered on Ainu, James Patrie (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 Greenberg (2000–2002) 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.[5][6][7][8]

Japonic, Austroasiatic and AustronesianEdit

Shafer (1965) presented evidence suggesting a distant connection with the Austroasiatic languages, which include many of the indigenous languages of Southeast Asia. Vovin (1992) presented his reconstruction of Proto-Ainu with evidence, in the form of proposed sound changes and cognates, of a relationship with Austroasiatic. In Vovin (1993), he still regarded this hypothesis as preliminary.

The eminent Japanese linguist Shichirō Murayama tried to link Japanese to the Austronesian languages, which include the languages of the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia, through both vocabulary and cultural comparisons.[9]

A 2015 analysis using the Automated Similarity Judgment Program resulted in the Japonic languages being grouped with the Ainu and then with the Austroasiatic languages.[10]

Native American languagesEdit

Numerous linguists have argued for a relationship between Ainu and several Native American languages. A linguistic research in the year 2008 proposed a genetic relation of Ainu to Native American languages.[11]

In 2018, 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.[12]

Ainu also shows some similarities to the Ket language, which has been linked to the Athabaskan languages in the proposed Dené-Yeniseian macrofamily classification.[13]

Language contactEdit

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. In Japan, there has been extensive contact with the Japanese language since the 14th century. (See Ainu language for details.)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ainu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. ^ Piłsudski, Bronisław; Alfred F. Majewicz (2004). The Collected Works of Bronisław Piłsudski. Trends in Linguistics Series. 3. Walter de Gruyter. p. 600. ISBN 9783110176148. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  4. ^ Vovin, Alexander. 2016. "On the Linguistic Prehistory of Hokkaidō." In Crosslinguistics and linguistic crossings in Northeast Asia: papers on the languages of Sakhalin and adjacent regions (Studia Orientalia 117).
  5. ^ "While 'Altaic' is repeated in encyclopedias and handbooks most specialists in these languages no longer believe that the three traditional supposed Altaic groups, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic, are related." Lyle Campbell & Mauricio J. Mixco, A Glossary of Historical Linguistics (2007, University of Utah Press), pg. 7.
  6. ^ "When cognates proved not to be valid, Altaic was abandoned, and the received view now is that Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic are unrelated." Johanna Nichols, Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time (1992, Chicago), pg. 4.
  7. ^ "Careful examination indicates that the established families, Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic, form a linguistic area (called Altaic)...Sufficient criteria have not been given that would justify talking of a genetic relationship here." R.M.W. Dixon, The Rise and Fall of Languages (1997, Cambridge), pg. 32.
  8. ^ "...[T]his selection of features does not provide good evidence for common descent" and "we can observe convergence rather than divergence between Turkic and Mongolic languages--a pattern than is easily explainable by borrowing and diffusion rather than common descent", Asya Pereltsvaig, Languages of the World, An Introduction (2012, Cambridge) has a good discussion of the Altaic hypothesis (pp. 211-216).
  9. ^ Shichirō, Murayama (1976). "The Malayo-Polynesian component in the Japanese language". Journal of Japanese Studies. 2 (2): 413–436. doi:10.2307/132060. JSTOR 132060.
  10. ^ Gerhard Jäger, "Support for linguistic macrofamilies from weighted sequence alignment." PNAS vol. 112 no. 41, 12752–12757, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1500331112. Published online before print September 24, 2015.
  11. ^ www.sav.sk (PDF) https://www.sav.sk/journals/uploads/101415063_Tambovtsev.pdf. Retrieved 2018-12-25. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Anna Bugaeva: Endangered Ainu language is treasure trove for linguists". The Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 2018-12-25.
  13. ^ Advances in the Theory of the Lexicon; The ontology and diachrony of polysynthesis. Dieter Wunderlich MOUTON 2006

See alsoEdit

BibliographyEdit

  • Bronisław Piłsudski (1998). Alfred F. Majewicz (ed.). The Aborigines of Sakhalin. The Collected Works of Bronisław Piłsudski. I. Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter. p. 792. ISBN 978-3-11-010928-3.
  • Hattori, Shirō, ed. (1964). Bunrui Ainugo hōgen jiten [An Ainu dialect dictionary with Ainu, Japanese, and English indexes]. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew (1967). The Japanese Language. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle.
  • Murasaki, Kyōko (1977). Karafuto Ainugo: Sakhalin Rayciska Ainu Dialect—Texts and Glossary. Tokyo: Kokushokankōkai.
  • Murasaki, Kyōko (1978). Karafuto Ainugo: Sakhalin Rayciska Ainu Dialect—Grammar. Tokyo: Kokushokankōkai.
  • Refsing, Kirsten (1986). The Ainu Language: The Morphology and Syntax of the Shizunai Dialect. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. ISBN 87-7288-020-1.
  • Shibatani, Masayoshi (1990). The Languages of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36918-5.
  • Tamura, Suzuko (2000). The Ainu Language. Tokyo: Sanseido. ISBN 4-385-35976-8.
  • Vovin, Alexander (1992). "The origins of the Ainu language" (PDF). The Third International Symposium on Language and Linguistics: 672–686.
  • Vovin, Alexander (1993). A Reconstruction of Proto-Ainu. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-09905-0.
  • Vovin, Alexander (2008). "Man'yōshū to Fudoki ni Mirareru Fushigina Kotoba to Jōdai Nihon Retto ni Okeru Ainugo no Bunpu" [Strange Words in the Man'yoshū and the Fudoki and the Distribution of the Ainu Language in the Japanese Islands in Prehistory] (PDF). Kokusai Nihon Bunka Kenkyū Sentā.
Proposed classifications
  • Bengtson, John D. (2006). "A multilateral look at Greater Austric". Mother Tongue. 11: 219–258.
  • Georg, Stefan; Michalove, Peter A.; Ramer, Alexis Manaster; Sidwell, Paul J. (1999). "Telling general linguists about Altaic". Journal of Linguistics. 35: 65–98. doi:10.1017/s0022226798007312.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (2000–2002). Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3812-5.
  • Patrie, James (1982). The Genetic Relationship of the Ainu Language. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii. ISBN 978-0-8248-0724-5.
  • Shafer, R. (1965). "Studies in Austroasian II". Studia Orientalia. 30 (5).
  • Street, John C. (1962). "Review of N. Poppe, Vergleichende Grammatik der altaischen Sprachen, Teil I (1960)". Language. 38 (1): 92–98. doi:10.2307/411195. JSTOR 411195.