Ainu language

languages spoken by Ainu ethnic groups in Hokkaido, Kuril and Sakhalin

The Ainu language is the language of the Ainu people in northern Japan.[3] It was not written until the 19th century. Since then, it has been written in katakana or the Latin alphabet.

アイヌ・イタㇰ Aynu=itak
Multilingual sign in Japanese, Ainu, English, Korean and Chinese. Ainu is the second language from the top on the right side of the sign.
Pronunciation[ˈainu iˈtak]
Native toJapan
Ethnicity15,000 Ainu people in Japan (no date)[1]
Native speakers
10 (2007)[2]
Katakana, Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3ain
ELPAinu (Japan)
The historically-attested range of the Ainu (solid red) and the suspected former range (pink) based on toponymic evidence (red dots) [Vovin 1993], Matagi villages (purple dots), and Japanese isoglosses
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In the 19th century, Ainu was spoken in Ezo (including Hokkaidō Island and the southern part of Chishima Islands), the southern part of Karapto (Sakhalin) and the northern part of Chishima Islands (Kuril Islands).[4] Now it is only spoken in Hokkaidō.

Ainu had many dialects, including Chitose, Saru, and Karapto.[3] Now only the Hokkaidō dialect survives. The dialects were so different from one another that a speaker of one dialect could not understand a speaker of another dialect.[3]

Historically, speakers of Ainu lived near speakers of Japanese and Itelmen (from Kamchatka). The Nivkh, which was spoken in the northern part of Sakhalin, is another isolated language.

Grammar change

Ainu has subject-object-verb word order, like Japanese.[5] Ainu phrases have left-branching structures: the word for a property is before the word for a person or thing.

Sample words change

The word ainu means "human being" and is the name used by the Ainu to refer to themselves. In contrast, kamuy means "god". The Ainu think that all existence that has mind and plays a role in this world are kamuy.[5] Sparrows or standing trees are kamuy.[5] In the Ainu perspective of the world, all goes well and human being can also be happy if ainu and kamuy help each other.[5]

Most linguists think that the Ainu numeral system is based on twenty.[6]

number Ainu (in Saru dialect)[7] Nivkh[8] Japanese
1 siné ñaqř hi
2 tu meqř hu
3 re ţaqř mi
4 íne nəkř yo
5 asíkne t‘oqř itsu
6 iwán mu
7 árwan na
8 tupésan ya
9 sinépesan ko
10 wan mxoqř
  • Ape - fire.
  • Iyomante - A festival to send a bear's soul to heaven.
  • Kunnechupu - The moon.
  • Kotan - village.
  • Konru - ice.
  • Sumari - (pronounced as in "Shumari") - fox.
  • Seta - dog.
  • Tonoto - sake.
  • Nonno- flower.
  • Huci - (pronounced as in "Hoochi") - grandmother, Old women.
  • Pone - bone.
  • Pirka - Beauty, cute.
  • wakka - "drinkable" water.

Relations with other language families change

The Ainu language is classificated as language isolate, although there are several theories about a genetic relation. Some linguists suggest a relation to Altaic languages while others suggest a link to Indo-European languages.[9][10] Some similarities also exist with northern native american languages.[11]

References change

  1. Ainu language at Ethnologue (8th ed., 1974). Note: Data may come from an earlier edition.
  2. D. Bradley, "Languages of Mainland South-East Asia," in O. Miyaoka, O. Sakiyama, and M. E. Krauss (eds), The vanishing languages of the Pacific Rim, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2007), pp. 301–336. .
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Nakagawa 2013, pp. 8–11.
  4. 公益社団法人北海道アイヌ協会 (ed.). "アイヌ民族の概説 (general information of ethnic Ainu)" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Nakagawa 2013, pp. 26–27.
  6. Murasaki, Kyoko (2009-03-08). "Numerals in the Sakhalin Dialect of Ainu". サハリンの言語世界 : 北大文学研究科公開シンポジウム報告書: 71–84. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  7. Nakagawa 2013, pp. 100–107.
  8. Stolz, Christel (2015-03-10). Christel Stolz (ed.). Language Empires in Comparative Perspective. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 167. ISBN 978-3-11-040836-2. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  9. Zgusta, Richard (2015-07-10). The Peoples of Northeast Asia through Time: Precolonial Ethnic and Cultural Processes along the Coast between Hokkaido and the Bering Strait. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-30043-9.
  10. Refsing, Kirsten. "Origins of the Ainu language : the Ainu Indo-European controversy". 新潟大学OPAC. Retrieved 2019-12-21.

Bibliography change

  • Nakagawa, Yutaka (2013-12-05). ニューエクスフレス アイヌ語. 白水社. ISBN 978-4-560-08639-1.