Yonaguni Language
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Yonaguni Language
/? Dunan Munui
Native toJapan
Native speakers
400 (2015)[1]
Language codes
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The Yonaguni language (/? Dunan Munui) is a Southern Ryukyuan language spoken by around 400 people on the island of Yonaguni, in the Ryukyu Islands, the westernmost of the chain lying just east of Taiwan.[2] It is most closely related to Yaeyama. Due to the Japanese policy on languages, the language is not recognized by the government, which instead calls it the Yonaguni dialect (, Yonaguni h?gen). As classified by UNESCO, the Yonaguni language is the most endangered language in all of Japan.



The table below shows the vowels present in the Yonaguni language. Vowels which are only allophonic appear in parentheses.

^a [o] can also probably be recognized as an independent phoneme and not just as an allophone of /u/. However, its distribution is very limited. Excluding a few interjections, the only morpheme in which it appears is the sentence-final, exclamatory particle do.


The table below shows the consonants present in the Yonaguni language. Consonants which are only allophonic appear in parentheses. Plosive and affricate phonemes have three-way contrast between fortis, lenis, and voiced consonants.

Phonological cognates

As a Southern Ryukyuan language, Yonaguni, similar to Miyako and Yaeyama, has /b/ in place with Standard Japanese /w/, such as Yonaguni /bata/ ('stomach, belly'), cognate with Japanese /wata/ ('guts, bowels'). Yonaguni also has /d/ where Japanese and other Ryukyuan languages have /j/ (orthographically y). Thus, for example, Yonaguni /dama/ ('mountain') is cognate with Japanese and Yaeyama /jama/ ('id.'). Yonaguni /d/ is probably a recent development from an earlier */j/, however, judging from the fact that even the */j/ in loanwords of Sinitic origin is pronounced /d/ by speakers of the Yonaguni language, such as dasai 'vegetables' from Middle Chinese *jia-tsi (). An entry in the late-15th-century Korean annals Seongjong Taewang Sillok records the local name of the island of Yonaguni in Idu script as ?, which has the Middle Korean reading zjuni sima, with sima glossed in the text as the Japonic word for 'island'. That is direct evidence of an intermediate stage of the fortition *j- > *z- > d-, leading to the modern name /duna?/ 'Yonaguni'.[3]

The Yonaguni language exhibits intervocalic voicing of plosives, as do many Japonic languages. It also exhibits the tendency for /?/, especially when intervocalic, to be pronounced as a velar nasal /?/, as in Standard Japanese.

Syllable structure

Below is the syllable template for Dunan:

(C (G) ) V1 (V2) (N)
  • C = consonant
  • G = glide [w] or [j]
  • V = vowel
  • N = moraic nasal

The onset allows for a single consonant with the occasional presence of a glide. The nucleus can contain up to two vowels. The only allowable coda is a moraic nasal.

Writing system

Yonaguni was once written with a unique writing system called Kaid? logograms. However, after conquest by the Ryukyu Kingdom and later annexation by the Empire of Japan, the logograms were replaced by Japanese kana and Kanji.


  1. ^ Yamada, Masahiro; Pellard, Thomas; Shimoji, Michinori (2015). Heinrich, Patrick; Miyara, Shinsho; Shimaji, Michinori (eds.). Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages: History, Structure, and Use. Handbooks of Japanese Language and Linguistics. 11. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 449-478. ISBN 978-1-61451-161-8.
  2. ^ Pellard, Thomas; Yamada, Masahiro (2017). "Verb Morphology and Conjugation Classes in Dunan (Yonaguni)". In Kiefer, Ferenc; Blevins, James P.; Bartos, Huba (eds.). Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-34293-4.
  3. ^ Vovin, Alexander (2010). "Yonaguni initial d- as an innovation". Korea-Japonica: A Re-Evaluation of a Common Genetic Origin. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3278-0.

Further reading

  • ?. "." :?. , 1997. Print. (in Japanese) (ISBN 978-4385152073)
  • ?. "?." . 4 (1975): Print. (in Japanese)
  • ?, ?. ?. : , 1964. Print. (in Japanese)
  • ?. "". ?, 1987. Print. (in Japanese)
  • . "?". 35, 95-105, 2008. (in Japanese)
  • , . "(?,)". ? : 16, 17-74, 2004 (in Japanese)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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