|Ethnicity||25,000 (1986) to ca. 200,000 (no date) Ainu people|
Ainu (? Ainu-itak) or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. It is a member of the Ainu language family, itself considered a language family isolate with no academic consensus of origin.
Until the 20th century, the Ainu languages – the extant Hokkaido Ainu and the now-extinct Kuril Ainu and Sakhalin Ainu – were spoken throughout the southern half of the island of Sakhalin and by small numbers of people in the Kuril Islands.
Due to the colonization policy employed by the Japanese government, the number of Ainu language speakers decreased through the 20th century, and very few people can speak the language fluently. Only the Hokkaido variant survives, the last speaker of Sakhalin Ainu having died in 1994. Hokkaido Ainu is a moribund language, though attempts are being made to revive it.
According to P. Elmer (2019), the Ainu languages are a contact language, i.e. have strong influences from various Japonic dialects/languages during different stages, suggesting early and intensive contact between them somewhere in the T?hoku region, with Ainu borrowing a large amount of vocabulary and typological characteristics from early Japonic.
According to UNESCO, Ainu is an endangered language, with few native speakers amongst the country's approximately 30,000 Ainu people, a number that may be higher due to a potentially low rate of self-identification as Ainu within the country's ethnic Ainu population. Knowledge of the language, which has been endangered since before the 1960s, has declined steadily since; in 2011 , just 304 people within Japan were reported to understand the Ainu language to some extent.
As of 2016, Ethnologue has listed Ainu as class 8b, "nearly extinct".
The Japanese government made a decision to recognize Ainu as an indigenous language in June 2008. As of 2017 , the Japanese government is constructing a facility dedicated to preserving Ainu culture, including the language.
There are five vowels in Ainu:
Plosives /p t ts k/ may be voiced [b d dz ?] between vowels and after nasals. Both /ti/ and /tsi/ are realized as [ti], and /s/ becomes [?] before /i/ and at the end of syllables. A glottal stop [?] is often inserted at the beginning of words, before an accented vowel, but is non-phonemic.
The Ainu language also has a pitch accent system. Generally, words containing affixes have a high pitch on a syllable in the stem. This will typically fall on the first syllable if that is long (has a final consonant or a diphthong), and will otherwise fall on the second syllable, though there are exceptions to this generalization.
Ainu has a canonical word order of subject, object, verb, and uses postpositions rather than prepositions. Nouns can cluster to modify one another; the head comes at the end. Verbs, which are inherently either transitive or intransitive, accept various derivational affixes. Ainu does not have grammatical gender. Plurals are indicated by a suffix.
Applicatives may be used in Ainu to place nouns in dative, instrumental, comitative, locative, allative, or ablative roles. Besides freestanding nouns, these roles may be assigned to incorporated nouns, and such use of applicatives is in fact mandatory for incorporating oblique nouns. Like incorporation, applicatives have grown less common in the modern language.
Ainu has a system of verbal affixes (shown below) which mark agreement for person and case. The specific cases that are marked differ by person, with nominative-accusative marking for the first person singular, tripartite marking for the first person plural and indefinite (or 'fourth') person, and direct or 'neutral' marking for the second singular and plural, and third persons (i.e. the affixes do not differ by case).
|Intransitive Subj.||Transitive Subj. (Agent)||Object|
The Ainu language is written in a modified version of the Japanese katakana syllabary, although it is possible for Japanese loan words and names to be written in kanji (for example, "mobile phone" can be written ? or ?). There is also a Latin-based alphabet in use. The Ainu Times publishes in both. In the Latin orthography, /ts/ is spelled c and /j/ is spelled y; the glottal stop, [?], which only occurs initially before accented vowels, is not written. Other phonemes use the same character as the IPA transcription given above. An equals sign (=) is used to mark morpheme boundaries, such as after a prefix. Its pitch accent is denoted by acute accent in Latin script (e.g., á). This is usually not denoted in katakana.
Rev. John Batchelor was an English missionary who lived among the Ainu, studied them and published many works on the Ainu language. Batchelor wrote extensively, both works about the Ainu language and works in Ainu itself. He was the first to write in Ainu and use a writing system for it. Batchelor's translations of various books of the Bible were published from 1887, and his New Testament translation was published in Yokohama in 1897 by a joint committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the American Bible Society, and the National Bible Society of Scotland. 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. These characters are used to write final consonants and sounds that cannot be expressed using conventional katakana. The extended katakana are based on regular katakana and either are smaller in size or have a handakuten. As few fonts yet support these extensions, workarounds exist for many of the characters, such as using a smaller font with the regular katakana ? ku to produce ? to represent the separate small katakana glyph ? ku used as in (Ainu itak).
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, 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.
|?||31F0||Katakana Letter Small Ku||Final k||/k/|
|?||31F1||Katakana Letter Small Shi||Final s [?]||/s/ or /?/|
|?||31F2||Katakana Letter Small Su||Final s, used to emphasize its pronunciation as [s] rather than [?]. [s] and [?] are allophones in Ainu.||/s/|
|?||31F3||Katakana Letter Small To||Final t||/t/|
|?||31F4||Katakana Letter Small Nu||Final n||/n/|
|?||31F5||Katakana Letter Small Ha||Final h [x], succeeding the vowel a. (e.g. ah) Sakhalin Ainu only.||/h/ or /x/|
|?||31F6||Katakana Letter Small Hi||Final h [ç], succeeding the vowel i. (e.g. ih) Sakhalin Ainu only.||/h/ or /ç/|
|?||31F7||Katakana Letter Small Fu||Final h [x], succeeding the vowel u. (e.g. uh) Sakhalin Ainu only.||/h/ or /x/|
|?||31F8||Katakana Letter Small He||Final h [x], succeeding the vowel e. (e.g. eh) Sakhalin Ainu only.||/h/ or /x/|
|?||31F9||Katakana Letter Small Ho||Final h [x], succeeding the vowel o. (e.g. oh) Sakhalin Ainu only.||/h/ or /x/|
|?||31FA||Katakana Letter Small Mu||Final m||/m/ Voiced bilabial nasal|
|?||31FB||Katakana Letter Small Ra||Final r [?], succeeding the vowel a. (e.g. ar)||/?/ Voiced alveolar tap|
|?||31FC||Katakana Letter Small Ri||Final r [?], succeeding the vowel i. (e.g. ir)||/?/ Voiced alveolar tap|
|?||31FD||Katakana Letter Small Ru||Final r [?], succeeding the vowel u. (e.g. ur)||/?/ Voiced alveolar tap|
|?||31FE||Katakana Letter Small Re||Final r [?], succeeding the vowel e. (e.g. er)||/?/ Voiced alveolar tap|
|?||31FF||Katakana Letter Small Ro||Final r [?], succeeding the vowel o. (e.g. or)||/?/ Voiced alveolar tap|
|Characters represented using combining characters|
|31F7 + 309A||Katakana Letter Small Pu||Final p||/p/|
|30BB + 309A||Katakana Letter Se With Semi-Voiced Sound Mark||ce [tse]||/ts/ + /e/|
|30C4 + 309A||Katakana Letter Tu With Semi-Voiced Sound Mark||tu. and are interchangeable.||/t/ + /u/|
|30C8 + 309A||Katakana Letter To With Semi-Voiced Sound Mark||/t/ + /u/|
[s] ~ [?]
|sa / ?[note 2]
[sa] ~ [?a]
|su / ?[note 2]
[su?] ~ [?u?]
|se / ?[note 2]
[se] ~ [?e]
|so / ?[note 2]|
[so] ~ [?o]
|-s ? / ?[note 2]|
|tu / [note 2]
|-t ? / ?[note 3]|
[ts] ~ [t?][note 1]
[tsa] ~ [t?a]
|cu ? / [note 2]
[tsu?] ~ [t?u?]
|ce / [note 2]
[tse] ~ [t?e]
[tso] ~ [t?o]
|-n ? / ?[note 4]|
[-n, -m-, -?-][note 5]
|wi / ?[note 2]
|we / ?[note 2]
|wo / ?[note 2]|
Final [?] is spelled y in Latin, small ? in katakana. Final [?] is spelled w in Latin, small ? in katakana. Large ? and ? are used if there is a morpheme boundary with ? and ? at the morpheme head. [ae] is spelled ae, or .
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 were 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.
Many of the speakers of Ainu lost the language with the advent of Japanese colonization. During a time when food production methods were changing across Japan, there was less reason to trade with the Ainu, who mainly fished and foraged the land. Japan was becoming more industrialized and globalization created a threat to Japanese land. 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.[verification needed] The assimilation included exploitation of land, commodification of culture, and placing Ainu children in schools where they only learned Japanese.
More recently, the Japanese government has acknowledged the Ainu people as an indigenous population. As of 1997 they were given indigenous rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to their culture, heritage, and language.
The Ainu Cultural Promotion Act in 1997 appointed the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture (FRPAC). This foundation is tasked with language education, where they promote Ainu language learning through training instructors, advanced language classes and creation and development of language materials.
In general, Ainu people are hard to find because they tend to hide their identity as Ainu, especially in the young generation. Two thirds of Ainu youth do not know that they are Ainu. In addition, because Ainu students were strongly discouraged from speaking their language at school, it has been challenging for the Ainu language to be revitalized.
Despite this, there is an active movement to revitalize the language, mainly in Hokkaido but also elsewhere such as Kanto. Ainu oral literature has been documented both in hopes of safeguarding it for future generations, as well as using it as a teaching tool for language learners. Beginning in 1987, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido with approximately 500 members began hosting 14 Ainu language classes, Ainu language instructors training courses and Family Ainu Learning Initiative and have released instructional materials on the language, including a textbook. Also, Yamato linguists teach Ainu and train students to become Ainu instructors in university. In spite of these efforts, as of 2011 the Ainu language is not yet taught as a subject in any secondary school in Japan.
Due to the Ainu Cultural Promotion Act of 1997, 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. As of 2011, there has been an increasing number of second-language learners, especially in Hokkaido, in large part due to the pioneering efforts of the late Ainu folklorist, activist and former Diet member Shigeru Kayano, himself a native speaker, who first opened an Ainu language school in 1987 funded by Ainu Kyokai. The Ainu Association of Hokkaido is the main supporter of Ainu culture in Hokkaido. 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. The Ainu language has been in media as well; the first Ainu radio program was called FM Pipaushi, which has run since 2001 along with 15-minute radio Ainu language lessons funded by FRPAC, and newspaper The Ainu Times has been established since 1997. In 2016, a radio course was broadcast by the STVradio Broadcasting to introduce Ainu language. The course put extensive efforts in promoting the language, creating 4 text books in each season throughout the year.
In addition, the Ainu language has been seen in public domains such as the outlet shopping complex's name, Rera, which means 'wind', in the Minami Chitose area and the name Pewre, meaning 'young', at a shopping centre in the Chitose area. There is also a basketball team in Sapporo founded under the name Rera Kamuy Hokkaido, after rera kamuy 'god of the wind' (its current name is Levanga Hokkaido). The well-known Japanese fashion magazine's name Non-no means 'flower' in Ainu.
Another Ainu language revitalization program is Urespa, a university program to educate high-level persons on the language of the Ainu. The effort is a collaborative and cooperative program for individuals wishing to learn about Ainu languages. This includes performances which focus on the Ainu and their language, instead of using the dominant Japanese language.
Another form of Ainu language revitalization is an annual national competition, which is Ainu language-themed. People of many differing demographics are often encouraged to take part in the contest. Since 2017, the popularity of the contest has increased.
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In 1877 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. It is to Batchelor that we owe our deepest insight into the[Original from the University of California Digitized Jan 27, 2009 Length 444 pages]
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.[Original from the University of California Digitized Oct 16, 2007 Length 313 pages]