Ainu language and Ainu speakers

Authored by: Mika Fukazawa

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Sociolinguistics

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415790277
eBook ISBN: 9781315213378
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter describes the Ainu language that has been spoken in Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, as well as its speakers. The Ainu language is an endangered language. However, it is well documented through the works of explorers, doctors, exiles and scholars. In this chapter, I refer to the audio and written materials collected since the Edo Period (1603–1868): for example, in order to explain second language learning and language contact between Japanese and Ainu in the social contexts of the nineteenth century, I use the materials written by Ezo tsÅ«ji (Japanese translators between Ainu and Japanese). This chapter addresses the following points: the earlier studies of the Ainu language by the explorers and missionaries and the modern studies, including the studies of dialectal division of the Ainu language by linguists and language experts; loanwords in Japanese and Ainu from the perspective of language contact; Ainu as a second language in the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries and Japanese as a second language or Ainu-Japanese bilingualism in the twentieth century with phonetic interferences; politeness mainly used by female speakers when addressing men as an example of speech varieties; for language planning, the description of orthographic reforms and the current sociolinguistic situation; and an outlook of the recent studies and the social situation of the Ainu language and its speakers in Japan.

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