Contemporary condition and perspectives of Ainu language
Contemporary Ainu population is about 30,000. Data provided by anthropologists show us that number of Ainu language speakers is much less than total number of Ainu. Also data provided by different scholars differ seriously. In order to clear these questions in 2006 I went to the island of Hokkaido and managed there field research with support of Japan Foundation. Having got the following definition of speaker: speaker of a certain language is person that can produce spontaneous utterances, I have learned that about 2 percents of total number of Ainu can be considered as Ainu speakers. Also I saw that Ainu didn’t care much of maintaining and normal functioning of their language but they were mostly interested in so called ‘ethnographic theater’. Despite the paper was written in 2006 yet its publishing met serious obstacles due to contradictions of my conclusion with official mythology of Japanese Ainu studies.
Key words: Ainu language, endangered language, endangered languages perspectives
On Ainu etymology of key concepts of Shintō: tamashii and kami
Shintō is the first and the basic religion of Japan. In most works on Shintō it is said that its central object is kami but almost nothing is said about etymology and meaning of this concept. In this paper I made an attempt to clarify this question. In Ainu religion there is concept kamuy that looks much alike kami. Ainu concept kamuy can be explained through the concept of ramat. Japanese concept kami also shapes a pair with concept of tamashii. I have come to the following conclusions: Japanese tamashii originated from Ainu ramat and Japanese kami originated from Ainu kamuy; ramat/tamashii means “vital energy exists”, it is something like energy/ether that fills the universe; kamuy means “item filled by [ramat]”; kamuy/kami are beings/items that have a lot of ramat and can share it; aim of any Shintō rite is to get more ramat/tamashii.
Key words: ramat, kamuy, tamashii, kami, Shinto, Root Shinto
Critical notes on “A Recontruction of Proto-Ainu”
By now “A Reconstruction of Proto-Ainu” written by Alexander Vovin is the only monograph on Ainu language history and so if we are going to make reconstruction of some previous stages of Ainu language we should first pay some attention to this work. Having made a reconstruction of ‘Proto-Ainu’, Vovin compared ‘Proto-Ainu’ with Proto-Austronesian, Proto-Miao-Yao and Proto-Austroasiatic and has come to the conclusion that Proto-Ainu is a relative of Proto-Austroasiatic. I am to say that there are too many serious blunders in Vovin’s book: methodological ideas are actually very vague, no attention is paid to structural items, wrong interpretations of some Ainu words, no clearly seen regular phonetic correspondences, completely wrong use of anthropological contexts; however, despite these serious critical notes the direction of search of possible relatives of Ainu outlined by Vovin seems to be rather perspective.
Key words: Ainu language, critical review of Vovin’s reconstruction, Ainu language history, Proto-Ainu
Loanword adaptation strategies in Gilbertese
This paper investigates the phonological and morphological mechanisms used in loanword adaptation in Gilbertese, an Austronesian language spoken in the Republic of Kiribati. I considered loanwords officially accepted by the conventional literary form of Gilbertese, as well as recent borrowings used in slang and Internet shorthand. Analyzing the most productive patterns of phonological and morphological adaptation of loanwords, I came to a conclusion that only borrowings of the colonial period have been fully integrated into Gilbertese phonology, syntax and morphology. More recent borrowings exhibit less involvement in complex syntactical structures and are usually used without any affixes. Interestingly, this is unusual for the region, as most of the local languages quickly integrate newest borrowings, developing an adapted transcription for them and using them in the same way as “native” lexemes.
Key words: Gilbertese, Kiribati, Micronesian languages, Austronesian languages, language contact, loanword adaptation, Oceanic languages
Second Life as possible platform for endangered languages revitalization (the case of Ainu language in particular): problems and perspectives
Languages of so called ‘indigenous people’ are often endangered languages. When they start to speak about endangered language revitalization usually appears presupposition that sphere of use of such languages is restricted by ‘traditional cultures’. Actually none of existing languages is restricted by a ‘traditional culture’. Nowadays it’s simply impossible to maintain a traditional culture since environmental conditions have been seriously changed. Best way to save and revitalize a language is to make it develop freely and naturally but not to restrict it by some ‘traditional culture’. In the case of Ainu language we can see it has no real usage in real life. That’s why it can be perspective to create a sphere of use of Ainu language in virtual world, i.e. in Second Life that is the largest virtual world. In first stage role plays/historical reconstructions can attract people to Ainu language. As far as Ainu language gets some usage in virtual world something can be changed in real life.
Key words: language revitalization; Second Life; endangered languages; Ainu language