Indigenous | Japan

Japan's Ainu language documented in English handbook

Ainu people circa 1930 Source / Wikimedia Commons

A first-ever English handbook of the Ainu language, spoken by the indigenous people of Japan, has been released by a group of scholars. The Ainu people once inhabited a sizable portion of northern Japan.

The National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics' seven-year effort, aims to strengthen awareness and research around the language beyond Japan; Seventeen researchers contributed to the 700-page book.

The Ainu language is of particular interest to linguists because it cannot be definitively connected to any other language family.

There’s few academic articles in English about the language, with the majority written in Japanese.

The new English handbook includes sections on grammar, history of the culture, folklore, oral literature, and dialect-specific information.

Anna Bugaeva, one of the authors and a Tokyo University of Science Associate Professor says the book is an encyclopedia of the Ainu language.

Bugaeva hopes in ‘a long-term perspective’ the book may ‘provide answers’ to problems of human prehistory.

She hopes the manual will ‘promote linguistic research’ and increase awareness of the language.

Public Interest Journalism