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The first approach to the Ainu language history // Материалы Международной научной конференции, посвященной 50-летию восстановления российско-японских дипломатических отношений и 270-летию учреждения Школы японского языка при Российской Академии Наук, СПб., 21 - 22 октября 2006, С. 10 - 17
20 - 21 октября 2006 года
The First Approach to The Ainu Language History
Ainu are indigenous people of Japan. According to many anthropologists (Neil Gordon Munro, Yamaguchi Bin, Hanihara Kazurō and others) Ainu don't have any similarities with any population in Asia and Oceania except people of Japanese Neolithic culture or so called «Jomon culture». Skeletons of modern Ainu are very similar to these of so called Jomon period. In this connexion it is possible to state that it was Ainu who were the founder of so called Jomon culture.
Situation in linguistic is very similar to that of anthropology: Ainu language is considered as an isolated one by modern linguistics. Many linguists tried to show genetic relationship of Ainu with Austronesian (Olof Gjerdman, Leo Sternberg, Murayama Shitirō, Alexander Vovin, Anatolii Solntsev), with Altaic (Hattori Shirō, James Patrie, Alexey Burykin), with Indo-European (John Batchelor, Koppelmann, Naert, Lindquist, van Windekens). But all these arguments were based on accidental lexical and phonological similarities which didn't present any system. Moreover they didn't pay any attention to the morphological structures of compared languages though it is the comparison of morphological structure which can solve the problem of relationship. Languages which are not relative can have some similar features but relative languages must have structural similarities. To ascertain the similarity of morphological structure is much more important than pick up some accidental similarities of lexics or phonology.
In this connexion it is possible to state that serious research on genetic relationship of Ainu language are just in their beginning.
According to my data there are no structural similarities between Ainu and Austronesian, between Ainu and Altaic and between Ainu and Indo-European so Gjerdman, Murayama, Sternberg, Vovin, Solntsev, Hattori, Patrie, Burykin, Batchelor, Koppelmann, Naert, Lindquist, van Windekens and many others are absolutely out of base.
In the period of Jomon Ainu lived in all Japanese islands and Ainu language was spoken from Ryukyu to Hokkaido. Toponyms of Ainu origin corroborate this fact: Fuji <- Huci - "grandmother", "kamuy of hearth", Tsushima <-tuyma - "far".
Because of Ainu were sea fishers and hunters and didn't practise agriculture a vast space of wild nature was absolutely necessary for existence of their culture. Ainu have never had any big settlements, the biggest social unit of Ainu was local group - utari. To maintain balance in nature and in human population was matter of vital importance for Ainu.
According to Oka Masao in the middle of Jomon period Austronesian newcomers from South-West Asia appeared in the southern part of Japanese archipelago. The main economical practice of these newcomers was agriculture. Agriculture destroyed the balance of nature and Ainu were forced to move northward. Ainu migration to the island of Sakhalin, the islands of Kuriles and Kamchatka began. And due to this fact in middle Jomon Ainu began to appear modern dialects: dialects of Sakhalin, Islands of Kuriles and dialects of Japanese islands. Of course in ancient Jomon Ainu also can existed some dialects but I suspect that it’s impossible for us to learn it anyhow. Also it is very difficult to reconstruct Ainu language of middle Jomon. However the language of middle Jomon most likely was similar to modern Ainu at least in structural meaning. There is a quite popular thought that if we are going to reconstruct ancient Ainu we should base on the Sakhalin Ainu because the most pure Ainu is presented by the Sakhalin dialects while Ainu of Hokkaido has been undergone the influence of Japanese in higher degree and in this connection is a depraved Ainu and can not be the base of reconstruction. But I think that neither Hokkaido nor Sakhalin dialects present so called “pure Ainu” and if we are going to reconstruct the Ainu of middle Jomon we should not base on one dialectal group. I think that we should analyze all dialects and pick up the common features and then we would be able to draw a picture of middle Jomon Ainu.
When Ainu moved northward they influenced strongly on the culture of Nivkh, Itelmen and Oroch. This fact had been reflected by language: for example: Ainu word kotan – «settlement», «inhabited area» exists in Mongolian as gotan, in the language of Gold – hoton, in Manchurian language – hotan, in Nivkh language – hoton. Or, for example, Ainu word inau, designating little baton with shavings – one of the most important objects of Ainu religion, exists in Nivkh language – nau, in Oroch language – ilau. In Itelmen language exists word kamul/kamuy designating spirits living in volcanoes and geysers, I believe that this word originated from Ainu word kamuy – “super human being”. I think that it is possible to speak about Ainu colonization because in Ainu language exists original, not borrowed word for expression of modality “should”, “must” – easirki while such a languages as Nivkh, Itelmen, Oroch use borrowed words to express this modality and originally have just two modalities: “want” and “cannot”. Modality “should” is a marker of high organized social system. Due to this parameter Ainu differ radically from such ethnical group as Nivkh, Oroch and Itelmen and due to this fact I think it is possible to speak about Ainu colonization.
While Ainu were moving northward in the southern part of Japanese archipelago appeared a group of newcomers from Central Asia and Siberia. These migrants were of Mongoloid anthropological type and spoke an Altaic language. According to Oka Masao these migrants were the founder of Yamato state and the main ethnic group of forming Japanese ethnicity. The first migration of these group came to the Japanese islands about 500 b.c. and the last one – about 300 a.c. The main clan of this last migration later became the emperor clan – tenno.
After the foundation of Yamato state began the epoch of permanent war between Ainu and Japanese. In the island of Honshu border between Yamato and Ainu lands was for a long time in the region of modern Sendai. Japanese for quite a long time were not as good fighters as Ainu. Only after some centuries of permanent fighting Japanese became samurai. And there are many elements of Ainu origin in samurai technique of fighting.
Only in the middle 15th century Japanese could reach southern Hokkaido and founded a settlement in the area of Ōsima. Since that time active colonization and japonization of Ainu began. After Meiji restoration of 1868 influx of Japanese to Hokkaido increased and japonization of Ainu became much more active and fierce. As a result by the middle of 20th century Ainu language practically went out of use.
Nowadays Ainu dialects of Hokkaido are the most alive dialects of Ainu. Moreover they are most completely described dialects of Ainu.
In the island of Sakahlin Ainu language was used as language of international communication by Russian officials, Japanese manufacturers and aborigines till 1905 when Souther Sakhalin became Karafuto.
After the end of Second World War most of Sakhalin Ainu were moved to the island of Hokkaido with Japanese. Some of speakers of Raichishka dialect were still alive till recent time and Murasaki Kyoko written down some texts from these informants.
As for Ainu of Kuriles – they were practically completely assassinated before some serious research on Ainu language began. Because of it we have very little information about their dialect especially about grammar. There is just some lists of words (Krasheninnikov, Dybowski, Murayama). And also the names of all of Kurile Islands are of Ainu origin: Kunashir <- Kunne Siri – «Black Island», Iturup <- Etoropa «Jellyfish», Urup <- Urup –«Salmon», Shikotan <- Si kotan – «Big inhabited area», Paramushir <- Para mosir «Large island», Simushir <- Si mosir «Big island» and so on.
Nowadays Ainu exist in the island of Hokkaido only. There are about 25000 Aynu in Japan now. Most of them are members of «Utari» and sometimes membership itself is marker of one's being Aynu. Contemporary Ainu are very well included into context of Japanese culture, many, who identify themselves as Ainu practically don't differ from Japanese and can not speak Ainu.
One may say that Ainu save their traditional rituals which are performed in the so called ethnographical settlements such as Siraoi. But it is well known that most of so called “traditional Ainu rituals” (for example famous marimo ritual performed in the lake of Akan) were invented by Japanese without any care of traditional Ainu culture but just in order to attract tourists. And in this connection I suspect that traditional Ainu life has been seriously destroyed and changed and those who are involved in Ainu tourist business but cannot speak Ainu should not really be considered as Ainu.
Nowadays when globalization increases when differences between cultures disappear fast what can be the basis for identification a person as a member of certain ethnic group? Only language can save and maintain traditional cultures nowadays. According to Whorf if people use a certain language they adopt certain concepts, certain way of world view, certain way of thinking through this language. Language is the key for a certain cultural tradition.
Because of it in the case of Ainu, I think, it is possible to state the following: really those who have some Ainu blood but cannot speak Ainu hardly should be treated as Ainu, only those who can speak Ainu should be treated as Ainu.
Nowadays the opinion that Ainu language is a dead language is widely spread among anthropologists and linguists. For example, if we turn to the last issue of Ethnology we can learn that there are only 15 Ainu speakers. It seems to be rather strange that there are only 15 Ainu speakers among 25 thousands Ainu.
According to Alfred Majewicz such point of view bases on the fact that Japanese linguists consider as Ainu native speakers only those Ainu who used Ainu language as mother tongue in their childhood and youth. These native speakers remember some prayers, songs and tales which they heard in their childhood. However they cannot produce any spontaneous utterance and their communicative ability is equal to zero. Because of it the surviving grandmas hardly can be treated as Ainu native speakers.
Ferdinand de Saussure wrote that no one language can die by its own death. No one language can die due to its inner causes. Language can die only by a violent death. Language can die only if ethnicity using this language is absolutely annihilated or if a stronger tribe imposes its language to an another tribe.
The consequence is following: no one language can exist and function normally without existence of certain social need for this language.
Though Law about preservation and maintain of Ainu language and culture was published in 1997 traditional Japanese racism and indifferency, museum and tourist business and also the fact that Japanese government is not going to recognize Ainu's right to be Ainu seriously prevent normal existence of Ainu language and culture. Nowadays in Japan there are many centers, foundations and societies devoted to restoration and promotion of Ainu language and Ainu culture, but all they are just half measures, because only autonomy can save Ainu language as well as any other language.
In this connexion question of possible passing of Kunashir, Iturup and Habomai archipelago to Japan becomes especially actual: Russian and Japanese both have been sharing Ainu territories for last 300 years but they always forget to ask Ainu. Ainu were "unconvenient" for Japanese colonization as well as for Russian. But we should not forget that Ainu still exist and they have much more rights to be the owner of so called "northern territories". And why we – people of the world are not going to pass "northern territories" to Ainu? It would be the first real step to real saving and maintaining of Ainu culture and language.
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