Africa south of the Sahara has been characterized by its orality, i.e., as societies without writing systems. In actual fact, however, we find a number of phenomena which function to record messages and events, although they may not appear to at first sight. In this article some of the methods the author studied in Africa are presented: the proverb-based greetings and the drum language of the Mongo, the naming of children and the transmitting of messages by knotted cords among the Tembo, and the suspending of objects representing proverbs by the Lega. Societies without writing might be thought of as societies where communication is always done in prose with no set form. Quite the contrary, the members of such societies resort to formal methods using proverbs, etc., to ensure communication, as if compensating for the lack of writing systems.
It is extremely difficult to determine the exact population of Ainu speakers. First, the Japanese government has not yet recognized the Ainu people legally as an ethnic group, and therefore we have no reliable official data on them. Second, such a survey itself might violate the speakers’ privacy and cause racial discrimination. As for the present situation of the Ainu language, “Ainu language classes” have contributed to language transmission for years, but unfortunately it is getting more and more difficult for many Ainu classes to obtain the assistance of actual native speakers. It is true that the “New Ainu Law” established in 1997 has also supported many activities for revitalizing the Ainu language, but this law makes no reference to the legal rights of the Ainu people. Although recently it has become nearly impossible to conduct field research, the linguistic study of the Ainu language will continue to be important in terms of language revitalization activities. For example, noun incorporation plays an important role in this language, and it can be classified into a marked type (subject incorporation) and an unmarked type (object incorporation) according to the interaction of a number of rules. On this basis, it is possible to choose a structurally more acceptable candidate when the coinage of a new word is necessary.
The accent systems of nouns and their mechanism are described in six dialects of central and southern Kikai-jima, an island in the Ryukyus. First, we are concerned with the Wan dialect, which has a two-pattern accent system, one pattern with word-tone on the bunsetsu unit, and one pattern with an ascending kernel on the penultimate mora of the word. Here we see coexistence of word-tone and accent kernel. It also has the peculiarity that a moraic nasal can bear a final high pitch of the word-tone, but not an ascending kernel. This fact shows a qualitative difference between word-tone and accent kernel. The relationship between the kernelless pattern and word-tone is also considered. Next, the accent systems of five dialects, Sakamine, Kami-katetsu, Araki, Nakazato and Isaneku are interpreted in relation to that of the Wan dialect. Finally, assuming that the Isaneku system is the proto-system of these dialects, their historical relationships are outlined.
This study describes the phonetic features of the “central vowel” in Miyako Ryukyuan. Previous studies have not described its phonetic details adequately, although it has been reported that the vowel has cross-linguistically unusual phonetic features such as [s]-like frication and a kind of laminal modification. This study focuses on the Tarama variety of the language, and I describe the central vowel using two instrumental techniques, namely, acoustic analysis and static palatography.
Previous studies have debated whether the vowel is central or laminal / apical, but the results reported here suggest that it has a double articulation, both alveolar (laminal) and velar (dorsal).
This article describes the converb system of the endangered Ōgami Ryukyuan language. The Ōgami converbs form a well-defined class, but they are problematic for the traditional definition of “converb” based on the notions of finiteness and subordination, and they thus require to revise that definition. The existence of several processes of desubordination, whereby a clause headed by a dependent verb form functions as an independent clause, is also described. Focus is put on the use of the narrative converb as an independent past tense form, which has been claimed to be a typologically rare phenomenon. The hypothesis that such a process arises in order to remedy the paucity of tense forms in a language does not hold in the case of Ōgami, where the explanation must be sought in discourse pattern. The development of independent past forms out of sequential/narrative dependent forms is found to be not so rare cross-linguistically, and it thus constitutes a cross-linguistically valid evolutionary path.
The Hachijō dialect has retained many grammatical features of eastern dialects of Old Japanese in the Nara Period, which can be observed in the Azumauta of the Man’yōshū. This paper gives an outline of studies on the Hachijō dialect as well as a brief description of the dialect itself as it is spoken in its traditional form. The position of this dialect as an endangered language and a recent verb conjugation change are discussed. The change in question concerns the strong conjugation, in which the ari-type forms that express both perfective and past (e.g., nomō) are being replaced with simplified tari-type forms (e.g., nondō). Remarkably, a similar change—represented by the shift from nomeri to nomitari—occurred during the transition from Old (Nara Period) Japanese to Early Middle (Heian Period) Japanese, which led to the disappearance of nomeri-type forms. This fact suggests that all perfective forms of verbs before the Nara Period might have been of the (nomiari>) nomeri-type, and that the shift to (nomiteari>) nomitari took place initially in the weak conjugation and later in the strong conjugation.
We two researchers—Matsumoto from the mainland of Japan and Tabata, a native of the Amami Islands and a native speaker of an Amami dialect—summarize the present status of the Amami dialects, which UNESCO included on its list of “endangered languages.” This paper delineates the overall conditions of the Amami dialects based on our first-hand observations and experiences, divided into three periods: before 1970, the 1970s and 1980s, and from the 1990s to the present.
To summarize, the period up to the 1960s was the era when the “shimayumuta” traditional dialect was used on a daily basis; the 1970s and 1980s was the period when the “tonfutsugo” Amami standard dialect rapidly gained wide currency; and since the 1990s the “shimayumuta” has been on the road to extinction.
In addition, at the end of this paper, we report on the conditions of the language on Suwanose in the Tokara Islands, which was resettled beginning in the Meiji period by people from the hamlet of Akakina in the former village of Kasari on Amami-ōshima Island.
With an eye toward establishing a regional typology based on linguistic landscape research, this paper reports research carried out in 2010 on Akihabara, or “Akiba”, a district that attracts many tourists from abroad and is known as a “sub-culture” area.
Fieldwork and observation of store websites revealed the following.
①Aside from “Japanese” and “English”, “Chinese” (written in simplified characters) is common on signs and websites for stores. On the other hand, “Korean” is not often seen in either monolingual or bilingual contexts.
②Multilingual texts are prominent at electronics and duty-free stores, but in sub-culture stores, the monolingual Japanese type is prevalent.
These results confirm that Akiba is in a state of multilingualization that differs from the “standard” type seen in other areas. The study also points out that the distinctive multilingualism of Akiba reflects characteristics of the area, such as the type of tourists it attracts and the genres of its stores.