Monday, September 18, 2006

What Ainu about I know

Oh! That should be: What I know about Ainu. Heh.

Before I start on Ainu, I wanted to point everyone over to Jabal Al-Lughat where Lameen has a link to an article about the discovery of the most ancient writing yet found in the Americas, probably Olmec in origin, dating back to 900 BC. Needless to say, this is the most exciting linguistic news to hit the Americas since the discovery of Mayan hieroglyphs, previously thought to be the oldest writing system in the Americas (dating back to around 200 BC).

Anyway, Ainu. (Aynu means 'person' in Ainu.) I just wrote a paper for my Ethnolinguistics class titled, Ainu: A Grammatical Sketch. It was a very short summary of simple Ainu grammar that did not touch on its rich complexities. Ainu was once spoken on the island of Hokkaido, Japan, as well as on the Sakhalin Peninsula and Kurile Islands of Russia. Ainu is what we call a "language isolate," like Basque, not known to be related to any other language.

Ainu now has few or no speakers, most of the remaining Ainu having intermarried with the Japanese. In fact, the origin of the Ainu remains the biggest mystery of northeast Asia. Some have tried to link them to Polynesians, Amerindians, and, yes, even the Basques. Cultural and anthropological evidence, however, seems to point to southeast Asia as the likely origin of the Ainu, since they share many material and cultural traits with the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Here is a brief partial text in Classical Ainu followed by the English translation:

I-resu yupi i-resu sapo i-res-pa hine oka-an ike:- Kamuy kat casi casi upsor a-i-o-resu. Tapan inuma ran-pes kunne cirikinka, enkasike nispa-mut-pe out-santuka o-uka-uyru out-pusa-kur suypa kane asso-kotor mike kane anramasu auwesuye.

My foster brother and foster sister raising me, we lived then. The god-built mountain castle, inside the mountain castle, I was raised. The pile of treasure was heaped like a cliff, and above it the master’s swords were crossing their hilts,
and when the shadows of the sword knots swayed, the walls glittered in gold.
How beautiful and how interesting!

On other linguistic issues, I hope to type up five Rumsen* Ohlone texts from Harrington's notes, three occurring in Rumsen with Spanish translations, one occurring in Spanish only, and one occurring in Rumsen only (this will be the biggest challenge having no translation).

On the Biloxi front, I have a Committee selected for my MA thesis beginning next semester, which will focus on some aspect of Biloxi, perhaps dealing with morphological issues.

My colleague and I will be meeting with our native K'anjob'al speaker later this week to work on our next class assignment: Mayan verb paradigms.

Also, I'm in email correspondence with a member of the Tutelo-Saponi tribe of North Carolina who is trying to revitalize his heritage language, a close cousin of Biloxi. I'm excited to see what steps he'll take in revitalizing the language, especially with rather scant and spotty data. Perhaps we'll learn more about this process together.

All for now.

* BTW--Notice I'm writing Rumsen, not 'Rumsien.' This is because I came across a section of Harrington's notes where he specifically asked the native speaker the name of her language. Nowhere did the name ever occur with an extra -i-. Thus, from now on, Rumsen it is!


Anonymous said...

There comes a point in every language isolate's life when people try to link it to Basque...

I reiterate my interest in language isolates, and look forward to future posts on this topic!

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Aynu itak pirka! Aynu ku-itak rusuy. Shibatani kor nuye-p e-nukar ya?

I looked up a little info on Tutelo - that must be a really difficult task! Does he plan to use other Ohio Valley languages as a source for words unavailable in Tutelo per se?

Anonymous said...

Naaah, not Basque. Ainu is supposed to be Nostratic, unlike the Dené-Caucasian Basque. :-P

Dave said...

Lameen, Shibatani nuye-p ku-nukar rok.

Where did you learn Ainu? I knew you were doing Nihongo. I got an "A" on my Ainu paper, by the way. Wooo-hooo!

About Tutelo, yes it is a difficult task to revitalize Tutelo, but not impossible since other languages are revitalizing with equally paltry data. He is relying heavily I think on Biloxi since it's the best documented of the Southeastern (aka Ohio Valley, although I prefer to use "Southeastern" per Haas) Siouan languages. We may be doing some close collaboration in the not so distant future.

Congrats on finishing your thesis, by the way!