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The Contemporary Condition of Ainu Language
« : 11 Декабря 2006 19:15:53 »

Research on The Contemporary Number of Ainu Language Speakers. The Contemporary Condition of Ainu Language

1. Introduction

According to Kayano Shiro, son of Ainu leader Kayano Shigeru, the contemporary number of Ainu is about 30 thousands people. Most of them, about 24 - 25 thousands, live in the island of Hokkaido and the others live in the island of Honshu.
According to Ethnologue issued in 2005 there are only 15 Ainu speakers.
Japanese anthropologist provide another information. For example Murasaki Kyoko said in 2003 that there are only about 5 -6 persons who can speak Ainu. Yamaguchi Noriaki the author of "Aynu puyara" site in 2002 told me that there must be about 40 Ainu people who can speak Ainu.
It seems to be rather strange that data differ so radically and that the number of Ainu language speakers is so little while the number of those who identify themselves as Ainu is about 30.000 people. What's the matter? Is it possible that number of speakers indead is so little? And why it is so little?
How many people really can speak Ainu language? And may be the real number of Ainu is much less than 30 thousands?
I have managed this research in order answer these complicated and unconvenient questions.

2. The Definition of Speaker

Who can be treated as speaker of a language X?
To answer this question we should first seriously think of what does it mean "to speak".
"To speak" means "to produce spontaneous utterances in language X".
A person is a speaker of X if he or she can produce spontaneous utteances in language X.
And it should be specially marked that there is absolutely no matter how he or she got the ability of speaking in language X: was X mother tongue of this person or it was learned in adulthood. No matter absolutely. If a person can produce spontaneous utterances in X this person is a speaker of language X.

And if we are going to test: "is this person a speaker of X or not" we should pay attention to the ability of producing of spontaneous utterances only, i.e. to the communicative ability only.

Having got this definition we can easily see that those Ainu who are treated as Ainu language speakers by the Japanese anthropologists really hardly can be treated as speaker.
These so called Ainu speakers just remember and can retell texts of some legends, songs and so on, but their communicative ability is equal to zero.
These so called speakers used Ainu language as mother tongue in their childhood and youth but during all of their life they had to use Japanese and so they lost the ability of producing of spontaneous utterances, but they just remember and can retell some texts which they heard in their childhood.
But I seriously think that these so called  "native speakers" really may retell texts without understanding the meaning of words and even having no imagination of Ainu grammar.
It is obviously not equal to speaking. Speaking is producing of spontaneous utterances. For example, a person who having entered to a shop say for example "I milk two" really is a speaker of English while for example a person who remember and can retell all text of "Hamlet" but can not express anything in English is not a speaker.
It is very clear in the case of English. And it is the same in the case of any language. And as far as Ainu is one of human language it must not be an exception.
If we are going to estimate the number of Ainu speakers we should, we must pay attention only to the ability of communication in Ainu.

3. Negative Factors

I have to tell that it was pretty difficult to get required information.
As a result of centuries of fierce Japanese colonization we have received that many of thouse who have Ainu blood are not interested in Ainu culture and Ainu language and sometimes are even against Ainu culture.

The second diffuclty is that here, in Japan, it is very difficult to receive any information which differs from common/official point of view.
For example, if you ask a Japanese "what do you think about an event X" the most probable answer would be official/common point of view, official interpretation of this event even when the person has different interpretation of this event X.
Because of during last 3 centuries Japanese always made Ainu shame their own culture and language and because of in contemporary Japan Ainu language is commonly treated as a dead language and widely spread is the imagination that only a few aged persons can speak Ainu, Ainu themselves, as far as they are members of Japanese society, also usually say just well known/official things; while the real information about how many people can speak Ainu is obviously "individual" "un-common" so it is not one that should be said, it is one that should not be spoken about. And if you wish to get this information you have to be familiar with those people who have such information, it of course requires much time, so it would be absolutely impossible to get all information in such a short period as 1 month.

Moreover, it should be noted that Ainu society is a very very compicated structure: there are so many movements, trends, ambitions.
Very often some Ainu provide obviously wrong (negative) information about other Ainu: "don't know language... don't speak...  cannot..."

At least should be noted that probably almost all of Ainu people don't like to tell something about themselves to the anthropologists and don't like to cooperate with anthropologists. I suspect that such situation is the result of activity of some of Japanese anthroplogists who used Ainu just as material for their thesis and didn't care about existence of Ainu and forgot that first of all Ainu are human beings.

4. Detailed Description

During my stay in Hokkaido I have taken participation in three Ainu events: in Sisyamo kamuy nomi held in Siranuka near the city of Kushiro on 4.11.2006, in Ainu language festival "Itak=an ro" which took place in Samani on 11.11.2006 and in a lesson of Ainu languge in Ainu language school in Siraoi on 23.11.2006.

Everywhere conversation was in Japanese language only.

In Siranuka they didn't speak in Ainu they use Ainu language only when they prayed to kamuy. Though this ceremony was not performed for Japanese or for tourists, this was ceremony performed by Ainu for Ainu. And the most interesting and strange was that this fest was finished with karaoke, of course not in Ainu language.
I came there with Ota Mitsuru (Kamusokkai) he is one of the most advanced Ainu speaker. And we spoke in Ainu and some Ainu girls who were sitting near of us told us that they misunderstand English and that they should study English better.

Then I saw Ainu language festival "Itak=an ro" which took place in Samani on 11 of November.
What was it? It was much more strange than Sisyamo kamuy nomi.
Most of people came there in Ainu wear. But they didn't speak Ainu. All conversation was in Japanese. It was very strange for me. By the way, they came here specially to speak Ainu... Why don't they speak?
When the festival began I finally understood what they meant of "speaking":
all the people who were going "to say" something in Ainu got cards with numbers. And there were handouts where all the "speeches" were published with parralel translation in Japanese (specially for those who misunderstand Ainu language). And so called "speakers" got on the cathedra according to their numbers and just sang songs or recited Ainu poems looking at papers or at handouts.
During cafe brake I tried to explain to some people that there is a big difference between speaking and singing or reciting poetry, that speaking always means producing spontaneous utterances and singing songs looking at paper absolutely differs from speaking. For example, I don't know Chinese but I can get a Chinese text written in Latin alphabet and read it without understanding the meaning of words and Chinese grammar and it would be look like I can speak Chinese but it would not be speaking.
But everybody told me that it was difficult for them.
Really this festival it was a shock. I saw that Ainu people really don't speak Ainu language. I saw that they don't care about their language, they care about Ainu wearing, only about wearing.
But the most terrible thing for me was that they misunderstand the difference between singing and speaking. And even Japanese anthropologists who were there, for example Tamura Suzuko, also didn't see any difference. This is a great pity. Ainu may not see the difference but the anthropologists must see it as far as they are anthropologists. But may be they are not anthropologists?

Then I took participation in a lesson of Ainu language in Ainu language school in the Museum of Ainu Culture in Shiraoi. It was also a very strange thing: this was a lesson of Ainu but they speak only in Japanese.
It was right according to words of Ashizawa Ken'iti from Memorial Center of Shagushain in Shizunai who told me that "In these schools [Ainu language schools]They teach Ainu by Japanese".
They just wrote some phrases in Ainu and then discuss them in Japanese.
Nobody could speak Ainu there. Even the teacher of Ainu language can not speak it.
And then the question appears: "What language can such a teacher teachs? Japanese?"
I know that there are many ways of teaching but anyway if you are going to learn a language you should speak it. Otherwise it would be just a play but not a learning of a language.
When the lesson was finished I went out with a woman who also told me that here unfortunately nobody can speak Ainu. I told her that if you don't speak a language you are not able to learn it. She agreed but added that here there aren't anybody who can speak Ainu and so nobody can show us how to speak, nobody can teach us. It sounded very strange. When I learnt Ainu language I was absolutely alone. But I can speak it, though obviously there was nobody who could show me how to speak. The situation in the Ainu language school is obviously very strange. Of course I have seen just one but according to Ashizawa they all are the same. It seems that really these schools were organized in order to preserve any serious learning of Ainu.

Also should be noted that all Ainu texts which were used as materials of "Itak=an ro" festival or as materials for the Ainu language lesson and also Ainu newspaper "Aynu Times" written mostly in katakana and even somewhere Latin alphabet is used it is always followed by katakana but never opposite way.

On the first sight such an innocence fact is really a very dangerous thing because it negatively influences on Ainu language. The matter is the following: in Ainu language there are syllables of the following structures V, CV, VC, CVC. In Japanese syllables may have only the following structure: CV, CVn, CCV - consonant are the same.
When Ainu words are written in katakana all Ainu CVC syllables become CVCV structures: pirka becomes pirika ピリカ, mukkur becomes mukkuri/mukkuru - ムックリ / ムックル.
But now they sometimes use a special variant of katakana, where signs designating consonants are twice small than the main font:ペッ- pet. However this variant of katakana have been elaborated just nowadays and really they usually use usual katakana and so all Ainu VC syllables become VCV structures, and Ainu CVC syllables become CVCV structures.

If it would change just the phonotactics of Ainu - it would not be so dangerous. But we have to remember that Ainu words written in katakana become absolutely unclear from the morphological point of view. It is impossible to analyse such words, it is impossible to understand the meaning of these words, while when Ainu words are written in Latin alphabet morphemes bounds are absolutely clear and you can somehow understand the meaning of a word if you see of what morphemes it consists.
The following is a very characteristic example: itak=an ro means "let's speak", it consists of three morphemes: verbal root itak - "to speak", personal marker - 1pl., inclusive - =an and particle ro expressing invitation to do something together; when it is written in katakana, for example in the poster of this festival,  it is: イタカンロ - it is absolutely evident that when such a way of recording is used the only what can be singled out from this word form is particle ro. And it is absolutely impossible to single out verbal root or personal marker. Also I think that here we also have an influence of Japanese tradition to write clitics connected with the nuclear member.
So now I think it is absolutely evident that if we record Ainu words in katakana it seriously block the analisys of word structure and real, it preservs the understanding of language structure and slowly step by step the real imagination of Ainu language structure disaappeares.
Finally it is a very unconvenient way of recording of Ainu words but the most strange is that Ainu themselves prefer to use katakana to record texts in Ainu.

All these events: (Sisyamo kamuy nomi ceremony, "Itak=an ro" festival and Ainu language lessons) were iniciated by the Utari organization. Thus, now it can be clearly seen that Utari Ainu can not speak Ainu.

Those who really can speak Ainu don't participate in any so called "Ainu organizations" or "Ainu movement". They have learnt Ainu by themselves without any grants of any foundations or any organizations.

I have met only two persons who can speak Ainu:

The first is Mark Mitsuru Ota (Kamusokkay) from the city of Akabira. He learnt Ainu when he had alreday become adult. He knows Ainu very well: can speak in different dialects and can use different styles of speech. But the most important is that he try to invent new terms and introduce new words in Ainu language for it would be able to express any subject of contemporary world.
When I just came to the island of Hokkaido he presented me his dictionary of Asahigawa dialect.
Also Kamusokkay well knows such a languages as: English, Russian, FRench and German; also he actively uses Internet.

The second one is Yamamichi Yasuko (Asin Rera) from Nibutani. She is not so adwanced as Kamusokkay, she knows only one dialect - Saru. She has a fluent command of Ainu and can speak in Ainu on any theme as well as Kamusokkay.

By the way mostl of those who treat themselves as Ainu know some Ainu words and expressions of everyday use, such as "hello" or "how are you" or sometimes even can speak on some not very difficult themes.

In this connexion, in order to estimate the number of those who really can speak, I would like to introduce the following scale of 6 levels of Ainu language speaking ability:

1 level - doesn't know even a word/ cannot speak Ainu absolutely (Kayano Shiro)
2 level - knows such expressions as "thank", "hello" "how are you", "see you" (most of Ainu I met)
3 level - knows many Ainu words and expressions, speaks in Japanese but introduces these Japanese words in the Japanese speech (Nomoto from Chitose)
4 level - can produce a monologue in Ainu on some simple themes: weather, self introduction/ limited knowledge of a dialect (Takano from Nibutani)
5 level - knows one dialect well, can freely speak on any theme (Asin Rera)
6 level - knows different dialects and different styles of speech (Kamusokkay)

I think that this scale permits us to make our estimation a bit more exact. Not just state: "speaks" or "can not speak" but permits to estimate the tendecy of development.

However, who can be treated as Ainu language speakers?
I think that all who has 5 and 6 levels should be treated as Ainu language speakers.

5. The Real Number of Ainu Language Speakers

Thus we have the following:
I have seen about 100 of Ainu and only 2 of them were able to speak Ainu language.
As far as it was a random hundred of Ainu I believe that it is possible to make extrapolation.

According to Kayano Shiro there are about 30.000 Ainu people, more exactly 30.000 of those who identify themselves as Ainu.
I have seen just a hundred of them and only 2 of this hundred can speak Ainu.
So it can be easily seen that the total number of Ainu speaker is about 600 people which is 2% of Ainu population.

Of course, this is just the first approach and of course it would be much better to detect all speakers but this would require much more time than 1 month, I think that about 2 or 3 years need to detect each of Ainu speakers.

6. Dangerous Conclusions

Of course 600 people is much better than 15 people of Ethnologue or 5 people of Murasaki. But if we look at percentage we understand that the situation is very pitiful. For example in such ethnicities as Basque or Eskimo speakers are about 60 - 80% of total number. Only such percentage can warrant the maintain and normal existance of language while 3% mean the death of language.
This is not only death of language but also death of culture.

What is culture in our times? What is culture in modern world? What does it mean "culture"? What we mean when we say the word "culture"?
Nowadays when globalization increases when anthropological differences between cultures disappear fast, when almost all cultures use the same technology what can be the basis for identification a person as a member of certain ethnic group?  What can be the root the backbone of a certain cultural tradition?
In the case of Ainu we must not look at the anthropological types because of after centuries of intermarriage with Japanese Ainu mostly lost their original type. We must not look at those who perform so called "traditional Ainu rites" or wear Ainu wearing: most of "traditional Ainu rights" really were invented by Japanese in order to attract tourists (for example famous marimo rite or carving of bear figures).
Culture is not things, is not weraing. Culture is a way of thinking, way of behaiviour. And as far as way of thinking and way of behaviour are very well reflected by language so language is the main root of any culture.
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 and the backbone of any cultural traditions. 
Because of it in the case of Ainu, I think, it is possible to state the following: really those who identify themselves as Ainu, wear Ainu wearing but cannot speak Ainu must not be treated as Ainu, only those who identify themselves as Ainu and can speak Ainu should be treated as Ainu.
So I think that the real number of Ainu is equal to the number of Ainu speakers.

And then: what is the role of Utari or Foundation for Reservation and Promotion of Ainu Culture? I think that now it can be clearly seen by everybody: the main aim of such organizations is to control Ainu culture. These organizations really are just the continuation of Japanese colonializm. The fact that they grant money to some Ainu just approves our conclusion: all colonial power always distinguish a group in any of colonized ethnicity and grant this group in order to manage control over this ethnicity by this group and in order to prevent any disturbance of their policy.

Those who really know language and can really speak it don't need any material support from any foundations or organizations to speak it. Those who can really speak don't need to organize strange festivals in order to speak.

All the efforts to preserve "traditional Ainu culture" such as museums, ethnographical settlings, festivals, and even such as "Iwor" project - a project of a special reservation where Ainu are supposed to live according to so called "traditional Ainu culture" in the wild nature together with animals for Japanese would be able to research them, all these items are just different kinds of theater.
Ainu are a part of Japanese society: Ainu use vending-machines, Ainu buy food in combinience stores, Ainu like karaoke and pachinko. Moreover, we have to remember that sometimes contemporary Ainu know about their own culture much less than Japanese. Finally, it is hardly possible to manage traditional Ainu existance in contemporary Japan cause such a way of life requires a vast space of wild nature, which are obviously absent in contemporary Japan.
And also should be noted that in our times there are no traditional cultures, cause all so called minorities accept the products of Western civilization and develop their languages for they will be able to express all the subject of contemporary world.
So if sphere of Ainu language use is determined as a language of traditional culture only it is just a theater but not a usual use of language. It is not preservation at all. It is death of language and death of culture.

But if there are somebody who really cares about maintain and development of Ainu language and Ainu culture what measures can be recommended? What have to be done?
First we have to know that no one language can exist without a society cause any language is a social structure. So I think only autonomy can save Ainu language as well as any other human language. So if Japanese government really cares about maintain of Ainu language it has to think seriously about Ainu autonomy. This autonomy must not be such a project like "Iwor" or an "ethnographical settling" it should be such an autonomy where Ainu language would be used in normal everyday life: in a railway station, in a shop, in a bar et.c. So I think it would be better to make Ainu refuse their traditional culture and start to manage modern industry for they will beable to get money and an influence on contemporary Japan. Then having got money Ainu would be able to buy lands of their ancestors and it would be "Aynu Mosiri" which is so much spoken about, having got money Ainu would be able to set their own education system where they really will learn Ainu. I think if Japanese government really cares about Ainu it has to grant much more rights to Ainu people, to Ainu communities; also the status of Ainu language has to be changed. Really, I think, there is no need of an independent state but there obviously is a necessity of a wide autonomy inside of Japanese state.
But unfortunately Ainu themselves cannot understand it and also cannot do anything. They are so depraved that they cannot act. If they were Basque they have already got everything. But Ainu are not fighters. Unfortunately since long ago they aren't fighters. Now they cannot act. They misunderstand that if they don't act nobody acts instead of them. They are just like bear who sits in the cage and waits for candies. A bear who forget that he is a bear, that he can easily break the cage. All the contemporary Ainu culture is such a bear in cage.
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Re: The Contemporary Condition of Ainu Language
« Ответ #1 : 16 Февраля 2007 20:43:54 »
19.02.2007 (понедельник) в 16.00,
в ИЛИ РАН (Санкт-Петербург),
Тучков пер., д.9, ауд. 403
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доклад Акулова А.Ю.
«Современное состояние языка айну
(по результатам полевых исследований 2006 года)»
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