ex_heracles30: (Default)
『 ᴷᴱᴱᴺEYED 』 ᶜᵒˡᵈ & fаir ([personal profile] ex_heracles30) wrote in [community profile] linguaphiles2009-06-09 06:38 pm

relatives of the ainu language?

This is homework help in a sense, but I'm not asking for anyone to answer questions or do my work for me; I just need a few pointers in terms of where to start looking for sources. If this isn't allowed, let me know and I'll take it down.

I'm doing a research paper for my biological anthropology class on the origins of the Ainu people. Normally these are supposed to be group projects but because the idea had no other takers, I went ahead and got permission to do this project on my own. Unfortunately, that means my paper has to be twice as long. So in addition to researching their possible ancestors, I've been thinking of researching the language itself.

I don't know anything about the Ainu language besides the fact that there are only 15 'fluent speakers' left in the world, and that it is considered a language isolate. I probably won't find a language that's related to Ainu, but I can try. Failing that I can just talk about why the language is different from other languages. The trouble is I know next to nothing about linguistics and don't know where I'd start in talking about this language.

Basically, I'm looking for some good sources that discuss the Ainu language itself. My campus library has been surprisingly unhelpful; I've already found some good books and articles with regards to the biological aspect of my paper that I have to request from other campus libraries. I'm not asking for people to help do the research, I'm just hoping someone will know where I can get started doing it myself. Any books, articles, etc. would be extremely helpful.

Again, if this isn't allowed, let me know. Thanks in advance.
paper_hand: Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh holding Maaya (Default)

[personal profile] paper_hand 2009-06-10 01:44 am (UTC)(link)
Ainu is generally believed to be an isolate. Some believe it to be an Altaic language.

The Languages of Japan by Shibatani is a good source. It discusses both Japanese and Ainu.
kutsuwamushi: (Default)

[personal profile] kutsuwamushi 2009-06-10 05:59 am (UTC)(link)
I probably won't find a language that's related to Ainu

Not unless you're willing to argue a theory that's not widely accepted. If Ainu has relatives, the split occurred long enough ago that we probably won't ever be able to discover them.

Failing that I can just talk about why the language is different from other languages

What do you mean by different? If you mean how we know it has no relatives, the answer is basically that it doesn't have enough in common with any other known language. I'm not sure how you would stretch that out. You might talk about particular theories and why they aren't caccepted, but that might be difficult and time-consuming to research.

If you want to talk about unique features... I don't know much about Ainu, but I don't remember anything i The Languages of Japan that would be particularly interesting to a non-linguist. There's nothing as pat as "they have forty word for snow," or whatever.
franzeska: (Default)

[personal profile] franzeska 2009-06-19 03:05 pm (UTC)(link)
It's not just your library: There are almost no books on it. If I were you, I'd look for journal articles instead. Your library should have access to JSTOR or some other resource like that.

Whether a language has close relatives is a totally different question from whether it has unusual features. Ainu probably doesn't have any interesting features, and even if it did, this probably wouldn't be relevant to biological anthropology. (In case it's not clear, there are probably plenty of languages in the world that share tons of features with Ainu, but that wouldn't be proof that they're related.)

You could try adding something on anti-Ainu prejudice, which is directly related to how genetically mixed the remaining Ainu people are and how and when their language was suppressed and how isolated they were or weren't in various periods.