K. Doore (writinghokkaido) wrote,

The Ainu Language

When I first become truly interested in Japanese, it was because of Japanese poetry. One of the things I came to understand right away was that no matter the skill of the translater, the original language was almost always necessary for understanding the subtleties of the text. A knowledge of the ways of the original language helped in understanding a translation even in the absence of the original text. So when, after the bits and peices of Ainu in Kayano Shigeru's memoirs, I decided to investigate Ainu poetry and song, I realized that at least a minor study of the language would need to be undertaken. As a linguistics minor and general language afficianado, I was basically just looking for an excuse to study it. So far, using the Rev. John Batchelor's grammary and dictionary, I have made a rough sketch of his take on the grammar. How correct he is, I cannot say. The source is outdated, and yet seems to be one of the few available. Granted, this research was mostly to provide a rough idea - a little clue into how an Ainu speaker would hear and interact with others and the world. This is just the first installment, because one entry on a topic as large as the grammar of a language would be ridiculous.
Sketch of Ainu Grammar, part 1:
   - chi becomes t before [u]tara    eg. Heikachi +Utara = Heikattara 'boy'
   -N becomes m before m or b
   - Ra/Ri becomes n before n/ra, t before t   eg.  Ashiri+no= Ashin-no 'newly'
   -Ro becomes t before chi/t, n before n       spec. goro= kot/kon
   -Ru becomes n before n
   - When a word that ends in a vowel preceds a word that begins with one, the end vowel is sometimes dropped.
II. ARTICLE-    technically there is no article, but shine 'one' and the demonstrative. Adj. are sometimes used.
III. NOUNS - Ainu Ns do not change to indicate gender/#/case
   -Gender: for animals, pinne 'male' or matne 'female' are added before N. For human or god males, Okkai[yo] is used
                eg. pinne seta 'male dog'
   -Number: for humans and gods, utara postcedes the N.   Animals must be counted, using an "Animal+#+pish"
  -Case: usu. addressed by context., but there are occasionally used  these
      a. Nominative- anak ne (nom. marker)  eg Ainu anak ne "a man"
      b. Objective- no marker, except that it is followed by the passive V
      c. Genitive- koro  eg. ainukoro "the man's"
      d. Dative- otta  eg. ainu otta "to a man"
      e. Ablative-  orowa no    eg. ainu orowa no "from a man"
   - these following particles are sometimes prefixed to Ns to indicate case
      f. e - place "to a place"
      g. o - place "from a place"
      h. ko-V  "to go (in order to do . ..  )'    similar to the Japanese form "Vb-stem に行く"
   -Abstract Nouns: Adj./Vb. + i, hi, ambe   eg. nupeki 'bright' => nupeki-i 'brightness'
             *be careful, ambe sometimes makes Adj./Vb.'s into Concrete N's
   -Compound Nouns: formed by several methods
       a. by combining 2 substantives.  eg. to 'the breast' + pe 'water' => tope 'milk'
       b. by combining a Vb and N.    eg. E 'to eat' + Pe 'an article' => Ep 'food'
       c. by combining Adj + p[e] 'an article'     eg.  Pase 'heavy' =>  Pasep 'a heavy thing'
       d. by combining Vb. + katu 'shape' / ambe 'thing'
                                   An-katu 'existence'                                                Itak-katu 'language'
              An 'to be' <                                                   Itak 'to speak' <
                                   An-ambe 'entity'                                                     Itake-ambe 'a speech' (as in a dialect)
   -Variety/Diversity is expressed by prefixing usa, usaine an, neun-neun to the N           eg. usa-wenburi 'variety of bad habits',
                      usaine an itak ambe 'many diverse speeches', neun-neun ambe 'various things'
    -Diminutives: prefix pon or poi , or suffix po in some cases.     eg.   pon-umma 'colt',   pon-beko 'calf'
   - Simple: these end in ai, ak , chi, ka , m, n, p, ra, re, ri, so, ru, sh, te, tok
   - Compound: these end in an, koro, ne, nei, o, sak, tek, un, ush
   - Comparative: prefix naa 'yet;more'    and  prefix iyotta 'most'  eg.  pirika 'good'   naa pirika 'better'   iyotta pirika 'best'
    -Comparative w/ "than"=>
       a. w/ akkari 'to surpass' ~'than'  eg.     E  akkari , ku nitan ruwe ne  lit. 'You than, I go fast"  I go faster than you.
       b. w/ akkari  and eashka 'more'.eg.  Ya akkari rep anak ne eashka poro ruwe ne. lit ' land than sea (nom. mark) more great (copula).
c. w/ akkari  and eitasa 'excess'. eg. Toan kotan akkari, tan kotan anak ne eitasa hango no an kotan ne ruwe ne. lit."that village than, this village                                         (nom.) excess near(=>adv) village (copula). This village is nearer than that village.
       d. w/ akkari and mashkinno 'surpassingly'   eg.  umma akkari, isopo mashkinno rutan ruwe ne. lit.' horse than, a hare surpassingly goes (copula)'
e. w/ akkari and naa 'more'   eg. En akkari, eani naa shiwende ruwe ne. lit.'me than, you more walk slowly (copula)'
f. kasu no 'surpassing'    eg. En kasu no, e ri ruwe ne  lit.'me surpassing, you (are) tall (copula)"
       a. Singular- ta an/ tan 'this'   Nei a 'that'  Nei an 'that (short distance away)'  To an 'that (further away)'
       b. Plural-  tan okai "these'    nei okai "those (short distance away)"   To an okai "those (good distance away)"
       c. singular demonst. adj. can prefix pl. N's, but pl. demonst. adj. never prefix sing. N's because okai is a pl. Vb. meaning "to dwell at"
    -Particles on Adjectives-
       a. e prefixed to (certain) Adj. => Vb.s       eg.  e + hapuro 'soft' => e-hapuro 'to be unable to endure'
       b. Adj. + no . => Adv.      eg. ashiri 'new' + no => Ashinno 'newly'      similar to English suffix "-ly"
       c. Adj. + tara => Adv.     eg. moire 'slow' + tara => moire-tara 'slowly
       d. Adj. ending in (-a, -e, -i, -o, -ne, -nu) + p[e] => N      eg.  Ichakkere 'dirty' + p[e] => Ichakkerep 'dirty thing'      *p[e] ≠ ~ness
       f.  Adj. not ending in (-a, -e, -i, -o, -ne, -nu)  suffix pe, softened to be     eg.  Hekai be 'old person'

This is just my preliminary entry, of course. There are the weighty topics of Numerals, Verbs, Adverbs, Pronouns and basic syntax left to address. So far, Ainu is interesting as a language in the way that words move with just a small change from one category to another. I would also note that there is a linguistically coded seperation between gods/humans and the rest of the world. How to explain the sound of Ainu is beyond the scope of print, and most people don't read International Phonetic Alphabet, so instead I'll provide a link to a site with some sound samples. Real Player is required, and it can be a bit of a hassle, but it seems to be one of the few sites providing something like this. I'd like to point out the little bar on the top of that page, which says "entrance to Ainu World". Kayano emphasizes the importance of language as part of an identity, and I think the Ainu language really is the "Entrance to the Ainu World".




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