Nissan Seminar: Ainu: A head-marking language of the Pacific Rim

Convenor(s): Dr Jennifer L. Guest, Dr Linda Flores, and Professor Bjarke Frellesvig

Speaker(s): Anna Bugaeva, PhD, Associate Professor, Tokyo University of Science /National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics

These seminars will occur live and will not be recorded. Unauthorized recording is strictly prohibited.

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Ainu: A head-marking language of the Pacific Rim

Ainu is strikingly different from other languages of Northeast Asia such as Altaic languages, Korean, and Japanese. Like these languages, Ainu is SOV and agglutinating, but unlike them it is polysynthetic, incorporating, and head-marking. This chapter argues that most key features in Ainu are related to head-marking, which is widely attested in the languages of the Pacific Rim, i.e., coastal areas around the Pacific including northern Australia, the north coast of New Guinea, Oceania, coastal eastern Asia, western coastal North America, Mexico and Central America, and western coastal South America. Following Nichols (1986), I regard the head- and dependent-marking characteristics as diachronically the most conservative features. The fact that Japanese and other neighboring Northeast Asian languages are dependent marking speaks against their relatedness to Ainu and makes Ainu a Northeast Asian survivor from the post-Neolithic spreads of language families of the Inner Asian type: Tungusic, Turkic, Mongolic, Japanese and Korean, along with Nivkh, Chukchi-Kamchatkan, and Eskimo-Aleut families.

Anna Bugaeva is Associate Professor of Linguistics, Institute of Arts and Sciences, Tokyo University of Science and Visiting Associate Professor at National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics. Bugaeva has taught courses on linguistics and Ainu at the most highly ranked universities in Japan (Tokyo University, Waseda, Hitotsubashi, and Tokyo University of Science). Bugaeva’s research focuses on the descriptive and typological study of Ainu and the preservation and documentation of Ainu language materials. Her revised PhD thesis Grammar and Folklore Texts of the Chitose Dialect of Ainu (Idiolect of Ito Oda) (2004) was published within a specialized Japanese series on language documentation (ELPR) to a very positive reception. Bugaeva’s research is rooted in the framework of functional linguistic typology (especially that of the St. Petersburg/Leningrad Typology Group). She has described a number of features of Ainu that are noteworthy from a typological standpoint; these include person marking, reported discourse, voice alternations, relative clauses, nominalizations, complex predicates, possession etc. She has publications in the leading linguistics journals (Linguistics, Linguistic Typology, Studies in Language), and in top linguistics journals of Germany (Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung), Japan (Gengo Kenkyū) and Russia (Voprosy Jazykoznanija). In 2013, Bugaeva was awarded The Japan National Institutes for the Humanities Research Prize for her cumulative research on Ainu and, in 2015, The 11th National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics Director’s Award.