In this episode, we speak with linguists and individuals working on reclaiming languages with three distinct Ryukyuan/Loochooan languages. These languages originate from the following locations known in Japanese as Amami Oshima, Miyako, and Yaeyama. Join us in conversation with Madoka Hammine, Michinori Shimoji, Martha Tsutsui Billins, and guest host Micah Mizukami, who share their focus in their respective languages, linguistics, revitalization, and identity.
We hope to dedicate an entire episode to each of these languages, so be on the lookout in future seasons!
Listen to us on:
or... click the link below to listen:
Micah Mizukami is a 5th-generation Shimanchu and is pursuing his Ph.D. in Second Language Studies with a focus on sociolinguistics. He works in the field of oral history and has taught courses on oral history methods and the social history of Pidgin (Hawaiʻi Creole English) with a language rights focus. He also looks at the intersection of narrative and identity. Through the JET Program, Micah taught on the island of Tokunoshima.
Madoka Hammine Madoka Hammine has a Ph.D. in Education from the Lapin yliopisto (University of Lapland) which focused on minority-endangered languages. She is a heritage speaker of Meeramuni from Miyara, Ishigaki island and she grew up in Yonabaru, in Okinawa (Uchinaa). Her work focuses on the language revitalization and reclamation of Ryukyuan languages, as well as heritage language teaching and learning, identities and emotions of second language learners, indigenous language education, language policy and planning. Her dissertation is titled, “Speaking my Language and Being Beautiful – Decolonizing
Radio program: marumaru (まーるーまーるー琉球諸語)
Michinori Shimoji has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Australian National University. His thesis is titled, “A grammar of Irabu, a Southern Ryukyuan language.” He is a heritage speaker of the Irabu dialect in the Miyako islands. His current research is on the Kyushu dialects of Japan, which are also severely endangered. His work focuses on the documentation and revitalization of other Ryukyuan languages and Japanese dialects.
Martha Tsutsui Billins has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from SOAS University of London. Her thesis is titled, “A sociolinguistic documentation of honorific verbs in Southern Amami Ōshima.”
She is an outsider linguist who is a Yonsei (4th generation) Japanese-American. Her research focuses on Shimaguchi in Setouchi town on Amami Oshima, specifically honorifics and politeness strategies in the face of language loss. She is the host and producer of Field Notes, which is a podcast about linguistic fieldwork, particularly focused on under-described and under-documented languages.
JET Program - Japan Exchange and Teaching Program
Handbook of Ryukyuan Languages (2015) De Gruyter Mouton, Patrick Heinrich, Shinshō Miyara, Michinori Shimoji
To read more about social class and on conversations similar to Yakunin, we suggest:
The Ikei Islanders : Fishing Practices in an Okinawan Coral Ecosystem - For some reading on Itoman fishermen in Yaeyama
Yoko Gushiken 具志堅さん (Ishigaki Boxer)
Dr: Hammine: In Uchinaa, Nondenai could mean "(someone) has drunk." Another example would be how Shindenai (someone) has not passed away = is alive) could cause misunderstanding between Japanese speakers and Yaeyaman/Japanese bilingual speakers. For example, “Watashi no oneesan shindenai kara zannen dane (It’s very sad because my older sister is still alive)” but for a Yaeyaman speaker, it meant “My older sister has passed away. It's very sad”
→ An example of "shindenai" is something I heard from one elderly person from Kabira village in Ishigaki island so I am not sure if this example is correct in Okinawa. I do not think people in Okinawa island, who are in my generation, would not naturally speak like this.
New speakers: People who learn and acquire their heritage language as a second language but not through their family.
Rokuchō Bushi from Yaeyama was influenced by Amami Ōshima
Field Notes, Episode 6: Madoka Hammine on Insider Research in the Ryukyus
Field Notes, Episode 28: Irabu Ryukyuan Language Documentation with Michinori Shimoji
Dr. Shimoji: The Miyako language has cross-linguistically rare features of sounds such as ps, bl, where p and b are combined with a consonant-like vowel s and l, or syllabic consonants.
Dr. Hammine: In the Yaeyama language, there are different types of ‘Watashi tachi’ (=We in English)”
1) We as a part of a group (if listeners are part of the group or not). Inclusive "we" or Exclusive "we".
2) Bandaa (exclusive "we" our podcast, but excludes the listeners) vs. Bagadaa (inclusive "we" which includes the listeners).
Dr: Tsutsui Billins: In Amami Oshima, there are several types of honorifics which speakers utilize according to vertical and horizontal distance. An example utterance expressing “please lend me” from most polite to least polite:
karachi tabore (most polite)
karachi kurinshore (more polite)
karachi kuriri (plain)
karachi (most casual)
めーらむに - Miyaran (Meeramuni) Yaeyaman Language website
We-code Honorifics in Southern Amami Ōshima by Martha Tsutsui Billins
Effects of Gender on Language Revitalization & Documentation in the Ryukyus by Madoka Hammine (Meio University), Miho Zlazli (SOAS), Akiko Yokoyama (JSPS/ILCAA), and Martha Tsutsui Billins (SOAS)
Collaborative Ryukyuan Language Documentation and Reclamation by Madoka Hammine and Martha Tsutsui Billins
Verb-verb complexes in Irabu Ryukyuan by Michinori Shimoji
Foot and Rhythmic Structure in Irabu Ryukyuan by Michinori Shimoji
Ippee nifee deebiru (thank you very much!) to Marin Naruse from Amami Oshima for providing this episode’s music! Marin shared, “the song is called Yoisara Bushi, which is one of the most beautiful songs of Amami shima uta. The song is originally based on the belief of Unarigami, the spirits residing in sisters.” Website: https://marin-naruse.com/
And as always, nifee deebiru to Brandon Ufugusuku Ing for the music for the fun fact!
Oki Fun Fact of the Day:
This episode’s fun fact was shared with us by our guest host, Micah!
Did you know there are lots of fun language resources that exist for many of the language varieties in the Ryuukyuus? However, accessing these resources can be difficult for the diaspora, since finding them often requires searching in Japanese. This is further complicated by the current political division of Ruuchuu between Okinawa and Kagoshima Prefectures. Searching for individual islands or specific villages tends to work. For example, there are many versions of Rajio Taiso from across the archipeligo you can see on YouTube. There are also picture books and karuta sets that have been created. Vlogs are another fun language resource, too. Happy Learning!
Amami - Setouchi: https://youtu.be/7GiO1qKvzvY
Tokunoshima - Amagi-cho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcrBoe9lQYo
Tokunoshima - Isen-cho: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdfyI412VDc
Yaeyama Study Group Website https://yaimamuni.space (for Japanese speakers)
Miyara Yaeyaman (Miyaran/Meeramuni) https://meeramuni.github.io/sakishima/index.html
Huge thank you to Emma Anderson and Joseph Kamiya for audio editing and mastering.
Donations to Ichariba Choodee are very much appreciated!
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org