An Ainu–English–Japanese Dictionary/Chapter I/Section I


In the year A.D. 1851 Dr. A. Pfizmaier of Vienna published a small work called Untersuchungen über den Bau der Ainosprache.[1] This appears to have been the first attempt ever made to submit the Ainu language to a grammatical analysis. This work was founded on a small vocabulary collected by two Japanese and called Moshiogusa.[2] I have studied the book through very carefully, testing its contents word by word throughout among the Ainu themselves, the result being that I fully agree with Prof. Chamberlain who writes of it as follows:[3]

“Considering that this grammar was founded on little else than one imperfectly printed Japanese vocabulary, the “Moshiogusa,” the results obtained by the Austrian servant are truly marvellous. One only regrets, when perusing it, that a fraction of the vast trouble taken in collating each passage, comparing each word, noting each apparent grammatical phenomenon, should not have been devoted to a journey to Ainu[4] land itself, where a few months’ converse with the natives would have abridged the labour of years,—would indeed not only have abridged the labour but have rendered the result so much more trustworthy. As it is, Dr. Pfizmaier's “Untersuchungen” is rather a monument of learned industry, than a guide calculated to lead the student safely to his journey's end. The circumstances under which Dr. Pfizmaier worked were such as to render success impossible.”

In 1875 M. M. Dobrotvorsky published his Ainsko-Russkiŭ Slovar. This look is a revision of his brother's original work on the Ainu language and includes the “Untersuchungen” here referred to. Unfortunately the work has been spoiled in part by comprehending in it words from too many sources, some of which are not Ainu at all but perhaps Tartar, Oroko, Chuckchi, Yakut, Ziliyak, Aleutean, or some kindered tongue. A full list of the Authors referred to by Dobrotvorsky will be found in the preface to his Slovar.

From the appearance of this work till the year 1883 there is a further gap; but in that year Prof. J. M. Dixon, then of the Tokyo Engineering College, published a small sketch of Ainu Grammar founded on earlier European notices and his own short studies carried on chiefly among the Ainu of Tsuishkari; who, by the by, had a few years before come down from Saghalien. This sketch appeared in a Magazine then published in Yokohama and named The Chrysanthemum. After careful perusaI of those articles I once more fully agree with Prof. Chamberlain who says:—

“Unfortunately, the results obtained by this conscientious worker were impaired to some extent by the want of that intimate acquaintance with Japanese, which, in the absence of a thorough practical knowledge of Ainu itself, is the first condition to the successful investigation of any subject connected with the Island of Yezo.”[5]

The next work to appear on this subject was my own Grammar which is included in the Memoirs referred to above. It will be found introduced by Mr. Chamberlain's excellent brochure on the Language, Mythology, and Geographical Nomenclature of Japan viewed in the light of Ainu[6] studies. The present Grammar is a thorough revision of that and also of the one which appeared next as an introduction to my Ainu–English Japanese Dictionary published by the Hokkaidō-chō in 1889.

  1. Other works by Pfizmaier are Kritische Durehsicht der von Davidow verfassten Woertersammlung aus der sprache der Aino 1852. Erörterungen und Auklärungen üeber Aino 1882. Also his Beiträge zur kenntniss der Aino-Poesie and vocabulaire der Aino sprache.
  2. By Uehara Kumajiro and Abe Chōzaburō; 1804.
  3. Memories of the Literature college, Imperial University of Japan. Vol. I. Page 1.
  4. Prof. Chamberlain always wrote Aino but I have taken the liberty of changing the spelling into Ainu (which means “man”) wherever I have quoted him in this book so as to bring it into uniformity with the rest of this Grammar; for the people always speak of themselves as Ainu not Aino. Aino is an old Japanese way of calling this race. Dobrotvorsky also notes that the word Aino is a corruption of Ainu which he defines as “man.” With regard to this it is interesting to remark that the Eskimo call themselves innuit, “man”; the Moki Indians of Arizona call themselves hopi, “man,” and that Delaware Indians apply to themselves the term lennilenape, i.e. “men of men.” All Japanese official documents now have Ainu instead of Aino.
  5. Memoirs page 2.
  6. See footnote 2 on page 2.