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


No one with the least knowledge of the subject would for a moment doubt that the Yezo and Saghallen Ainu are one and the same race. It is perfectly true that the Yezo Ainu sometimes speak as though the language of the two peoples was different, even going so far as to use the words itak shinnai, “different language.” But when questioned on the matter it turns out that this itak shinnai, “different language,” simply means, for the most part, kutcham shinnai, “different way of pronouncing words.” There are numbers of exact analogies to this loose way of speaking among the Ainu of Yezo, for the people inhabiting the various districts of this island speak of one another’s speech under the same terms. Thus the Usu Ainu of the Saru; the Saru of the Tokapchi; the Tokapchi of the Apashiri, and so on. A good illustration of this point is found in the following incident which happened to myself some years ago. I was then in the north of Yezo and had just finished addressing a large concourse of people in Ainu. At the conclusion of the lecture a Japanese who was present said to an Ainu standing by,—“Did you understand what was said”? “Yes,” replied the man in Japanese—Ano hito wa Saru no yama no oku no Ainu da—“that man is an Ainu from behind the Saru mountalns”; and then added in Ainu, itak shinnai koroka Sar’un Ainu itak ambe ne, “it was a different language, but it was the speech of the Saru Ainu.” He meant to say that I spoke the Saru dialect. As a matter of fact I had lately come from Piratori, the ancient capital of Saru.

Though the Ainu language is, as a whole, spoken with considerable uniformity throughout the Island of Yezo, yet there are some slight differences to be noted in almost every village one passes through. These differences are not always so great as to justify one in calling them dialects, provincialisms would be a more appropriate name for them. As for dialects proper, we may say that there are about three spoken in Yezo, viz; the Saru, Usu and Tokapchi.[1] The Usu, Yurap, Mororan, and Ishikari Ainu (i.e. the Ainu of the Southern and Western coasts) only differ from those of the Saru district in that the former pronounce the words in full whilst the latter use certain contractions. The Tokapchi Ainu differ from all the rest both in the contraction of words and names of certain objects. The Apa-shiri, Akkesh, and Kushiro Ainu (i.e. the Ainu of the northern and north eastern coasts), though differing from their nearer neighbours, the Tokapchi people, speak very like those of Usu. However the grammer is the same, and when the Saru dialect is spoken but without the contraction of words, one is pretty well understood by all excepting the Tokapchi people, who sometimes miss the meaning.

A few differences in the words used by the northern and southern Ainu are as follows:—

southern. northern.
Aman-chikap, Aman e-chiri, “a sparrow.”
Chikap, Chiri, “a bird.”
Chup, Tombe, “a luminary” (Tombe really means, “the shining thing.”)
K, Ku, “I.”
Kek, Ku ek, “I come.”
Koira, Ku oira, “I forget.”
Koropok, Choropok, “under,” “beneath.”
Paro, Charo, “the mouth.”
Poi, po, Pon, “little.”
Upaskuma, Uchashkuma, “a lecture,”
Wei, Wen, “bad.”
Yakka, Yakkai, “although.”

There are, however, a few interesting differences well worthy of a passing note and among them are such as these for example. In one district we have the word nishatta for “to-morrow,” while in another we hear shimma used. Nishatta really means “dawn” but it has gradually come to stand for “to-morrow”—indeed, so firmly is this meaning now attached to it that in most places shimma is quite unintelligible to the people. Yet it is of interest to remark that shimma is ordinarily used in Saghalien for “to-morrow” and appears all over Yezo in the words oyashim, “the second day after to-morrow” and oyashimshinge, "the second day after to-morrow.” Or again, in the Saru district the ordinary word for “father” is michi and for “mother,” habo. But in some villages in the Mukawa district, and not so much as ten English miles away from Piratori, michi stands for “mother,” and habo for “father”! Further, although in Piratori the word habo means “mother,” yet at Piraka, only four miles lower down the Saru river, the word commonly used for “father” is iyapo! This is very strange, but is a fact notwithstanding. In some other places the ordinary word for “father” is hambe. In Saghalien also the usual word is hambe. In Yezo the usual word for “rain” is apto while in Saghalien and Kamtchatka peni or pene is used. But pene means “aqueous” as a rule and in rare case “rain” among the Yezo Ainu. Mene, “fine rain” belongs to the same root.

There is, however, one other difference to be noted. It consists in accents or the pronunciation of words. There are in many village in Yozo, more formerly than now, quite a number of people who speak their words with a slight tonic accent as though the language was originally connected with Chinese or some kindred tongue. But there is this very in pertant difference; in speaking Chinese it is absolutely necessary to enunciate the tones clearly for they are part and parcel of the word itself. Among the Yezo Ainu this is not the case now whatever it may have been formerly. Here the tonic accent is quite unimportant and many would hardly notice it. The principal thing is to clearly define every syllable it and pronounce it distinctly.

But both the differences in dialect now mentioned are found among the Ainu of Saghalien but in a more emphasized manner. The chief difficulty in a Yezo Ainu understanding a man from Saghalien—and it was at first my own difficulty also—arises from the marked tones the people impose upon their words. Thus, while we say in Yezo Ainu wakka ta wa ek, “go and draw some watar,” smoothly and without accent, a Saghalien Ainu would, though using the identical words. emphatically intone or accent every syllable; indeed, with my eyes closed and no knowledge of Ainu I should, refering to these tones, say he was speaking some dialect of Chinese. And I say this advisedly, remembering that before coming to Yezo I had several months study of the Cantonese dialect of Chinese in Hongkong under the guidance of competent teachers. Saghalien Ainu, in so far as pronounciation is concerned, used certainly to remind me of the Chinese language whenever I heard a native speaking it. At the present time, however, the tones are being lost and a Russian sound given to many of the consonants.

But to mention Yezo and Saghalien vocabulary. There is also a marked difference in the use of words here. Thus in Yezo the word for “sun” is chup, while in Saghallen it is tombe. Tombe is a compound word meaning in Yezo Ainu “the shiner.” Further, in Yezo the ordinary word for “fire” is abe; in Saghalien it is unchi, fuji, unji, hunji or funchi, according to the taste of the speaker, But in Yezo Ainu—unchi, huchi, unji or fuji is only applied to “fire” when it is being worshipped. Indeed, it stands for the “goddess of fire.” Among the Saghalien Ainu the word for fresh-water “ice” is ru, while in Yezo the word used is konru. Apu is Saghalien Ainu for “sea-ice” or “floe,” a word which occurs in place-names in Yezo, among whom apu seems to mean “broken ice along the sea-coast.” Again, among the Saghalien Ainu the words for “hare” are first Oshuke and then kaikuma while in most parts of Yezo it is almost always isepo, though sometimes epetche. But among the Tokapchi Ainu kaikuma is also used. Once more, the pit-dwellers of Saghalien are called by those of their fellows who do not use pits (for some use pits even now during the cold winter months) by the name of Toichiseikotchaguru, “persons having earth dwellings;” while in Yezo the pits left by those of their ancestors who used them are known as koropok or choropok-un-guru koro chisel kot, “the house sites of those who lived in pits.” Every part of this last word is purely Ainu as also is toichiseikotchaguru; hence, for such like reasons we conclude that the language of Yezo and Saghalien is one.

There are of course many different words used by the Yezo and Saghalien Ainu whose origin one cannot always trace. Ibe-bashui, for example is Yezo Ainu for “chop-sticks,” really meaning “eating tongs”; but the Saghalien Ainu say sakkai, a word whose full meaning has yet to be determined. However, among the Yezo Ainu the words sakma and sakiri “a rail” or “pole” appear to carry the same root. In the North again arak is used for spiritus liquor, but in Yezo this word is known only to those Ainu who have been to Saghalien. It has probably come through Russia.

If a still clearer proof was needed to show that the Yezo Ainu were in early times connected with the Island of Saghalien it may be found in an examination and comparsion of the Place-names of the two Islands, for both are seen to be pure Ainu. Exception is of course taken with respect to such European names as C. Elisabeth; C. Maria; B. Espenberg; Bai d’ Estaing, and so forth. The following score of names are taken from C. W. Schebunin’s karte der Jnsel Sachalien oder Karapto (1868). Schebunin’s name is given first, then the present Ainu pronunciation, and after that the English meaning.

  Schebu. Ainu. English.
1. Ekuroki Ekurok-i “Black place.”
2. Naiputzj Nai-putchi “The glen mouths.”
3. Naitscha Nai-cha “The glens” or “glen-side.”
4. Ninaussi Nina-ushi “Sole place.”
5. Notoro Not-oro “Having a blunt cape.”
6. Nubori-Endum Nupuri entom
Nupuri etomo
“Mountain side.”
7. Otassu Ota-shut “Sand foot.” Shut is “the foot of a mountain.”
8. Piro-tzi Pirotchi “The cliffs.”
9. Pissjachssam Pischa-sam “The sea-side.”
10. Po-tomari Pon-tomari “The little harbour.”
11. Ssiranussi Shiran-ushi “Tide-place” or “rocky place.”
12. Ssirepa Shiripa “Land’s head,” or as we should say in English, “Land’s end.”
13. Ssoya Soya
“The land of bare rocks.”
14. Ssussucha Susucha kotan
Shuhucha kotan
“The place of willows.”
15. Ssussuso Susu-ush-nai
“Willow glen” or “valley.”
16. Tomari-nai Tomari-nai “The harbour of the glen.”
17. Tomari-po Tomaripo “Little harbour” (Lit: “the child of the harbour).”
18. Tunaitscha Tu-nai-cha “The two valleys”—“double valley.”
19. Tyk Tuk “Projecting.”
20. Uen-kotan Wen-kotan “Bad place.”—(sometimes “bad” in the sense of “rocky” or “stony.”)

Many other names might be given but the fore-going will suffice for the present purpose. In studying that dialects of Ainu several questions, such as the following present themselves; viz:—

(a). “Does the fact of the Ainu languages having traces of tones in it point to China or Chinese Tartary as its place of origin?”

(b). Or, “if it did not take its rise there is it not possible—nay even probable—that it passed through those regions in prehistoric times and so has been made to feel Tartar influence?”

(c). Or, “can any affinity be found by way of comparative philology between Ainu and Tibetian, it being remembered that Tibetian has tones very distinctly developed?”

(d). Or, “is there any connection between Ainu and the languages of the Northern or Southern Turanian type, it being remembered that these are inflected?” These and other interesting questions have crossed my mind more than once, and they are, I am fully persuaded questions which should be closely studied by those who have the leisure, inclination, and competence for such a work. The results would, I believe, well repay the time, trouble and patience expended in the inquiry. Perhaps the grammar contained in this book will help to solve the riddle; it is at least hoped so.

  1. It may be remarked here that the Saru Ainu confess to having originally come from Tokachi to Saru, while the Usu Ainu declare that their ancestors come from Saru. The Tokachi Ainu also say that they originaly came form Saghalien.