An Ainu–English–Japanese Dictionary/Introduction


Whatever may be thought to the contrary, on account of the remoteness of the subject from ordinary topics, no sooner does one take up the study of Ainu in real earnest than he finds that the collection of words and arranging them in the form of vocabulary has by no means been neglected. For, to say nothing of those tabulated by Japanese (the Moshiogusa to wit), since the year 1730, when Philipp Johann von Strachlenberg of Stockholm published his Der Word- und Destliche Theil von Europa und Asia, quite a number of lists of words have appeared. Yet amid all the present writer has seen he does not feel that he can do better than refer the student to M. M. Dobrotvorsky’s Ainsko–Russkiŭ Slovar (1875). This is undoubtedly a good work but by no means in every case safe. A steady perusal of the book has proved to the present Author that there are several matters to be particularly guarded against in it. Such as, for example, the following.

(1.) Dobrotvorsky has introduced many foreign words unnoted into his slovar which examination proves cannot be traced to any known Ainu root. While on the other hand he has wrongly defined the word under examination. Note, for examples, some of the foreign words brought in. Dobrotvorsky gives jo, “lock.” But this is pure Chinese or Japanese, the Ainu having no native locks or keys. He also gives enu, соба́ка, but this is clearly the Japanese word inu (イヌ) “dog.” Why he should have put it in one is at a loss to know for the Ainu have two words of their own for “dog,” viz. seta and reyep. Again, he has given Chapan, “earthenware:” but this is evidently the Japanese chawan, “tea-cup”! But perhaps one of the most beautiful disguises appears in the word Итчири, “Верста”! But this when turned into honest Roman letters, is just ichi-ri, Japanese (イチリ) ichi ri “one ri,” pure and simple.

(2.) Then, again, the Russian alphabet has been employed in writing Ainu; yet, whatever may be said for the beauties and perfection of this method when writing Russian, it is quite certain that it is not adapted for Ainu; the ordinary Roman, as pronounced on the continent of Europe, is much better. Russian is distinctly a gutteral language, which the Ainu is not; the latter language resting more (so to speak) on the vowels than on the consonants. Thus, for example, Dobrotvorsky represents plain ho by го, га, or хо, and ха. There is also a difficulty in the hard mute ъ. Nor is this all. There is also a great difficulty in the uses of щ (shtch) and such like consonants. To cut the matter short, it is the Author’s opinion, gained by practice, that the Russian way of writing is quite misleading when applied to the Ainu language.

But Dobrotvorsky’s work is interesting in quite another way, inasmuch as it connects Yezo Ainu with that formerly spoken in Saghalien[1] and about the peninsula of Kamtchatka. Let us take one interesting example only by way of illustration of this. At Usu, in Southern Yezo, the present Author often heard the native name of a certain fish which he could not define in English. But Dobrotvorsky gives the very same word as used in the north, and which further study proves to be the dolphin. In like manner the work gives Варантука which we are told is “a kind of fish.” At Usu, again, the same word is used, and there, warantuka is Stickœs, sp. But perhaps the most important thing about the book is that Dobrotvorsky suspects the Ainu language of being an inflected one, while the grammar following this dictionary clearly proves it now to be so and in some cases shows how it has become so.

Passing by many smaller vocabularies the largest to appear previous to my own Ainu–English–Japanese Dictionary (1889) (of which the present volume is a much enlarged and thoroughly revised edition) is that published (unread) by the Rev. J. Summers in Vol. XIV. Part II. page 186 et seq., of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan 1886. It is a great pity Mr. Summers had not a better working knowledge of the Ainu language, his vocabulary being admittedly founded on the efforts of others. As, for example, Dixon; Dening; Klaproth; Scheube; Siebold; Batchelor; Dobrotvorsky; Pfizmaier; Davidoff; and such works as the Yezo Gosen and the Matsumai Mss. This collation and quotation of Authors has not made the work any more valuable for, alas, many of their oversights and mistakes have also been copied. Summer’s vocabulary has some 3,000 words in it, while at the end are found 63 sentences (by no means exact) in the Saru dialect.

It appears to be supposed that the present writer is the first independent British worker in this line. But such is not the case. The Author cannot allow this work to go to press without mentioning the fact that Mr. W. Dening, formerly of the Church Missionary Society at Hakodate, was the first Englishman to really take up the work of studying Ainu in thorough earnest. Mr. Dening’s vocubulary, containing some 925 words and 38 phrases, will be found in vol. I. of The Chrysanthemum (now defunct). Though published in 1881 the words were collected five years previously. My own first efforts in Ainu studies commenced in 1877. Would that Mr. Dening had staid among us here to complete a work so important and so well begun.

Since the publication of the Author’s Dictionary in 1889 the only original work of a vocabulary description presented to the public appears to be that printed conjointly by Profs. Jimbō and Kanazawa both of the Imperial University of Tōkyō. This little work is called Ainu go kwaiwa jiten (アイヌ語會話字典), and was published in the 31st year of Meiji. Both words and phrases are in Ainu and Japanese only and therefore useless to all who do not read Japanese.

In the year 1896 Prof. S. Kanasawa (above referred to in connection with Prof. Jimbō) published “A Revision of the Moshiogusa, an Ainu vocabulary” in vol. XIX. July–September No. 2 Journal of the Tōkyō Geographical Society. I have looked this vocabulary through and also studied the Moshiogusa word for word as given by Dr. Pfizmaier in his Untersuchungen uiber den Bau der Ainu sprache. The result is that I cannot help thinking that it would have been far better had the Prof. reprinted the Moshiogusa just as it stands, for this revision very much partakes not only of the nature of editorship (which I deny the Author any right to assume), but also of changing (and that very clearly) of a Northern way of speaking into a Southern; thus destroying a very important link. Perhaps such a statement from me requires proof (which I am fully prepared to give if necessary and will do if required), but for the present (not to take up too much space) I ask that the following few examples only be accepted as one kind of proof. Thus:—The Moshiogusa gives リイ (ri-i) which Prof. Kanazawa revises into plain (ri) thus cutting off the final (i). Ought this to be allowed in philological science? For one I most emphatically protest that it should not be. Ri () is an adjective meaning “high,” while ri-i (リイ) is an abstract noun meaning “the heights,” both in Saghalien and Yezo. I do not therefore see where the revision (properly so called) comes in. It deserves some other name. Again, the Moshiogusa gives ウンジポ (unjipo) for “fire;” Mr. Kanazawa revises this into unji only, thus omitting the final (po). But the Ainu of Yezo at the present day use unjipo when addressing the fire upon the hearth as a goddess, the particle po implying respect and reverence. Not to multiply instances, however, I will take one more example only. The Moshiogusa gives イエポコ (iyepoko) which the Prof. revises into iyepokba guru, thus substituting ba for o and adding guru! I cannot understand such science as this. It is not philology. What is it, I wonder!

............But iyepok-o is an adjective of the singular number and of the objective case meaning in plain English “bearing the hatred of others,”[2] while iyepokba guru is a noun plural of the person and singular of the object meaning “one who is hated by others.” Mr. Kanazawa’s work is one rather of industry than of true science, and the task he set before himself is one which would naturally require a long and varied experience among the Ainu themselves and in the various Northern and Southern districts in which they have lived before being performed. It is a work rather to be dreaded than undertaken lightly.

It will be found that in this Dictionary the Ainu word has been written in Japanese Kana as well as with the Roman letters. This was done at the last moment owing to the request of friends for the sake of any who do not read the Roman form. I was rather sorry at being asked to do this because Ainu cannot be properly represented by kana. Still, for the sake of my friends request, I have waved my scruples on this point and fallen in with the wish. But it must be remembered that the Roman is the text and not the kana.

Wherever it has been found necessary to employ a word of Chinese or Japanese[3] origin through lack of an Ainu equivalent such word has been given. But where this is the case it has for the most part been marked, and where it has not those who know Japanese will of course be able to see which is Ainu and which Japanese. E.g. Umma “a horse;” hitsuji “sheep;” ishan-tono “a doctor.” It is more than possible also that some of the Japanese translation may not quite fit the English, but here again I would remind the reader that the text is Ainu–English, and not Ainu–Japanese. Like the kana writing, so also the Japanese was an after-thought it being the compiler’s original intention to write the work in Ainu–English only.

  1. Saghalien is a Russian corruption of the Ainu name Sakarin-moshiri, i.e. “Navy plateau country”.
  2. (But at the same time implying that he dos'nt mind it at all!)
  3. (But in some cases it is very difficult to determine which is Ainu, Japanese, or Chinese or vise versa.)