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Documenting, teaching, and revitalizing Uchinaa-guchi: the future of the Okinawan language

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Title: Documenting, teaching, and revitalizing Uchinaa-guchi: the future of the Okinawan language
Authors: Curry, Stewart
Hijirida, Kyoko
Leon, Serafim
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: Overview Okinawan is not in danger of disappearing and leaving no trace. It has, however, been in decline for some time — the language of modern life in Okinawa is Standard Japanese — and the extant speaker population is aging rapidly. Okinawan can be heard in limited domains, such as traditional music and theater, and there is an Okinawan written tradition dating back to the _Omoro Sooshi_. Dictionaries exist for Okinawan; these, with few exceptions, are in Japanese. Okinawan reference works in English Resources in Japanese, including the _Okinawa-go jiten_ [Dictionary of the Okinawan language], limit access by the general community of linguists and by interested non-scholars. Information on Okinawan in English is not new — a dictionary and grammar appeared in 1895 — but the publication of the _Okinawan-English Wordbook_, a lexicon of Okinawan with definitions in English, and the planned _Compleat Okinawan — a Comprehensive Portrait of its Modern and Historical Vocabulary_, a scholarly tome integrating literary vocabulary as well as usage examples, have opened a new era in the field. Okinawan language and culture at the University of Hawai‘i When two of the authors debuted the two-course Okinawan Language and Culture series in 2004, their efforts represented the first concrete move to teach Okinawan as a heritage language at the University of Hawaii. In the series, students acquire four-skills ability in Okinawan, and learn aspects of Okinawan folk and high culture through readings ranging from folk tales to the _Omoro Sooshi_. The series currently relies on Japanese for instruction, but the use of English reference works in support of reading exercises will broaden its potential audience. Okinawan language revitalization Since the 1970s, the weakening of Ryukyuan dialects has been a concern for scholars. Uemura Yukio and others began work to record information then, and Professor Karimata Shigehisa of Ryudai has continued this work in field linguistics and in teaching Okinawan as a living language. In addition, the Okinawa-go Fukyu Kyogikai [Society for the Revitalization of Uchinaa-guchi] may soon support the teaching of Okinawan in the public school system, with the cooperation of the Prefectural Board of Education. Okinawan is also being taught in the diaspora, including non-university classes in Hawai‘i and South America. It is hoped that teaching Okinawan as a living language will halt its slide into oblivion, or at least equip connoisseurs and practitioners of the Okinawan performing arts with a deeper appreciation for what performances mean.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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