An Introduction to Ryukyuan Languages

Here's the full text of An Introduction to Ryukyuan Languages (2010), ed. Thomas Pellard and Shimoji Michinori. From Shimoji's introduction (yo dawg, we heard you like being introduced to things...):

This book, entitled An Introduction to Ryukyuan Languages (IRL), is a collection of grammatical sketches of six Ryukyuan languages: Ura and Yuwan (Amami Ryukyuan), Tsuken (Okinawan), Ikema and Ōgami (Miyako Ryukyuan), and Hateruma (Yaeyama Ryukyuan). The target readers of IRL are not limited to specialists of Ryukyuan; IRL is open to both specialists and non-specialists including theoretical linguists, typologists, and linguists working on non-Ryukyuan languages. In fact, IRL is deliberately organized in such a way that common typological topics likely to be asked by a non-specialist of a given language (e.g. word order, case alignment, morphological typology, property-concept encoding, etc.) are addressed by all authors [...]. IRL is, literally, an introduction to Ryukyuan languages.

I haven't read the whole thing yet, and I'm not in any position to judge the book's content in terms of accuracy in any case, but I read Pellard's chapter on Ōgami and found it lucid and enlightening. I also found only one non-trivial error, making the chapter literally orders of magnitude more polished and readable than a book from [Prestigious UK University] Press that I spent five figures on earlier this year.

(The error: on page 122, /Ci/+/ɑ/ is said to coalesce to both /Cɛɛ/, but then lower down the list the same combination is said to coalesce to /ɛɛ/. I guess it's possible that this isn't, in fact, an error — that both are true — but in that case I'd expect them to be on the same row and/or accompanied by an explanation.)

Speaking of Pellard, I recently read and enjoyed his Proto-Japonic *e and *o in Eastern Old Japanese (2008), also freely available online.

Adnominal forms with a final /-o/ or reconstructible with an *-o are thus attested in several different (sub-)branches of the Japonic family (EOJ, Hachijō, Toshima, Akiyama and Ryukyuan). Hence this excludes the possibility that these forms are a common innovation. The geographic distribution, with several attestations in very distant and isolated areas, also excludes the possibility of borrowing. [...] Therefore it seems rather unlikely that the adnominal forms arose late in Japonic, as proposed by Frellesvig (2008), since there is definitely evidence for reconstructing the adnominal/conclusive opposition in PJ from comparative evidence.

Popularity factor: 6


You spent five figures of what, Yen, Dollars, Pounds? Yen I hope.


Yen! You'll know when I am in a position to drop $X0,000 on a book because my posts will start with "So I was talking about ergative-absolutive languages with Kanye on the jet yesterday..."




"So I was talking about ergative-absolutive languages with Kanye on the jet yesterday..."

And our first hint that you'll be about to say that will be the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Head-Driven Phrase Structure.


Really looking forward to finding the time to read this.

Forget Kanye—think about jetsetting with my hometown heroes CunninLynguists. As far as I know they don't have an *actual* linguist in their crew but their style would surely embrace raps about Japanese minority languages. (This was meant to be a joke but it's rather poorly formed and now I'm just daydreaming about making this a reality.)


The book was one of the most useful English-language sources out there for a case study I did on Miyako in a recent course, as well as being a great read overall. The Ryukyu languages are fascinating (just as any language), yet there is so little work on the subject. Part of it seems to be that in Japan, where most of the related study takes place, they are approached from the perspective of kokugogaku, which erroneously classifies them as but dialects of Japanese. So there is so much to learn yet!

Pellard does a great job in this respect. I had the pleasure of attending his talk in March, followed by some beers together with my friends in the department. He is not only a cool researcher but a cool guy.

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