Ainu and Austric: Evidence of Genetic Relationship
John Bengtson (Santa Fe Institute,; Václav Blažek (Masaryk University, Brno,
Journal of Language Relationship, № 2, 2009 - p.1-24
Abstract: There have been several attempts to solve the question of the genetic affiliation of the Ainu language of Hokkaido, formerly spoken also in Sakhalin and the Kuril islands. Apart from some inadequate or unlikely proposals there are two principal serious hypotheses: (1) Altaic, or more inclusively ‘Euroasiatic’ (Nostratic), as advocated for instance by Ramstedt, Koppelmann, Street, Patrie, Krippes, and Greenberg (with Ruhlen); and (2) Austronesian and Austroasiatic (plus Thai-Kadai and Miao-Yao, together Austric): e.g., Gjerdman, Sternberg, Murayama, and Vovin. Physical anthropology has been ambiguous on this question, in some aspects favoring a Northeast Asian, in others a Southeast Asian origin of the Ainu. The authors of the present article prefer (2), the Austric hypothesis, assuming an internal structure of the Austric macro-phylum consisting of Austro-Thai (Austronesian + Kadai), Miao-Austroasiatic (Hmong-Mien + Austroasiatic), and the peripheral remnants Nihali (in India) and Ainu. This article contains eighty-eight etymologies that the authors believe are strong evidence for the Austric affinity of the Ainu language. The lexical material includes personal pronouns, lower numerals, and other core basic vocabulary. Most importantly, this article is intended to stimulate discussion of the position of Ainu in genetic classification.
Keywords: historical classification, linguistic reconstruction, lexical comparison, Ainu, Austric