Definitive book on languages of Ryukyu islands published

A book titled ‘Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages’ introducing the outline of Ryukyuan languages around the islands in English has been published. 35 scholars from around the world who are studying the languages of Okinawa Islands participated in compiling and writing the book.

Shinsho Miyara, an honorary professor at the University of the Ryukyus and one of the scholars who wrote the handbook, expects research institutes in the world and also ordinary people to utilize the handbook. He says, “Readers of this book will be from all over the world, and the Ryukyuan languages will appear on the stage of linguistic studies.”

The National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, NINJAL, is the publisher of the handbook with the cooperation of De Gruyter Mouton, a leading publishing company in the world with a reputation for high-quality linguistics books and journals. The company is planning to publish the ‘Handbook of Japanese Language and Linguistics’ in 12 volumes, and the ‘Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages,’ a 723-page tome, is the first of the series.

The handbook starts with the history of the Ryukyus, and explains the linguistic characteristics, phonologic, and grammar of Shuri, Tarama and Hateruma dialects.  In addition, the book examines the connection between Okinawan immigration, languages, identity and literature. The price of the book is US$623.

Taro Kageyama, a director at NINJAL said, “Five out of the eight languages spoken in Japan that are designated in danger of extinction by UNESCO, are languages in Okinawa. We need to preserve them. It’s highly significant to have this book published as a starter.”