Japan Moves to Protect Endangered Languages

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Japan Moves to Protect Endangered Languages

Published 27 August 2015

Japan is seeking to safeguard some of its most endangered languages such as Ainu.
The Japanese government Thursday created a special committee to protect the country’s endangered languages.

EFE reports that the committee is part of the government’s cultural agency and will focus on creating a digital archive of endangered languages. The archive will include details of the languages’ speakers, and strategies to promote their continued use.

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The initiative is based on the outcome of a 2009 UNESCO study, which found that eight of the world’s roughly 2,500 endangered languages are from the Japanese archipelago. The most well known language featured on the list is that spoken by the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The language is generally considered extremely close to complete extinction.

The other endangered languages are from outlying islands in the archipelago, which speak Miyako, Amami, Hachijo, Yaeyama, Yonguni, Kuginami and the Okinawan languages.

Many of these languages slipped into decline in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, when the Japanese state consolidated control over Hokkaido in the north and outlying islands, like the Ryukyus in the south. It adopted standardized education and policies of forced cultural assimilation, such as blanket bans on speaking Ainu.
This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:

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