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Ainu 

1 Ainu -Ainu


Ainuis spoken on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido by maybe 15 families. It was once spoken in the Kurile Islands, the northern part of Honshu and the southern half of Sakhalin. The last Ainu speaker on Sakhalin died in 1994. Ainu is a language isolate, unrelated to any other language.

The vast majority of the 150,000 people who claim to be ethnically Ainu speak only Japanese. The actual number of people of Ainu descent is thought to be higher, however many are unaware of their ethnicity or deny it through fear of discrimiation.

Efforts are currently being made to revive and revitaliseAinu, particularly by Shigeru Kayano, a native speaker of the Tsishima dialect of Ainu (the only surviving dialect). He has set up a school to teach the language and has started collecting traditional Ainu stories.

Ainu is officially written with a version of the Japanese katakana syllabary. A Latin-based alphabet is also used. The Ainu also have a rich oral tradition, including Yukar (sagas of heros), Kamui Yukar (stories of the gods) and Uwepeker (old stories).

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