2015 研究助成 Research Grant Program  /  (A)共同研究助成  (A) Joint Research Grants
(Grant Number)
(Project Title)
Understanding Japan as a Multi-cultural and Multi-lingual Society: Establishing objective criteria for measuring mutual intelligibility and intergenerational transmission of the endangered languages
山田 真寛
Masahiro Yamada
National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics
(Grant Amount)
企画書・概要 (Abstract of Project Proposal)


       UNESCO (2009) reported that in Japan there are eight independent languages (Ainu, Hachijo, six Ryukyuan languages) in addition to Japanese. However, the criteria used to recognize them as independent languages are solely based on the researchers' and the native speakers' subjective judgment. These eight languages were also reported as endangered, but the assessment of each language's intergenerational transmission, one of the most crucial criteria for language endangerment, is also based on unreliable subjective judgment. It is an urgent task to establish objective standards to measure the degree of mutual intelligibility to assess the linguistic independency of the local languages and to properly understand the language endangerment in Japan. The local languages mentioned in the UNESCO report, except for Ainu, have been simply regarded as local varieties with different 'accent' of the national language, Japanese, and consequently their value has been neglected. To promote cultural and linguistic varieties within Japan, we need to reassess the current dominant view on all the local languages by establishing an objective criteria to measure the degree of mutual intelligibility and the status of intergenerational transmission. Such an objective criteria will provide us with a new perspective on Japan as a culturally and linguistically diverse society.

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