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Ainu as an Indigenous Language of Japan: History, Controversy, Implication

Monday, November 20, 2023 at 4:45pm to 6:15pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, GSH64
232 East Ave, Central Campus

Anna Bugaeva, Institute of Arts and Sciences, Tokyo University of Science

This talk will be introduced by John Whitman, Linguistics.

In historical times, Ainu, the only non-Japonic language of Japan and a lone witness of earlier cultures in Japan, was spoken by the people inhabiting the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido, the southern part of Sakhalin Island, and the Kuril Islands. Traditionally, the Ainu were hunter-gatherers who eventually faced the modern colonial expansion of Japan and Russia. This expansion ultimately led to the loss of their language in the early 21st century. In 2008, the Japanese government finally recognized the Ainu people as an indigenous ethnic group. Subsequently, in 2019, the Act on Promoting Measures to Realize a Society in Which the Pride of the Ainu People is Respected was enacted to ban discrimination against the Ainu and to provide grants for culture and language-related projects. Japan has taken longer than many other countries to acknowledge the contributions of its indigenous minorities to the nation and to recognize their linguistic and cultural aspirations. This talk will discuss the significance, within a Japanese context, of the legal recognition of Ainu as an indigenous language.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Linguistics, East Asia Program, China and Asia-Pacific Studies


japan, East Asia program, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, asianstudiescal, cashum



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Contact Name

Amala Lane


Anna Bugaeva

Speaker Affiliation

Institute of Arts and Sciences, Tokyo University of Science

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Dept. Web Site

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