Maeara wins the Kikuchi Kan Prize for Taketomi dialect dictionary
October 20, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo
The winners of the 59th Kikuchi Kan Prize (sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature) were announced on October 19, with 87 year-old Toru Maeara being selected for publishing a Taketomi dialect dictionary (published by Nanzansha). Originally from Taketomi Island, Maeara now lives in Ishigaki City. Previous recipients from Okinawa are Ryoken Toyohira (1972), and the Himeyuri Peace Museum (1992).
After retiring from a career in teaching, Maeara documented the Taketomi dialect from his own memory, and from interviews with elderly people carried out over the past 27 years. In March 2011, he and a number of former students published this dictionary containing a total of 17700 words.
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature rates the dictionary very highly, stating, “It makes an important contribution to our heritage, allowing us to study the history and folklore of both the Ryukyuan languages and Japanese.”
Maeara said, “These days, fluent speakers of the dialect hardly ever use it, so I started to record it out of concern for its rapid decline. I was able to complete the dictionary thanks to cooperation from former students and my publisher, but I never expected it to win such a prize.”
(English Translation by T&CT, Shinako Oyakawa and Mark Ealey)
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