Symposium on endangered languages held to preserve the Ryukyuan languages
September 18, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo
On September 17 at the Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan City, the 18th Foundation of Endangered Languages Symposium was held. It was the first time for the event to be held in East Asia. Researchers presented the critical problem of the dying out of Ryukyuan languages. They also reported on preservation efforts in Hawaii, where the Okinawan community has initiated various activities to perpetuate use of the language. Presenting Ryukyuan dance and performing arts, the symposium showcased the cultural diversity and uniqueness of Okinawa to the world. About 100 people from 21 countries, including speakers and researchers of endangered languages, took part in the symposium.
Chair Shinsho Miyara of the Ryukyuan Heritage Language Society explained the origin and structure of Ryukyuan languages. Professor Masahide Ishihara from the University of the Ryukyus stated, “It is possible for Ryukyuan languages to coexist with Japanese language. If Shimakutuba (Ryukyuan languages) are more used in our daily life, this will establish a positive image of the language, eventually leading us to preserve Ryukyuan languages.”
Professor Tatsuro Maeda from the Tokyo University of Foreign Languages gave a presentation on Amami languages, saying; “In Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture has the administrative authority, and the population size and economic power are also small. Amami faces a more severe situation than Okinawa in preserving its languages. People in Amami and Okinawa need to work together for inheritance of the endangered languages.”
Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii Kyoko Hijirida reported on Okinawan language inheritance activities at the university. On September 18 and 19 at the Okinawa International University, researchers attended additional presentations in English that were not open to public.
(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)
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