The Vitality of the Ikema Dialect of Miyako Ryukyuan

  • Author / Creator
    Ogawa, Chiho
  • This study investigated the current state of Ikema—a dialect of Miyako Ryukyuan language spoken on Ikema Island and two other small communities in southern Japan—among speakers aged between late 40s and late 60s in the Ikema Island community, by focusing on their proficiency levels and their past and current language use. Miyako Ryukyuan has been identified by UNESCO (2009) to be “definitely endangered.” However, none of the Miyako Ryukyuan variety has been thoroughly examined on this aspect, and this assessment needs updating as some traits of Ikema that imply a weaker vitality level have since been reported (Iwasaki & Ono, 2011). Meanwhile, an increasing number of studies have recognized the need for more accurate assessments of a language’s vitality than traditional measures, which largely depend on speaker’s self-reported census data (e.g., Róse Labrada, 2017; Yang et al., 2017). In fact, the use of surveys and questionnaires seems to be the dominant method when assessing language vitality in the Ryukyus (e.g., Heinrich, 2007; Ishihara, 2014). Thus, in exploring the vitality of Ikema, the present study aimed to alleviate some of these shortcomings by employing different instruments including a proficiency assessment (developed by the author), language life interview, and participant observation. The data obtained showed signs of a declined level of vitality in Ikema Ryukyuan; it supported strong receptive skills in all speakers but limited productive skills in younger female speakers aged around 50. The close examination of the data also revealed that a variety of innovative usages of Ikema are actively produced by the speakers.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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