Building 640 at the Presidio in San Francisco

Building 640 at the Presidio in San Francisco
Information Source for the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Use of Ryuukyuuan/Okinawan Language in the Latest Issue of Nikkei Heritage

Note from professor Ronald Nakasone on the Okinawan language used in the latest issue of Nikkei Heritage, "The Supernatural." The Ryuukyuuan (Okinawan) language and Japanese languages share common roots, but diverged about 1,500 years ago. The Ryuukyuuan people did not develop their own script, relying instead on the Chinese and Japanese. The compilers of the Omorosoushi who used Japanese to record an oral tradition were only partially successful in capturing the sounds of the Ryuukyuuan language. In contrast to Japanese, Ryuukyuuan has only three vowels: “a,” “e,” and “u.” There is no “i” and “o” sound. Thus “omuro” written in hiragana should probably be read “umuru.” I am not sure if the compliers meant the hiragana “o” to represent the “u” sound and “ro” for “ru.” To add to the difficulty, the language in the Omorosoushi marks a transition to the Yamatoization of the Ryuukyuuan language. As a consequence, some words preserve their archaic pronunciation, while others are pronounced in Japanese fashion. Since I am unable to make a distinction, I have romanized the verses according to sounds of the Japanese syllabary. But I make a distinction between those expressions that I know to be Ryuukyuuan as opposed to Japanese by using an additional "u" or "a" to represent the long vowel sound as in “ougimi.” I repeat the letter to represent the long vowel sound in "Ryuukyuuan" as in “Uchinaanchuu.”

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