General Research for the Study and Conservation of Endangered Dialects in Japan

Abbreviation : Endangered Dialects
Project leader: KIBE Nobuko
Professor, Department of Language Change and Variation, NINJAL
Project Period: October 2009 - March 2016
Research field: Linguistics
Keywords: Phonetics, Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Sociolinguistics


As a result of globalization, minor languages around the world are on the verge of extinction. In February 2009, UNESCO published a list of endangered languages in the world including eight languages/dialects in Japan, among which are the dialects of Yonaguni, Miyako, Okinawa, Amami, and Hachijo. These dialects are of great value not only for the study of regional dialects but also for historical linguistics and general linguistics because they often retain features of older Japanese that are already lost in other dialects, thereby exhibiting seemingly ‘exotic’ language systems. The theoretically interesting question of how these dialects became so divergent as to be mutually unintelligible between not-so-distant communities is also at issue.

The research team consisting of specialists experienced in fieldwork on these endangered dialects seeks to explain their features and clarify the processes that have produced those diverse variants. Audio-visually recorded data of these dialects will be made available to the public from the NINJAL website, with a view to promoting a better understanding of these dialects.

Findings of the fieldwork will be discussed at research meetings and international symposia, and the outcomes are expected to be published by domestic and international publishers.

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