The Linguistic Culture of the Ogasawara Islands

Japanese Language Research Center Reports, Volume 6

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This sixth volume of the Japanese Language Research Center Reports is a special issue devoted exclusively to the Linguistic Culture of the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands. It is published to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the return of the islands to Japanese control on June 26, 1968.

The volume begins with an introductory article by Tsuda Aoi, entitled "Why now Ogasawara? The Meaning and Significance of Ogasawara Research from a Sociolinguistic Standpoint" in which she provides the answer to this question through an examination of the historical factors which lead to this complex language situation. Sebastian Dobson's "A Chronology of the Bonin Islands" provides us with an outline of the key occurrences both on the islands and behind the scenes in locations like London and Hawaii. This is complemented by Tanaka Hiroyuki's "How the Japanese of the Edo Period Perceived the Ogasawara Islands", which uncovers previously ignored primary historical sources in an examination of the social and political evolution of Japan's interest in the islands. The thorough annotations which translator Stephen Wright Horn has prepared provide much needed background information for the English-reading audience. Although frequently cited in Japanese writings about the islands, Konishi Yukio's annotated translation here of Russell Robertson's "The Bonin Islands" marks the first appearance of this paper in Japanese. This description of the cultural and social makeup of the islands was written from the eye-witness observations of an Englishman who visited Chichijima on the eve of Japanese colonization.

Daniel Long's "The History of Language Contact in the Ogasawara Islands" gleans information on language and communication from the sparse first-hand historical records available, in an attempt to reconstruct the linguistic processes which led to the formation of an English-based and later a Japanese-based contact language. Nobushima Fuyuo provides specific evidence of language contact as he methodically traces the Polynesian, English and other language etymologies of island places, plants and animals in "Words of Non-Japanese Derivation Handed Down in the Ogasawara Islands". Abe Shin ("The Formation of a Japanese Dialect in Ogasawara") assesses the linguistic contributions made by the Western pioneers and their descendants, the early Hachijo-jima colonizers with their unique dialect, and more recent standard-speaking in-migrants. In his paper "An Essay on the Language Education Environment on Chichijima", Hasegawa Yoshio probes the changing role which language education has played on the island as policies swung from Japanization to Americanization and then back again. The papers are followed by an exhaustive bibliography of humanities-related books and articles relating to the Ogasawara Islands, culled from the collective knowledge of the contributing authors and assembled by Daniel Long.

The papers contained in this volume deal, directly or indirectly, with the cultural contact which occurred on these islands and its linguistic results. As illustrated in some of the papers, this contact was not always smooth, nor its results always positive. However, in the course of my research into the history and current state of language use in Ogasawara, I have been impressed with the sincerity and dedication conveyed in the recollections of those educational professionals who endeavored over the past three decades to make this most recent chapter in the turbulent history of the islands as painless a transition as possible for the school children. It is to these people, and with the prayer for a future in Ogasawara more peaceful than its past, that I would like to dedicate this volume.

Daniel Long

May 26, 1998

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