Okinawa Dialects at Risk of Extinction 50 Yrs after Reversion

Society Culture

Naha, Okinawa Pref., June 23 (Jiji Press)--Local dialects in Okinawa Prefecture are at risk of extinction 50 years after the southernmost Japan prefecture's return from U.S. occupation.

Experts said that "standard-language education aimed at assimilating local languages and customs to those of mainland Japan" is behind the decline of the local tongues, called "Shimakutuba."

The prefectural government is making efforts to preserve the dialects and pass them on to future generations.

According to Kenichiro Kondo, professor at Hokkaido University who is an expert on history of education in modern Okinawa, the standard-language education began following the annexation of the island region, then called Ryukyu, by the Japanese government in the Meiji era of 1868-1912.

While mainland Japanese officials filled senior positions in the prefectural government, locals were viewed as having insufficient Japanese language skills.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press