Sakhalin Ainu
kabahuto aynu itah
Native toJapan
RegionSakhalin, later Hokkaido
EthnicitySakhalin Ainu
ExtinctApril 30th, 1994, with the death of Take Asai[1]
  • Sakhalin Ainu
  • Taraika
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Sakhalin Ainu is classified as Extinct by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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Sakhalin Ainu is an extinct Ainu language, or perhaps several Ainu languages, that was or were spoken on the island of Sakhalin, now part of Russia.

History and present situation

The Ainu of Sakhalin appear to have been present on Sakhalin relatively early. Linguistic evidence shows that proto-Ainu was spoken in southern Sakhalin and northeastern Hokkaido and expanded from this region into the rest of Hokkaido, the Kurils and partially northern Honshu. Later Sakhalin Ainu expanded from southern Sakhalin into northern Sakhalin and possibly the Amur region. A study by Lee and Hasegawa from the Waseda University using linguistic, archeologic and genetic evidence, found that the Ainu are significantly linked to the Okhotsk culture of northern Hokkaido.[3]

Oral history records Ainu displacement of a people in central Sakhalin that they called the Tonchi, who, based on toponymic evidence, were Nivkh.[4]

After World War II, when Sakhalin came under Soviet control, all but 100 of the Ainu living in Sakhalin were deported to Japan. The last Ainu household on the island died out in the 1960s.[5] The language survived longer in Japan, going extinct in 1994 with the death of Take Asai.[1]

Phonology and writing

Sakhalin Ainu differed from Hokkaido Ainu in having long vowels. In words which historically had (and in Hokkaido Ainu still have) syllable-final /p, t, k, r/, these consonants lenited and merged to /x/. After an /i/, this /x/ was pronounced [ç].

In Japan, final /x/ was written as a small katakana h with an echo vowel, and is transliterated as h. Thus アㇵ ah, イㇶ ih, ウㇷ uh, エㇸ eh, オㇹ oh.


Sakhalin Ainu may have been more than a single language. Information about linguistic diversity throughout Sakhalin island and among Sakhalin Ainu dialects is scant.

At present, two can be said to be the best documented dialects – the dialect from the settlement of Rayciska (Japanese: 来知志 – ライチシ), on the western coast of Sakhalin on the Strait of Tartary near modern Uglegorsk and the dialect from Tarayka (Japanese: 多来加 – タライカ), facing the Gulf of Patience near Poronaysk on the eastern coast.

Linguistic material on both dialects comes in the shape of transcriptions,[6] recordings[7] and transliterations[8][9] of narratives and conversations. These were elicited from Ainu native speakers who lived either on Sakhalin or in Hokkaido, after they had been deported from Russia to Japan. A number of narratives from the south-eastern coast of Sakhalin were also elicited by Piłsudski[6] from native speakers living in the Ainu settlements of Ay, Hunup, Takoye, Sieraroko, Ocohpoka, Otasan down to Tunayci, nearby today's Tunay Lake [ru] (Russian: Озеро Тунайча). These dialects appear to be strikingly similar to the Tarayka dialect. Nevertheless, the eastern coastal variety of Tarayka is reported to be divergent from other southern varieties. Scanty data from Western voyages at the turn of the 19th–20th century suggest there was also great diversity further north.[10]


  1. ^ a b Majewicz, Alfred F., ed. (2004). The Collected Works of Bronisław Piłsudski. Walter de Gruyter. p. 600. ISBN 9783110176148. Archived from the original on 2024-05-26. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  2. ^ Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (Report) (3rd ed.). UNESCO. 2010. p. 39. Archived from the original on 2020-11-11. Retrieved 2024-05-26.
  3. ^ Lee, Sean; Hasegawa, Toshikazu (2013). "Evolution of the Ainu Language in Space and Time". PLOS ONE. 8 (4). e62243. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...862243L. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062243. PMC 3637396. PMID 23638014. In this paper, we reconstructed spatiotemporal evolution of 19 Ainu language varieties, and the results are in strong agreement with the hypothesis that a recent population expansion of the Okhotsk people played a critical role in shaping the Ainu people and their culture. Together with the recent archaeological, biological and cultural evidence, our phylogeographic reconstruction of the Ainu language strongly suggests that the conventional dual-structure model must be refined to explain these new bodies of evidence. The case of the Ainu language origin we report here also contributes additional detail to the global pattern of language evolution, and our language phylogeny might also provide a basis for making further inferences about the cultural dynamics of the Ainu speakers [44,45].
  4. ^ Gruzdeva, Ekaterina Jur'evna (1996). "The Linguistic Situation on Sakhalin Island". In Wurm, Stephen Adolphe; Mühlhäusler, Peter; Tryon, Darrell T. (eds.). Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 1008.
  5. ^ "U posledney cherty – Ayny o sebe" У последней черты – Айны о себе. Tayny vekov Тайны веков (in Russian). 2010-12-07. Archived from the original on 2011-02-11. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  6. ^ a b Piłsudski, Bronisław (1912). Materials for the Study of the Ainu Language and Folklore. Cracow: The Imperial Academy of Sciences "Spólka Wydawnicza Polska".
  7. ^ Murasaki, Asai, Tufs, archived from the original on 2016-01-08, retrieved 2015-11-12.
  8. ^ Murasaki, Kyōko 村崎 恭子 (1976). Karafutoainugo – Tekisutohen カラフトアイヌ語 – テキスト篇 (in Japanese). Tokyo: Kokusho Keikōkai.
  9. ^ Murasaki, Kyōko 村崎 恭子 (2001). Karafuto Ainu no mukashibanashi 樺太アイヌの昔話 (in Japanese). Tokyo: Karafuto Ainu Kyōkai.
  10. ^ Tamura, Suzuko (2000). The Ainu Language. Tokyo: Sanseido. ISBN 4-385-35976-8.