The Japonic (Japanese and Ryukyuan) portmanteau language family and the Korean language have long been considered isolates on the fringe of northeast Asia. Although in the last fifty years many specialists in Japonic and Korean historical linguistics have voiced their support for a genetic relationship between the two, this concept has not been endorsed by general historical linguists and no significant attempts have been made to advance beyond the status quo. Alexander Vovin, a longtime advocate of the genetic relationship view, engaged in a reanalysis of the known data in the hope of finding evidence in support of this position. In the process of his work, however, he became convinced that the multiple similarities between Japonic and Korean are the result of several centuries of contact and do not descend from a hypothetical common ancestor.
Hawai‘i Studies on Korea
November 2009 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3278-0 / $55.00 (CLOTH)
Despite decades of research on the reconstruction of proto-Korean-Japanese (pKJ), some scholars still reject a genetic relationship. The Role of Contact in the Origins of the Japanese and Korean Languages, by J. Marshall Unger, addresses their doubts in a new way, interpreting comparative linguistic data within a context of material and cultural evidence, much of which has come to light only in recent years.
The weaknesses of the reconstruction, according to Unger, are due to the early date at which pKJ split apart and to lexical material that the pre-Korean and pre-Japanese branches later borrowed from different languages to their north and south, respectively. Unger shows that certain Old Japanese words must have been borrowed from Korean from the fourth century C.E., only a few centuries after the completion of the Yayoi migrations, which brought wet-field rice cultivation to Kyushu from southern Korea. That leaves too short an interval for the growth of two distinct languages by the time they resumed active contact. Hence, concludes Unger, the original separation occurred on the peninsula much earlier, prior to reliance on paddy rice and the rise of metallurgy. Non-Korean elements in ancient peninsular place names were vestiges of pre-Yayoi Japanese language, according to Unger, who questions the assumption that Korean developed exclusively from the language of Silla. He argues instead that the rulers of Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla all spoke varieties of Old Korean, which became the common language of the peninsula as their kingdoms overwhelmed its older culture and vied for dominance.
November 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3279-7 / $46.00 (CLOTH)
Kokota Grammar, by Bill Palmer, describes the grammar of Kokota, a highly endangered Oceanic language of the Solomon Islands, spoken by about nine hundred people on the island of Santa Isabel. After several long periods among the Kokota, Dr. Palmer has written an unusually detailed and comprehensive description of the language. Kokota has never before been described, so this work makes an important contribution to our knowledge of the Oceanic languages of island Melanesia.
Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication, No. 35
October 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3251-3 / $35.00 (PAPER)
Fundamentals of Japanese Grammar: Comprehensive Acquisition, by Yuki Johnson, is an extensive and thorough explanation of crucial Japanese grammar in English and the culmination of years of teaching and research. Informed by the work of eminent linguist Susumu Kuno, it is designed for students who have studied basic Japanese grammar and wish to better organize their knowledge and expand it in greater depth and at a higher level. Its organization presents a holistic picture of Japanese grammar for the benefit of learners and is distinctive in that grammar items are reorganized in terms of specific grammatical categories, such as particles, te-form compounds, dictionary-form compounds, stem-form compounds, passive constructions, conditional sentences, and so forth. The author offers a thorough discussion of various pragmatic constraints illustrated with sample sentences, dialogues, and essays that aid in understanding the structure and use of the language from a cultural perspective.
January 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3176-9 / $32.00 (PAPER)
William J. Gedney’s Comparative Tai Source Book, by Thomas John Hudak, provides accurate and reliable data from 1,159 common cognates found in 19 dialects from the Tai language family. Originally collected by noted Tai linguist, the late William J. Gedney, the data are organized into the three branches of the Tai language family, the Southwestern, the Central, and the Northern, to facilitate comparisons among the various sound systems within the individual branches and within the Tai language family as a whole.
This is the latest volume (number 34) in the Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication series.
December 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3190-5 / $30.00 (PAPER)