|Native to||Okinawa, Japan|
|unknown (mostly over age 20 cited 1989)|
The Miyako language (宮古口/ミャークフツ Myaakufutsu [mjaːkufutss̩] or 島口/スマフツ Sumafutsu) is a language spoken in the Miyako Islands, located southwest of Okinawa. The combined population of the islands is about 52,000 (as of 2011). Miyako is a Southern Ryukyuan language, most closely related to Yaeyama. The number of competent native speakers is not known; as a consequence of Japanese language policy which refers to the language as the Miyako dialect (宮古方言 Miyako hōgen?), reflected in the education system, people below the age of 60 tend to not use the language except in songs and rituals, and the younger generation mostly uses Japanese as their first language. Miyako is notable among the Japonic languages in that it allows non-nasal syllable-final consonants, something not found in most Japonic languages.
An illustrative lexeme is Alocasia (evidently an Austronesian loan: Tagalog /biːɡaʔ/). This varies as Central Miyako (Hirara, Ōgami) /biʋkassa/, Ikema /bïbïːɡamː/, Irabu (Nagahama) /bɭbɭːɡassa/, Tarama /bivvuɭɡassa/.
The description here is based on the Ōgami dialect, the Central Miyako dialect of the smallest of the Miyako islands, from Pellard (2009).
Central Miyako dialects do not have pitch accent; therefore, they are of ikkei type.
There are five vowels.
/ɯ/ is truly unrounded, unlike the compressed Japanese u. It is centralized after /s/. /u/ is rounded normally, but varies as [ʊ]. /ɛ/ varies from [e] to [æ].
Numerous vowel sequences occur, and long vowels are treated as sequences of identical vowels, keeping the inventory at five.
Ōgami vowels are not subject to devoicing next to unvoiced consonants the way Japanese high vowels are. Thus sequences of phonetic consonants are analyzed as being phonemically consonantal as well.
There are nine consonants, without a voicing contrast. (Most Miyako dialects do distinguish voicing.)
The plosives tend to be somewhat aspirated initially and voiced medially. There are maybe a dozen words with optionally voiced initial consonants, such as babe ~ pape (a sp. of fish) and gakspstu ~ kakspstu 'wolverine', but Pellard suggests they may be loans (babe is found in other dialects, and gaks- is a Chinese loan; only a single word gama ~ kama 'grotto, cave' is not an apparent loan).
/k/ may be spirantized before /ɑ/: kaina 'arm' [kɑinɑ ~ xɑinɑ], a꞊ka 'I (nominative)' [ɑkɑ ~ ɑxɑ ~ ɑɣɑ].
/n/ is [ŋ] at the end of a word, and assimilates to succeeding consonants ([m~n~ŋ]) before another consonant. When final [ŋ] geminates, it becomes [nn]; compare tin [tiŋ] 'silver' with tinnu [tinnu] 'silver (accusative)'. It tends to devoice after /s/ and /f/. /m/, on the other hand, does not assimilate and appears finally unchanged, as in mku 'right', mta 'earth', and im 'sea'.
/f/ is labiodental, not bilabial, and /s/ palatalizes to [ɕ] before the front vowels /i ɛ/: pssi [pɕɕi] 'cold'. Some speakers insert an epenthetic [t] between /n/ and /s/ in what would otherwise be a sequence thereof, as in ansi [ɑnɕi ~ ɑntɕi] 'thus'.
/ʋ/ is clearly labiodental as well and tends to become a fricative [v] when emphasized or when geminated, as in /kuʋʋɑ/ [kuvvɑ] 'calf'. It can be syllabic, as can all sonorants in the Ōgami dialect: vv [v̩ː] 'to sell'. Final /ʋ/ contrasts with the high back vowels: /paʋ/ 'snake', /pau/ 'stick', /paɯ/ 'fly' are accusative [pɑvvu, pɑuju, pɑɯu] with the clitic -u.
Various sequences of consonants occur (mna 'shell', sta 'under', fta 'lid'), and long consonants are bimoraic (sta [s̩.tɑ] fta [f̩.tɑ], pstu [ps̩.tu]), so they are analyzed as consonant sequences as well. These can be typologically unusual:
- /mmtɑ/ (sp. small fruit)
- /nnɑmɑ/ 'now'
- /ʋʋɑ/ 'you'
- /fɑɑ/ 'baby'
- /ffɑ/ 'grass'
- /fffɑ/ 'comb.TOP' (from ff 'comb')
- /suu/ 'vegetable'
- /ssu/ 'white'
- /sssu/ 'dust.ACC' (from ss 'dust')
- /mmɑ/ 'mother'
- /mmmɑ/ 'potato.TOP' (from mm 'potato')
- /pssma/ 'day'
Geminate plosives do not occur, apart from a single morpheme, the quotative particle tta.
There are a few words with no voiced sounds at all (compare Nuxálk language § Syllables):
- ss 'dust, a nest, to rub'
- kss 'breast/milk, hook / to fish, to come'
- pss 'day, vulva'
- ff 'a comb, to bite, to rain, to close'
- kff 'to make'
- fks 'to build'
- ksks 'month, to listen, to arrive', etc.
- sks 'to cut'
- psks 'to pull'
The contrast between a voiceless syllable and a voiced vowel between voiceless consonants can be seen in kff puskam [k͡f̩ːpuskɑm] 'I want to make (it)', ff꞊nkɑi [f̩ːŋɡɑi] 'to꞊the.comb', and paks꞊nu꞊tu [pɑksn̥udu] 'bee꞊NOM꞊FOC' (with a devoiced nasal after s). There is a contrast between ff꞊mɑi 'comb꞊INCL' and ffu꞊mɑi 'shit꞊INCL'. With tongue twisters, speakers do not insert schwas or other voiced sounds to aid in pronunciation:
- kff ff 'the comb that I make'
- kff ss 'the nest that I make'
- kff kss 'the hook that I make'
The minimal word is either VV, VC, or CC (consisting of a single geminate), as in aa 'millet', ui 'over', is 'rock', ff 'comb'. There are no V or CV words; however, CCV and CVV words are found, as shown above.
Syllabification is difficult to analyze, especially in words such as usnkai (us-nkai) 'cow-DIR' and saiafn (saiaf-n) 'carpenter-DAT'.
- Miyako at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Miyako". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Or perhaps 'glutton'; the French is glouton for both.
- ff derives historically from fusi, but there is no indication of vowels in the Ōgami word.
- Pellard, Thomas (2009). "Ogami: Éléments de description d'un parler du sud des Ryukyus". École des hautes études en sciences sociales. Paris, France.
- Miyako dialect dictionary, Okinawa Center of Language Study
- The Digital Museum Project for the documentation of the culture and language of Nishihara, Miyakojima
- Videos of Isamu Shimoji, a Miyako musician