This is in all probability the least useful Wikitravel phrasebook ever, but it's still cool to have. I'm not sure the pseudo-IPA used now is the best way to represent the pronunciation though, esp. long vowels should be written with macrons instead of the triangle-colon thing. Jpatokal 02:49, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
It's not pseudo-ipa, it's how the language is written. At least, it's the writing system used in all the literature I know of.
In addition, since as the article notes a casual traveller is not likely to actually need the language (as would be the case with most of the phrasebooks), a short list of phrases will be enough to make Yonagunians happy/excited/impressed that a foreigner would try to speak their language, and as is often the case for languages rarely learnt by foreigners, is likely to open new doors or get you special "bonuses". (A friend often got free drinks in Turkey because he can speak Turkish fluently, he was also given a free cab ride in Azerbaijan for the same reason, and I have had similar experiences with the languages I speak though I am not as widely-travelled).
I would like to retract my earlier comment — the French version is even more useless. Maybe it's time to launch a Yonagunian version of Wikitravel! Jpatokal 09:32, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Do you mean it's unuseful because it's only spoken on a single remote island? Or unuseful because it has so few phrases? And how is the French version any less useful? Besides the fact that part of it is still in English... I would support a Yonaguni version of Wikitravel, but a new version needs to go through certain things, and Japanese doesn't have a version yet so it's doubtful Yonaguni (that's the proper name for the language, not Yonagunian) will have one in the near future.
A Yonaguni Wikipedia is more likely, but I would guess that an Okinawan one would come first. --Node ue 22:51, 9 Jun 2005 (EDT)
The phrasebook itself is fine, but language itself has around 800 speakers in the entire world and is slowly dying out to boot. And the French version is even less useful, because how many French speakers will be going to Yonaguni?
The sociolinguistic data used there (ie, that it's dying out, and the age breakdown) is the same as what they use for all Ryukyuan languages. The count of 800 is based on the age-breakdown of Yonaguni, not any actual survey -- in fact nearly all islanders, including young ones, are able to speak the language. Also, many speakers have migrated to Ishigaki, Naha, or even mainland Japan. However, there are still probably no more than 3000 speakers, and that's a generous estimate. French is a very widely-spoken language, and the reason the French Wikitravel exists is because French-speaking people also travel. Not all foreign tourists in Japan are from English-speaking countries, I'm sure at least a couple hundred French speakers have been to Yonaguni. --Node ue 21:47, 11 Jun 2005 (EDT)
But I still think the Yonaguni phrasebook is great, this is precisely the kind of incredibly obscure yet useful travel info that only Wikitravel can have! Jpatokal 23:02, 9 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Late ditto. I actually laughed with maniacal delight when I first saw this article. --PeterTalk 23:31, 27 March 2008 (EDT)
One request though: please add a pronunciation key for your romanization. ː is the IPA long vowel sign and I presume ŋ is a velar nasal ("ng"), but are eg. syi, hwu, zyi just Kunrei spellings of Hepburn "si", "fu", "ji" or what, and why the dots on ï ? Jpatokal 23:02, 9 Jun 2005 (EDT)
It's not "romanization"-- it's the only /consistent/ writing system for the language, used by linguists for all Ryukyuan languages. I will add a pronunciation guide, though. "sy" is actually pronounced as /sj/ or /sʲ/ by many people on Yonaguni, though there are those whose pronunciation more resembles /ʃ/; "hw" is pronounced by many as /hʷ/ and by some as /ϕ/. "zy" is pronounced as /zj/, /zʲ/, or /ʒ/, but not usually /ʤ/. ï was an oversight on my part, since Yonaguni only has 3 vowels. However, in those Ryukyuan languages in which it _is_ used, it represents /ɨ/ I think. --Node ue 21:47, 11 Jun 2005 (EDT)
It is a romanization in the sense that the Yonaguni you see on signs etc is usually written in kana, not romaji!
Yes, but those signs are all written in Hyojungo (Standard Japanese). There is no real standardised writing system for any Ryukyuan language, the only one I have seen used consistently over different authors and works is the Ryukyuan phonetic alphabet, based loosely on the IPA.
In addition, as Yonaguni makes distinctions between aspirated and unaspirated sounds (there are minimal pairs for k and t), it's not easy to represent in kana.
Also, some varieties spoken in the Ryukyus make a triple distinction in vowel length (that's what half-triangular-colon is for), which is difficult to represent in kana.
There is actually a kana version of the Ryukyuan phonetic alphabet, but it's not really very consistent (ishigaki hougen jiten uses different kana than U. Ryukyus' hougen onsei deetabeesu to represent the same Roman letters), and since Okinawan is written rarely and other Ryukyuan languages are written next-to-never, the system which is used in dictionaries (ishigaki hougen jiten, okinawagojiten, and a few others use the RPA for the X -> Japanese direction, many also use it for Japanese -> X, and if not that they usually give them side-by-side).
It's difficult to represent the extra vowels of Amami / Yaeyama, the special consonants on some islands, and the syllable-final consonants of Miyako (two occur in "aspïttam"), aspiration, nasalisation (when you *do* use kana, this is usually indicated with ka-gyou + maru, or for vowels it's just the vowel + maru), laryngeals, and the like, using kana. Mind you, not all of those occur in Yonaguni, but a couple of them do.
It's precisely for this reason that you almost never see these islands with rich oral traditions actually writing their languages: many people may have tried at some point, but it's frustrating as hell. In fact, even in works that *do* try to adapt kana to the RPA, all three distinct nasal sounds in the syllable-final position are usually indicated with a single kana.
Also, please remember that Wikitravel is written for travellers, not linguists. I think it would be good to follow the Wikitravel:Romanization conventions as closely as possible, so it's easy to pick up if you can already read Hepburn. I'm also afraid that strange things will happen to "ː" if viewed on some browsers or printers. Jpatokal 22:49, 11 Jun 2005 (EDT)
But most of the romanisation does match hepburn. "zji" is not equivalent to hepburn "ji", "sji" is not equivalent to hepburn "shi", as I already noted. hw is used frequently to write Ryukyuan languages to distinguish from the true f sound that occurs in some. All that really seems different is the use of j, which is actually one of the few inconsistencies in the RPA (although y is less-commonly used, it's used nonetheless), though I don't see what's wrong with it as long as it's included in a pronunciation key.
In summary, the sounds of Yonaguni do not all exist in Standard Japanese, so it's rarely written in kana, and what's there now is already pretty close to hebonshiki. --Node ue 12:19, 13 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Oh, and I was thinking that the triangular colon is just as widely supported as the vowels with macrons, though i may be wrong Node ue 12:21, 13 Jun 2005 (EDT)
OK, I'm getting a little frustrated here. Can you please already write a full pronunciation key for every single phoneme in your script, as shown in the Wikitravel:Phrasebook template? You can include IPA if you want, but English approximations are more imporatant. I still have no idea how the hell you're supposed to pronounce "zji", "ɨ", "ï", etc. Jpatokal 13:25, 13 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Ah, sigh. The lack of a basic phonetics guide keeps this from being much usable by native English speakers. And I was looking forward to calling this one "usable." --PeterTalk 23:40, 27 March 2008 (EDT)
Hello everyone, Does somebody know how I can order the Yonaguni dictionary avalaible at the Yonaguni Ethnographic Museum? I searched on Google, but found no informations on this dictionary other than these wikipedia pages. Thanks.