What's Up With Okinawan Names? – A Language History

Why are Okinawan names difficult for even mainland Japanese speakers? How the languages of the Ryukyu kingdom survived – despite attempts to eradicate them.

Video by Noah Oskow

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Some of the videos featured here include:

Ryukyu Language Documentary: ~みろく世へぬ思い立ち~ Miruku yu yhe nu Umuitachi

Okinawa Naha Kokusai Dori Street Part 1 | Walking in Japan 4K

Byron Fija on Ryukyuan Languages in Uchinaaguchi

Categories:   Language


  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17


    This video was so cool! Love learning about indigenous languages.
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17

    Felix Everett

    This is great! It's well-researched, succinctly written, and has taught me a lot I didn't know about the Ryukyuans!

    I haven't browsed your other videos yet, but have you done any other Okinawa or Ainu content? I'd love to learn more :)
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17

    Raihan Nizar

    Ryukyuan culture seems fascinating, thanks for sharing bits of it!
    This is somewhat unrelated, but what is the song you put at the end of the video? Was that based on an Okinawan folk song? The melody, it consistently resembles the pentatonic scale of Javanese (with a 'v') music! Good now I'm interested in Ryukyuan music as well.
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17


    Thank's for this informative video! Are there 5 or 6 ryukuan languages recognized?
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17


    Free Okinawa! Okinawa is the only colony that was never freed from Japan after world war 2. Okinawans still suffer from oppression from the Japanese government
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17

    Nick Warren

    Japanese linguistics is a trip. Japanese is almost a language isolate (no known related languages, e.g. Korean or Basque) except for the Ryukyuan languages. So me, coming from a background of studying Western languages like Latin and Middle Eastern ones like Arabic, I can always consult some etymological resource to see where a word came from and how it relates to words in related tongues. But Japanese? Other than the huge pile of Chinese loans, etymological origins for words in Japanese stops with Old Japanese. The Ryukyuan languages have always fascinated me because, in theory, they could provide a glimpse at an older stage of Japonic, but I sadly don't understand enough about Japanese to get any insight from it myself.

    Anyway, this connects with the larger mystery of where the Japanese people came from in the first place, because they just sorta pop up in the archaeological record a couple thousand years ago along with the arrival of rice agriculture in the archipelago. The expert consensus is that they're originally from Korea which might mean they're related to the modern Korean people, and indeed there appear to be some very old cognate words between Korean and Japanese and the presence of a few old kingdoms in the Korean Peninsula line up with the timing, but mainstream linguists seem to be in agreement that the Korean language and the Japanese language aren't related! Fascinating stuff. I hope some new clues in the mystery emerge some day because I'm very curious.
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17


    State suppression of native languages globally is part of why it is so frustrating that there exists a narrative that loss of indigenous languages is inevitable. It really ignores the many ways it was or in some cases still is manufactured by people and not something that "just happens".
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17

    David Ben-Abraham

    Excellent documentary. What is the name of the song played in 16:30?
  • Posted: August 14, 2020 16:17

    Noah Oskow

    Hello and Mensore, everyone! Hope you enjoy this little dive into what makes Okinawan names and language so unique. I learned a lot about the subject myself while carrying out my research for this video - it's definitely a subject that's worthy of learning about. Very excited to return to Okinawa someday (when travel is safe again) and to deepen my understanding of the regions of the former Ryukyu Kingdom.

    As usual, I've prepared English subtitles for those to prefer to watch with them - switch them on via the CC option if you'd like! And let me know what you thought of this video, or what topics you'd like me and Unseen Japan to cover next!

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