SATO Tomomi

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SATO Tomomi Professor

Linguistics and Literature / Linguistic Sciences
Specialized Field
Linguistics, Ainu, Northern Languages
Research Subject
Descriptive and Philological Study of the Ainu and Other Norhtern Languages
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Lab. Letters: Messages from the Laboratory

Fascinated with linguistic wonder, I often travel to research the Ainu language and conduct field work.

Language is a phenomenon with which humans are the most familiar. The wonder of language, which we are apt to overlook due to the familiarity of language, serves as a great incentive for me to tackle linguistic research. In particular, elaborate linguistic structures identified through research on the Ainu language impress me greatly enough to compensate for the labors of the research. The trips for field work that I’ve been able to conduct in various places in collaboration with my “teachers” – speakers of the Ainu language – have made me realize the real charm of linguistic research.

The documents related to the Ainu language housed by Hokkaido University are world-class in quality and quantity. At Hokkaido University, which provides an extremely advantageous environment for research on the Ainu language, I’d like you to appreciate the wonder of language, whether you wish to learn the Ainu language or other languages.

  • A huge number of tapes used for recording the reports obtained from field work:
    “Equipment for recording things changes with the times,” says Professor Sato.
  • Hogo (incorporation), a way of coining words by combining nouns and verbs, can be observed in the Ainu language. Photo: Classification map indicating the word formation of verbs
    A case of hogo:
     cep ku-koyki: fish (cep) I (ku-) catch (koyki) (two words)
     ku-cep-koyki: I (ku-) fish catch (cep-koyki) (one word: cep (fish) is compounded with koyki (catch))

The dignity of researchers: Something I recognized from the hearty laughter of my mentor

When I was a graduate student, my supervisor, known for his austerity, laughed out loud just once, when he came across a thesis that plagiarized the very paper my supervisor had completed. I keenly felt something in seeing my former teacher laugh the matter off, saying “Nothing is funnier than this.” His behavior infused me with the most important quality of a researcher. Since then, I’ve been asking myself and my students a question as to what constitutes an idea of one’s own. Hokkaido University is blessed with various research environments, including the Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies, and these are sure to help you pursue your research in this discipline. Let’s accumulate new knowledge and information together here!

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