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Long Journey of Walrus : a Linguistic Survey

北海道大学大学院文学研究科北方研究教育センター = Center for Northern Humanities, Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University
Publication Date
  • 380
  • Archaeology
  • Linguistics


In the historical sites of the Okhotsk culture in Hokkaido, some artifacts made of walrus tusk have been found. The fact tells us that there was the walrus tusk trade between Chukchi-Kamchatka and southern area including Sakhalin and Hokkaido. Actually, the trade extended to China, and continued from the Middle Ages until the early 20th century. The present paper is an attempt to trace the route of the journey of walrus linguistically. As a tentative result, a Chukchi word for 'walrus' was borrowed by Even with changing the meaning into 'tusk', and then it spread to most of the Tungusic languages. The Uilta word for 'walrus', which may be a doublet of the word for 'tusk', was possibly introduced into Nivkh and Sakhalin Ainu. Then the Nivkh form for 'walrus' was brought into other Amur Tungusic. Though much more evidence is needed for our discussion, it may hopefully exemplify that linguistic data, as well as archeological materials, may serve as a powerful tool to trace the spread of culture.

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