Susumu Ono, a prominent linguist known for his groundbreaking research into the origins of the Japanese language, died Monday of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 88.
Ono stirred up active academic debate advancing a theory that Japanese shares common linguistic origins with Tamil, the language spoken in southern India, and evolved from that language.
He majored in Japanese at the University of Tokyo and later became a professor at Gakushuin University.
He conducted research on ancient Japanese used in the “Manyoshu,” Japan’s earliest existing collection of poems, complied in the eighth century, and “The Tale of Genji,” the epic novel of romance and politics among emperors and courtiers that is believed to date back to the early 11th century.
In 1999, he wrote “Nihongo Renshucho” (“A book for Japanese-language practice”), which initiated the general public on the depths and intricacies of Japanese. It became a publishing phenomenon, selling nearly 2 million copies.