World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Eastern Japanese

Article Id: WHEBN0017873032
Reproduction Date:

Title: Eastern Japanese  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Japan, Yamagata dialect, Nagoya dialect, Hida dialect
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Eastern Japanese

Linguistic classification: Altaic?
  • Hachijō
  • Eastern Japanese
  • Western Japanese
  • Kyūshū

Map of Japanese dialects (north of the heavy grey line)

The Japanese dialects (方言 hōgen?) comprise many regional variants. The lingua franca of Japan is called hyōjungo (標準語, lit. "standard language") or kyōtsūgo (共通語, lit. "common language"), and while it was based initially on the Tokyo dialect, the language of Japan's capital has since gone in its own direction to become one of Japan's many dialects.[1] Dialects are commonly called -ben (弁, 辯, ex. Osaka-ben, lit. "Osaka speech"), sometimes also called -kotoba (言葉, ことば, ex. Shitamachi-kotoba, lit. "Shitamachi language") and -namari (訛り, なまり, ex. Tōhoku-namari, lit. "Tōhoku accent").

There is general agreement among linguists that the Ryukyuan languages of Okinawa Prefecture and the southern islands of Kagoshima Prefecture form a separate branch of the Japonic family, and are not Japanese dialects.


Regional variants of Japanese have been confirmed since the Old Japanese era. Man'yōshū, the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry includes poems written in dialects of the capital (Nara) and eastern Japan (see also Old Japanese#Dialects), but other dialects were not recorded. The recorded features of eastern dialects were rarely inherited by modern dialects except for a few language islands such as Hachijo Island. In the Early Middle Japanese era, there were only vague records such as "rural dialects are crude". However, since the Late Middle Japanese era, features of regional dialects had been recorded in some books, for example Arte da Lingoa de Iapam, and the recorded features were fairly similar to modern dialects. The variety of Japanese dialects developed markedly during the Edo period because many feudal lords restricted the movement of people to and from other fiefs. Some isoglosses agree with old borders of han especially in Tohoku and Kyushu. From the Nara period to the Edo period, the dialect of Kinai (now central Kansai) had been the de facto standard Japanese, and the dialect of Edo (now Tokyo) took over in the late Edo period.

With modernization in the late 19th century, the government and the intellectuals promoted establishment and spread of the standard language. The regional languages and dialects were slighted and suppressed, and so locals had a sense of inferiority about their "bad" and "shameful" languages. The language of instruction was standard Japanese, and some teachers administered punishments for using non-standard languages particularly in Okinawa and Tohoku regions (See also Ryukyuan languages#Modern history). From the 1940s to the 1960s, the period of Shōwa nationalism and the post-war economic miracle, the push for the standardization of regional languages/dialects reached its peak.

Now standard Japanese spread throughout the nation and traditional regional languages/dialects are declining because of education, television, expansion of traffic, urban concentration and etc. However, regional languages/dialects are not completely replaced with standard Japanese. The spread of standard Japanese means the regional languages/dialects are now valued as "nostalgic", "heart-warming" and "precious local identity" and many locals gradually overcomes their sense of inferiority regarding their languages/dialects. The contact between regional languages/dialects and standard Japanese invents new regional speech among young people such as Okinawan Japanese.[2]


There are several generally similar approaches to classifying Japanese dialects. Misao Tōjō classified mainland Japanese dialects into three groups: Eastern, Western and Kyushu dialects. Mitsuo Okumura classified Kyushu dialects as a subclass of Western Japanese. These theories are mainly based on grammatical differences between east and west, but Haruhiko Kindaichi classified mainland Japanese into concentric circular three groups: inside (Kansai, Shikoku and etc.), middle (Western Kanto, Chubu, Chugoku and etc.) and outside (Eastern Kanto, Tohoku, Izumo, Kyushu, Hachijo and etc.) based on systems of accent, phoneme and conjugation.

Eastern and Western Japanese

A primary distinction exists between Eastern and Western Japanese. This is a long-standing divide that occurs in both language and culture.[3] The map in the box at the top of this page divides the two along phonological lines. West of the dividing line, the more complex Kansai-type pitch accent is found; east of the line, the simpler Tokyo-type accent is found, though Tokyo-type accents also occur further west, on the other side of Kansai. However, this isogloss largely corresponds to several grammatical distinctions as well: West of the pitch-accent isogloss:[4]

  • The perfective form of -u verbs such as harau 'to pay' is harōta (or minority haruta), rather than Eastern (and Standard) haratta
    • The perfective form of -su verbs such as otosu 'to drop' is also otoita in Western Japanese (largely apart from Kansai dialect) vs. otoshita in Eastern
  • The imperative of -ru (ichidan) verbs such as miru 'to look' is miyo or mii rather than Eastern miro (or minority mire, though Kyushu dialect also uses miro or mire)
  • The adverbial form of -i adjectival verbs such as hiroi 'wide' is hirō (or minority hirū) as hirōnaru, rather than Eastern hiroku as hirokunaru
  • The negative form of verbs is -nu or -n rather than -nai, and uses a different verb stem; thus suru 'to do' is senu or sen rather than shinai (apart from Sado Island, which uses shinai)
  • The copula is da in Eastern and ja or ya in Western Japanese, though Sado as well as some dialects further west such as San'in use da [see map at right]
  • The verb iru 'to exist' in Eastern and oru in Western, though Wakayama dialect uses aru and some Kansai Fukui subdialects use both

However, while these grammatical isoglosses are close to the pitch-accent line given in the map, they do not follow it exactly. Apart from Sado Island, which has Eastern shinai and da, all of the Western features are found west of the pitch-accent line, though a few Eastern features may crop up again further west (da in San'in, miro in Kyushu). East of the line, however, there is a zone of intermediate dialects which have a mixture of Eastern and Western features. Echigo dialect has harōta, though not miyo, and about half of it has hirōnaru as well. In Gifu, all Western features are found apart from pitch accent and harōta; Aichi has miyo and sen, and in the west hirōnaru as well: These features are substantial enough that Toshio Tsuzuku classifies Gifu–Aichi dialect as Western Japanese. Western Shizuoka (Enshū dialect) has miyo as its single Western Japanese feature.[4]

The Western Japanese Kansai dialect was the prestige dialect when Kyoto was the capital, and Western forms are found in literary language as well as in honorific expressions of modern Tokyo dialect (and therefore Standard Japanese), such as adverbial ohayō gozaimasu (not *ohayaku), the honorific existential verb oru, and the polite negative -masen (not *-mashinai).[4]

Kyushu Japanese

Kyushu dialects have several distinctive features:

  • as noted above, Eastern-style imperatives miro ~ mire rather than Western Japanese miyo
  • ka-adjectives rather than Western and Eastern i-adjectives, as in samuka for samui 'cold' (also kuyaka for minikui 'ugly', nukka for atsui 'hot')
  • the nominalization and question particle to, versus Western and Eastern no, as in tottō to? for totte iru no? 'is this taken?' and iku to tai or ikuttai for iku no yo 'I'll go'
  • the directional particle sai (Standard (h)e and ni)
  • the emphatic sentence-final particles tai and bai (Standard yo)
  • a concessive particle batten or daken for dakedo 'but, however'
  • /e/ is pronounced [je] and palatalizes s, z, t, d, as in mite [mitʃe] and sode [sodʒe], though this is a conservative (Muromachi) pronunciation found with s, z (sensei [ʃenʃei]) in scattered areas throughout Japan.
  • as in Shikoku, but generally not elsewhere, the accusative particle (w)o resyllabifies a noun: honno or honnu for hon-o 'book', kakyū for kaki-o 'persimmon'.
  • /r/ is often dropped, for koi 'this' versus Western and Eastern Japanese kore

Much of Kyushu either lacks pitch accent, or has its own, distinctive accent. Kagoshima dialect is so distinctive that some have classified it as a fourth branch of Japanese, alongside Eastern, Western, and the rest of Kyushu.

Hachijō Japanese

Main article: Hachijo dialects

A small group of dialects spoken in Hachijōjima and Aogashima, islands south of Tokyo, as well as the Daitō Islands east of Okinawa. Hachijō dialect is quite divergent and sometimes thought to be a primary branch of Japanese. It retains an abundance of inherited ancient Eastern Japanese features.


The relationships between the dialects is approximately as follows:[5]















inland Hokkaidō


coastal Hokkaidō


See also


External links

  • 日本語情報資料館 (The Japanese information library) (Japanese)
    • 日本言語地図 (The linguistic maps of Japan)
    • 全国方言談話データベース (The conversation database of dialects in all Japan)
    • 方言談話資料 (The conversation data of dialects)
    • 方言録音資料シリーズ (The recording data series of dialects)
  • Dialectological Circle of Japan (English)
  • Daniel Long's Japanese Linguistics Research Site (English)
  • 方言研究の部屋 (The room of dialect) (Japanese)
  • ふるさとの方言 (The dialects of Hometown) (Japanese)
  • 全国方言WEB ほべりぐ (All Japan Dialects WEB HOBERIGU) (Japanese)
  • Kansai Dialect Self-study Site for Japanese Language Learner (English)
  • Japanese Dialects (English)
  • 日本全国方言プロジェクト (All Japan Dialect Project) (Japanese)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.