The dialects of the
Japanese language fall into two primary clades,
Eastern (including Tokyo) and Western (including Kyoto), with the
Hachijō Island often distinguished as
additional branches, the latter perhaps the most divergent of all. 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, although they are sometimes referred to as
2.1 Eastern and Western Japanese
2.3 Hachijō Japanese
3 See also
5 External links
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, 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
Early Modern Japanese era (
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
Kinai (now central Kansai) had been the de facto standard form of
Japanese, and the dialect of
Edo (now Tokyo) took over in the late Edo
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 the Okinawa and Tohoku
regions (see also Ryukyuan languages#Modern history) like as vergonha
in France or welsh not in UK. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the period
of Shōwa nationalism and the post-war economic miracle, the push for
the replacement of regional varieties with Standard Japanese reached
Now Standard Japanese has spread throughout the nation, and
traditional regional varieties are declining because of education,
television, expansion of traffic, urban concentration etc. However,
regional varieties have not been completely replaced with Standard
Japanese. The spread of Standard Japanese means the regional varieties
are now valued as "nostalgic", "heart-warming" and markers of
"precious local identity", and many speakers of regional dialects have
gradually overcome their sense of inferiority regarding their natural
way of speaking. The contact between regional varieties and Standard
Japanese creates new regional speech forms among young people, such as
Eastern Japanese dialects are blue,
Western Japanese tan. Green
dialects have both Eastern and Western features.
Kyushu dialects are
Kyushu is quite distinctive.
Kyoto type (tone+downstep)
Tokyo type (downstep)
Map of Japanese pitch-accent types. The divide between Kyoto and Tokyo
types is used as the Eastern–
Western Japanese boundary in the main
There are several generally similar approaches to classifying Japanese
dialects. Misao Tōjō classified mainland
Japanese dialects into
three groups: Eastern, Western and Kyūshū dialects. Mitsuo Okumura
Kyushu dialects as a subclass of Western Japanese. These
theories are mainly based on grammatical differences between east and
Haruhiko Kindaichi classified mainland Japanese into
concentric circular three groups: inside (Kansai, Shikoku, etc.),
middle (Western Kantō, Chūbu, Chūgoku, etc.) and outside (Eastern
Kantō, Tōhoku, Izumo, Kyushu, Hachijō, 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. 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:
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
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
The negative form of verbs is -nu or -n rather than -nai or -nee, and
uses a different verb stem; thus suru 'to do' is senu or sen rather
than shinai or shinee (apart from Sado Island, which uses shinai)
Copula isoglosses. The blue–orange da/ja divide corresponds to the
pitch-accent divide apart from Gifu and Sado.
(blue: da, red: ja, yellow: ya; orange and purple: iconically for
red+yellow and red+blue; white: all three.)
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 and Fukui subdialects use both
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 (Nagoya dialect) 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.
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 humble existential verb oru, and the polite
negative -masen (not *-mashinai).
Kyushu dialects are classified into three groups, Hichiku dialect,
Hōnichi dialect and Satsugu (Kagoshima) dialect, and have several
as noted above, Eastern-style imperatives miro ~ mire rather than
Western Japanese miyo
ka-adjectives in Hichiku and Satsugu rather than Western and Eastern
i-adjectives, as in samuka for samui 'cold', kuyaka for minikui 'ugly'
and nukka for atsui 'hot'
the nominalization and question particle to except for Kitakyushu and
Oita, 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 e and ni), though Eastern
Tohoku dialect use a similar particle sa
the emphatic sentence-final particles tai and bai in Hichiku and
Satsugu (Standard yo)
a concessive particle batten for dakedo 'but, however' in Hichiku and
Satsugu, though Eastern Tohoku Aomori dialect has a similar particle
/e/ is pronounced [je] and palatalizes s, z, t, d, as in mite [mitʃe]
and sode [sodʒe], though this is a conservative (Late Middle
Japanese) pronunciation found with s, z (sensei [ʃenʃei]) in
scattered areas throughout Japan.
as some subdialects in Shikoku and Chugoku, but generally not
elsewhere, the accusative particle 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
vowel reduction is frequent especially in Satsugu and Gotō Islands,
as in in for inu 'dog' and kuQ for kubi 'neck'
Kyushu either lacks pitch accent or has its own, distinctive
Kagoshima dialect is so distinctive that some have classified
it as a fourth branch of Japanese, alongside Eastern, Western, and the
rest of Kyushu.
Main article: Hachijō language
A small group of dialects spoken in
Hachijō-jima 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
Eastern Japanese features.
The relationships between the dialects are approximated in the
Yotsugana, the different distinctions of historical *zi, *di, *zu, *du
in different regions of Japan
Okinawan Japanese, a variant of Standard Japanese influenced by the
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
(2017). "Nuclear Japanese".
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human History.
^ Satoh Kazuyuki (佐藤和之); Yoneda Masato (米田正人) (1999).
Dōnaru Nihon no Kotoba, Hōgen to Kyōtsūgo no Yukue (in Japanese).
Tōkyō: The Taishūkan Shoten (大修館書店).
^ See also Ainu language; the extent of Ainu placenames approaches the
^ a b c Masayoshi Shibatani, 1990. The languages of Japan, p. 197.
^ Pellard (2009), Karimata (1999), and Hirayama (1994)
The Wikibook Japanese has a page on the topic of: Dialects
Look up Category:Regional Japanese in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Japanese dialects.
National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (in English)
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)
『日本言語地図』地図画像 (Linguistic Atlas of Japan)
方言研究の部屋 (The room of dialect) (in Japanese)
方言ってなんだろう？ (What is a dialect?) (in Japanese)
Dialect Self-study Site for Japanese Language Learner (in
Japanese Dialects (in English)
Japan Dialects Dictionary) (in Japanese)
Pidgins and creoles
In Hawaiian Creole
Yilan Creole Japanese
Yokohama Pidgin Japanese
by stroke count
by stroke count
Jōdai Tokushu Kanazukai
Transcription into Japanese
ARIB STD B24
Verb and adjective conjugations
Consonant and vowel verbs
Native words (yamato kotoba)
Loan words (gairaigo)
Court lady language (nyōbō kotoba)