Amami language

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島口/シマユムタ Shimayumuta
Native to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Region Amami Islands
Native speakers
c. 25,000  (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
ryn – Northern Amami
ams – Southern Amami
kzg – Kikai
tkn – Toku-no-Shima
Glottolog amam1245[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Amami language (島口/シマユムタ Shimayumuta) is spoken in the Amami Islands south of Kyūshū. The number of competent native speakers is not known, but native speakers can be found mostly among old people—as a result of Japanese language policy, the younger generations speak mostly Japanese as their first language. Amami is a Ryukyuan language, most closely related to Okinawan. As it does not have recognition within Japan as a language, it is officially known as the Amami dialect (奄美方言 Amami Hōgen?) or the Amami-Tokunoshima Dialects (奄美徳之島諸方言 Amami Tokunoshima Shohōgen?).

It is sometimes considered two languages. The main dialects are as follows:

  • Northern Amami
  • Southern Amami
    • Southern Ōshima dialect
    • Tokunoshima dialect (シマユミィタ Shimayumiita)

The languages spoken in Okinoerabujima and Yoronjima, southernmost islands of the Amami Islands, are classified into the Kunigami language.



Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal Place-
Stops and
p pj    b bj t    d tʃj k kj kw    ɡ ɡj ɡw ʔ ʔj ʔw Q
Flaps ɺ̠ ɺ̠j
Fricatives θ s sj    z zj çj x xj h hj hw
Nasals m mj ʔm n nj ʔn ʔnj N
Approximants j


There are seven distinct vowels in Amami, in addition to a phonemic distinction between long and short vowels.

   Short   Long 
 Front   Central   Back   Front   Central   Back 
 High  i ɨ u ɨː
 Mid  e ɘ o ɘː
 Low  a


  1. ^ Northern Amami at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Southern Amami at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Kikai at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Toku-no-Shima at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Amami". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

Further reading[edit]

In Japanese