- This article describes the modern Okinawan writing system. See the Okinawan language article for an overview of the language. For the writing systems in Ryukyuan languages in general, see the Ryukyuan language article.
Okinawan language, spoken in Okinawa Island, was once the official language of the Ryukyuan Kingdom. At the time, documents were written in kanji and hiragana, derived from Japan. However, after Japan annexed the kingdom, the language was labeled as the "dialect" of mainland Japanese. Nowadays, most mainland Japanese, as well as most Okinawans, tend to think of Okinawan as merely a dialect of mainland Japanese, even though the language is not mutually intelligible to main islands Japanese.
As a "dialect", modern Okinawan language is not written frequently. When it is, the Japanese writing system is generally used with an ad hoc manner. There is no standard orthography for the modern language. Nonetheless, there are a few systems announced by scholars and alike. None of them are widespread among the native speakers, but those systems can write the language with less ambiguity than the ad hoc conventions. The Roman alphabet in some form or another is used in some publications, especially those of an academic nature.
The modern conventional ad hoc spellings found in Okinawa.
University of the Ryukyus system
The system devised by Okinawa Center of Language Study, a section of University of the Ryukyus. Unlike others, this method is intended purely as a phonetic guidance, basically uses katakana only. For the sake of an easier comparison, corresponding hiragana are used in this article.
New Okinawan letters
新沖縄文字 (Shin Okinawa-moji), devised by Yoshiaki Funazu (船津好明 Funazu Yoshiaki ), in his textbook Utsukushii Okinawa no Hougen (美しい沖縄の方言; "The beautiful Okinawan Language"; ISBN 4-905784-19-0). The rule applies on hiragana only. Katakana is used as in Japanese; just like in the conventional usage of Okinawan.
Basic syllables and kai-yōon (palatalized syllables)
- 1: At the beginning of a word.
- 2: University of the Ryukyus system is an exception, always using ゐ, をぅ, え, を (ヰ, ヲゥ, エ, ヲ) for [i], [u], [e], [o], and い, う, いぇ, お (イ, ウ, イェ, オ) for [ʔi], [ʔu], [ʔe], [ʔo], respectively.
Gō-yōon (labialised syllables)
- 3: Hatsuon (moraic n)
- 4: Sokuon (geminated consonants)
- 5: Chōon (longer vowels): In conventional usages, longer vowels are sometimes spelt like in mainland Japanese as well; "ou" (おう) for ō, doubled kana for others. (e.g. うう for ū.)