Yoron language

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Native to Japan
Region Yoron Island of the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture
Native speakers
950  (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 yox
Glottolog yoro1243[2]

The Yoron language (ユンヌフトゥバ Yunnu futuba) is a dialect cluster spoken on Yoron Island, Kagoshima Prefecture of southwestern Japan. It is part of the Amami–Okinawan languages, which are part of the Japonic languages.


The classification of Yoron is a matter of scholarly debate as there are two competing hypotheses regarding the number of primary branches of the Amami–Okinawan languages. The two-subdivision hypothesis gives the following hierarchy.

On the other hand, the three-subdivision hypothesis has a shallower hierarchy.


According to local folklorist Kiku Chiyo, Yoron can be divided into three subgroups.[3]

  • Chabana
  • Asato (/asi⸢tu/), Gusuku (/gusi⸢ku/ ~ /gusu⸢ku/), Ritchō, Kanō (/ha⸢noː/) and Nama (/naː⸢ma/)
  • Mugiya-higashiku, Mugiya-nishiku and Furusato (/puru⸢satu/)

The Mugiya district is often considered to have a distinct form of accent and intonation.

Folk terminology[edit]

According to Kiku Hidenori, who leads conservation activities, people of Yoron Island, Kagoshima Prefecture call their language "Yunnu Futuba."[4] More precisely, a dictionary compiled by his mother Kiku Chiyo (b. 1927) gives /juɴnuhu⸢tuba/ as the word form of her home community, Mugiya-higashiku. Other words she collected include /juɴnu⸢juɴ/ (Yoron accent), /nizjaɴcju⸢juɴ/ (accent of people of Mugiya-higashiku and Mugiya-nishiku), /sima⸢juɴ/ (speaking the dialect), /sima⸢guci/ and /simahu⸢tuba/ (the island/home community's language).[3] Yamada Minoru (b. 1916) provides the word forms of the community of Chabana: /⸢ju⸣ɴnu ⸢fu⸣tuba/ and /⸢ʃi⸣ma ⸢fu⸣tuba/ (the island's language).[5]


Yoron has no official status. Ethnologue identifies its status as 7 (Shifting).[6]


The following is the phonology of the Mugiya dialect, which is based on Hirayama et al. (1969).[7]


Consonant phonemes
Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal Moraic
Nasal m n  [Q]
Stop p b t d k ɡ ʔ
Affricate t͡ʃ
Fricative s z h
Approximant j w
Flap r


  • The null phoneme /'/ may be added. It is contrasted with glottal /h/ and /ʔ/.
  • /h/ is [ç] before /i/, and [ɸ] before /u/. /hwa/ is phonetically realized as [ɸa].
  • /si/, /se/ and [t͡ʃu] is realized as [ʃi], [ʃe], and [t͡su], respectively.
  • [t͡ʃa], [t͡ʃu] and [t͡ʃo] are phonemically analyzed as /t͡ʃja/, /t͡ʃju/ and /t͡ʃjo/, respectively.
  • [ʃa], [ʃu] and [ʃo] are phonemically analyzed as /sja/, /sju/ and /sjo/, respectively.
  • /ɴ/ does not appear in the word-initial positions.


The Yoron language has /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/.

Correspondences to Standard Japanese[edit]

Only major sound correspondences are listed.

  • Standard Japanese /e/ is merged into /i/.
  • Standard Japanese /o/ is merged into /u/.
  • Yoron /e/ and /o/ are of secondary origin and mostly correspond to Standard Japanese diphthongs.
  • Yoron retains /p/ while it has changed to /h/ in Standard Japanese.
  • Standard Japanese /t͡ʃu/, /su/ and /zu/ correspond to /t͡ʃi/ [t͡ʃi], /si/ [ʃi] and /zi/ [d͡ʒi].
  • Standard Japanese /k/ shows complex correspondences. Standard Japanese /ka/ corresponds to both Yoron /ka/ and /ha/. /ki/ corresponds to /ki/ and /si/. /ke/ corresponds to /si/ with some exceptions. /ku/ corresponds to /hu/.
  • Standard Japanese /ni/ corresponds to Yoron /mi/.
  • Yoron /r/ is dropped when it is surrounded by a vowel and /i/.
  • Standard Japanese /o/ that comes from earlier /wo/ corresponds to Yoron /hu/.


  • Yorontō-go jien (1995) by Yamada Minoru. The author is from Chabana, Yoron Island of the Amami Islands but also collected data from other communities on the island.
  • Yoron hōgen jiten (2005) by Kiku Chiyo and Takahashi Shunzō. A dictionary for Kiku's home community, Mugiya-higashiku, Yoron Island of the Amami Islands.


  1. ^ Yoron at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Yoron". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b Kiku Chiyo 菊千代 and Takahashi Shunzō 高橋俊三 (2005). Yoro hōgen jiten 与論方言辞典 (in Japanese). 
  4. ^ Kiku Hidenori 菊秀史 (2011). "Yoron no kotoba de hanasō 与論の言葉で話そう". Nihon no hōgen no tayōsei o mamoru tame ni 日本の方言の多様性を守るために (PDF) (in Japanese). pp. 12–23. 
  5. ^ Yamada Minoru 山田實 (1995). Yorontō-go jiten 与論島語辞典 (in Japanese). 
  6. ^ "Amami-Okinawan". SIL International. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Hirayama Teruo 平山輝男, Ōshima Ichirō 大島一郎 and Nakamoto Masachie 中本正智 (1969). "Gengo 言語". In Hirayama Teruo 平山輝男. Satsunan shotō no sōgōteki kenkyū 薩南諸島の総合的研究 (in Japanese). pp. 235–478. 

Further reading[edit]