Okinawan Japanese

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An example of Okinawan Japanese Koohii shaapu, from English "coffee shop", instead of Koohii shoppu in standard Japanese.

Okinawan Japanese (ウチナーヤマトゥグチ, 沖縄大和口 Uchinaa Yamatu-guchi?) is the Japanese language as spoken by people of Okinawa Prefecture. Okinawan Japanese's accents and words are influenced by traditional Ryukyuan languages. Okinawan Japanese has some loanwords from American English due to the United States administration after the Battle of Okinawa. Okinawan Japanese is a Japanese dialect (方言), unlike the Okinawan language (which is, nevertheless, also officially considered a Japanese dialect in Japan).

Japanese Borrowings[edit]

There are a number of aspects of Okinawan Japanese that are borrowed from the Japanese language, but have different uses or meanings. For example, a number of verb inflections and words indicating aspect and mood are the same in Japanese and Okinawan Japanese, but have different uses in both. Hazu means "due, scheduled, or supposed to occur", which indicated a high degree of probability in Japanese. Yet in Okinawan Japanese it indicated a much lower degree of probability, more like "probably" or "may occur".[1] In Japanese, the auxiliaries masho, yo, and o are combined with the particle -ne after a verb and used to make a suggestion. An example is ikimasho ne (Let's go). In Okinawan Japanese, this would express a speakers will. It would mean "I will go" instead.[2]

Particles and demonstratives are another aspect of Okinawan Japanese grammar that is borrowed from Japanese. The particle kara which means "from" or "since" in Japanese, means "as" or "because" in Okinawan Japanese. So, kara is used in Okinawan Japanese where wo or de is used in Japanese.[3]

Some words are borrowed from Japanese, but have different meanings. For example, aruku meanings "go around" or "work" in Okinawan Japanese, but means "walk" in Japanese. Korosu means "hit" in Okinawan Japanese and "kill" in Japanese.[4]

Many Okinawan youth use words borrowed from Japanese slang, such as mecchaa (very) and dasadasa (country bumpkin).[5]

English Borrowings[edit]

Although not nearly as substantial as the borrowings from Japanese, Okinawan Japanese does contain some English loan words. Examples are paaraa (parlor), biichii paatii (beach party), and takoraisu (rice with tacos). One word combines the English word 'rich' with the Okinawan suffix -aa to create ricchaa (a rich person).[6]

Examples of vocabulary and phrase[edit]

  • はいさい (haisai?) - "Hello", from Okinawan.
  • さー (saa?) - Sentence final particle, from Japanese.
  • あがっ! (aga!?) - "Ouch!", from Okinawan.
  • でーじ (deeji?) - "Very", "Terribly", from Okinawan.
  • しに (shini?) - "Very". A relatively new word by young Okinawans. しにかん (shinikan?) in North Okinawa.
  • わじる (wajiru?) - "To stream up", from Okinawan wajiyun and a Japanese suffix -ru.
  • ふらー (furaa?) - "Foolish", from Okinawan.
  • アイスワーラー (aisu waaraa?) - "Ice water", from English.
  • シャープ (shaapu?) - "Shop", from English.
  • ないちゃー (naichaa?) - "Mainland (Japanese) People", from Japanese 内地 (naichi?) "mainland" and Ryukyuan -aa.
  • だからよー (dakarayoo?) - "That's it", "yeah", from Japanese だから (dakara?) "because of".
  • だある (daaru?) - "That's it", from Japanese である (dearu?), the formal copula.
  • じょとー(上等) (jootoo?) - "Good", from Japanese.
  • めんそーれ (mensoore?) – "Welcome!", from Okinawan めんそーれー (mensooree?).


  1. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 83.
  2. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 84.
  3. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 86.
  4. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 87.
  5. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 90.
  6. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 89.


  • Noguchi, M.G. (2001). Studies in Japanese Bilungualism. Multilingual Matters Ltd. ISBN 978-1853594892.