Okinawan Japanese

Okinawan Japanese (ウチナーヤマトグチ, 沖縄大和口, Uchinaa Yamato-guchi) is the Japanese language as spoken by people of the Okinawa Islands. Okinawan Japanese's accents and words are influenced by the traditional Okinawan and Kunigami 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 and Kunigami languages (which are, nevertheless, also officially considered as Japanese dialects in Japan).

Okinawan Japanese
Native toJapan
RegionOkinawa Islands
Native speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3
An example of Okinawan Japanese Koohii shaapu, from English "coffee shop", instead of Koohii shoppu in standard Japanese.

Differences from Standard JapaneseEdit

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

Particles and demonstratives are another aspect of Okinawan Japanese grammar that differ 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 have different meanings in Standard Japanese. For example, aruku means "go around" or "work" in Okinawan Japanese, but means "walk" in Standard. Korosu means "hit" in Okinawan Japanese and "kill" in Standard.[4]

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

English borrowingsEdit

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 (taco rice). One word combines the English word 'rich' with the Okinawan suffix -aa to create ricchaa (a rich person).[6]


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


  • Ōsumi, Midori (2001). "Language and identity in Okinawa today". In Mary Noguchi; Sandra Fotos (eds.). Studies in Japanese Bilingualism. Multilingual Matters Ltd. pp. 68–97. ISBN 978-1853594892.