Okinawa Dialect: Understanding Uchinaguchi

Você já ouviu falar no Uchinaguchi [沖縄口 / ウチナーグチ] ? Esse é o nome do dialeto do arquipélago de Okinawa [沖縄県], conjunto de ilhas de clima tropical localizadas no extremo sul do Japão. Também pode ser chamado de Okinawa-Go 沖縄語 - Idioma de Okinawa.

Among all Japanese dialects , Okinawan is probably the least known and studied among Japanese and foreigners alike, making it almost an entirely different language from standard Japanese.

To make things even more difficult, Okinawa encompasses several local dialects, some of which are even threatened with extinction. In this article we will know some words of this dialect and some curiosities related to the Okinawan language.

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Curiosities about the Okinawa Dialect - Uchinaguchi

Uchinaguchi - the dialect of Okinawa
Uchinaguchi - The Okinawan Dialect

There is not enough information on the Internet about Okinawan dialect. Compared to the Kansai and Hakata dialects, the amount of articles, videos, historical records, documentaries, detailed explanations, dictionaries and works done on the subject are quite scarce. Even in manga and anime it is much more common to find expressions from the Osaka dialect (Kansai-ben) or from other dialects, while Uchinaguchi almost does not appear. Probably, one of the reasons would be the fact that, if there were manga written entirely in uchinaguchi, this would hinder the reading of the manga by the Japanese themselves, who do not understand the dialect.

However, there are some books and articles on the Ryukyuan and Okinawan languages that can be of great use to the more curious student of Japanese, although most are written in English.

If you are interested in knowing a considerable amount of Okinawan words, along with standard nihongo equivalent synonyms, you can go to https://hougen.ajima.jp/ (it's all in Japanese). It has a lot of cool content in it.

Curiosities:

  • If you want to say “Hello” in Okinawa, you have to pay attention to a small but important detail. Men say はいさい (Haisai) and women はいたい (Haitai) when they want to say “Hello”. Haisai (masculine) and Haitai (feminine) are two different ways of saying “Hello”, being considered a fundamental greeting that can be used at any time of the day.
  • Os habitantes de Okinawa se referem ao restante da ilha japonesa como "Naichi" - ナイチ, que significa algo como "ilha principal" ou "continente" (mainland, em inglês). Esse termo também é utilizado pelos nativos de Hokkaido (ilha ao norte do país).
  • "I" in Uchinaguchi isワン (wan) . One more way of saying "I" that enters the immense list of possibilities!
  • "Sanshin" (三線、さんしん) is the name of a typical Okinawan musical instrument. It literally means "three strings", formed by the kanji for the number 3 (三) and the kanji for "line" or "string" (線). It is also known as the forerunner of Shamisen (三味線, しゃみせん).
  • The pronunciation of many of the Okinawan words sounds similar to the pronunciation of Korean and Chinese words.
  • When a main island (Japan) television program is broadcasting some Okinawan speaking, the program directors often put subtitles “translated” into standard Japanese (known as Hyojungo).
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Okinawan Dialect Words and Phrases

  • ちゅー・うがなびら - Chuu Uganabira - Olá ou Boa Tarde.
  • にふぇーでーびる - Nifee Deebiru - Obrigado (também existem outras formas de se dizer Obrigado em Okinawa, mais corteses).
  • うちなんちゅ - Uchinanchu - Povo de Okinawa ("uchinanchu" é a maneira de se referir aos nativos de Okinawa).
  • ンジチャービラ - Nji Chaabira - Até mais (equivalente ao "Jya ne" - じゃあね do japonês padrão).
  • めんそーれー - Mensooree - Bem-vindo (equivalente ao "Youkoso" - ようこそ do japonês padrão).
  • うちな - Uchina - "Uchina" significa Okinawa. É a palavra que se refere a ilha em si.
  • なんくるないさ - Nankurunaisa - Possui um significado próximo de "Daijoubu" (大丈夫) que significa "Tudo bem" ou "Não se preocupe". Entretanto, possui uma nuance mais profunda, pois carrega uma ideia de otimismo e alegria, algo muito próprio dos habitantes de Okinawa. Veio de uma frase mais complexa e não costuma ser tão utilizado quanto o "Daijoubu" nas conversas cotidianas. Em resumo, devemos ter em mente que é uma expressão otimista que traz um sentimento bom de força de vontade e confiança num bom futuro pela frente.
  • カリー - Karii - É o termo utilizado na hora do brinde. Equivalente ao 乾杯 (かんぱい, Kanpai).
  • 長ーさやー (なげえさやあ) - Nagee Sayaa - Há quanto tempo! Semelhante ao お久しぶり (おひさしぶり, ohisashiburi).
  • チャーガンジューネー? - Chaa Ganjuu nee? - Como vai você? Como você está? (de saúde). Muito parecido como o お元気ですか (おげんきですか, O genki desu ka) ou 元気にしてるの (げんきにしてるの, genki ni shiteru no).
  • ワッサイビーン - Wassai Biin - Desculpa. Perdão. Me perdoe. Me desculpe. Equivalente ao ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) ou ao すみません (sumimasen) padrão.
  • まーさん - Maa San - Gostoso. Saboroso. Equivalente ao うまい (umai) ou ao 美味しい (おいしい, oishii).
  • アマンカイ - Amankai - Por ali. Equivalente ao あっちへ (acchi he) ou あちらへ (achira he).
  • クマンカイ - Kumankai - Por aqui. Equivalente ao こっちへ (kocchi he) ou こちらへ (kochira he).

There are other important Uchinaguchi words and expressions to study, so I intend to keep updating the information in this Post over time, inserting new ones as I learn.

Live explaining the Okinawan dialect in depth

On the YouTube channel of “123 Japanese”, an online Japanese language school, you can watch a complete live of more than an hour of content telling the details and specificities of Uchinaguchi. In the video, Professor Takashi Yamanishi interviews Sansei Akira Uema, grandson of Okinawans.

Watch below, subscribe to 123 Japanese channel and leave your like there too:

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

Other Dialects of Japan

  • Osaka dialect
  • Hakata dialect
  • Kagoshima dialect
  • Tohoku dialect
  • Tsugaru dialect
  • Nagasaki dialect
  • Hiroshima dialect

Want to know about another dialect? Feel free to suggest!

JLect - Online Dictionary of Dialects

Jlect is a website that works like an online dictionary. In it you can type words from different dialects, in addition to being able to select which region of the word you want to search. You can search in English, Romaji, or Japanese (hiragana, katakana, and kanji). It is an extremely intuitive and easy to use tool. In order not to be hostage to Jisho and refine the search for expressions from different dialects, JLect is the ideal option.

Click here to access the JLect.

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