Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Language Variation

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In addition to these conjugation differences, there are also some lexical differences as well. Suteru 'throw out' (Eastern) is hokasu (Kansai); gyōsan 'a lot' (Kansai) is takusan (Eastern); ōki ni 'thank you' (Kansai) is equivalent to arigatō (Eastern). The verb of existence in the Kansai dialect is oru, not the iru of Eastern variety--Ganbattoru nā 'you're working hard!' (Kansai) is Ganbatte imasu ne (Eastern), Wakattoru n kai na? 'Does she understand this? (Kansai) is Wakatte iru n desu ka? (Eastern). In the Kansai dialect certain vowels are elongated: chi 'blood' (Eastern) is chī (Kansai), me 'eye' (Eastern) is mē 'eye'. Some words ending in -su is dropped in Kansai, causing other phonological change. Examples include Ikimakka? 'Are you going?' (Kansai) is equivalent to Ikimasu ka? (Eastern), Yoroshū oma 'That's OK' (Kansai) is equivalent to Yoroshi desu yo or Ii desu yo (Eastern). Some sentence final particles that are somewhat different from the Eastern variety are: wa as in Hona wai ga ikimasu wa 'Well, in that case, I will go' (Kansai) (cf. Jaa watashi ga ikimasu yo (Eastern); wa is not gender-differentiated as is the case in the Eastern dialect area); ya, as in Kanben-shite ya 'Forgive me' (Kansai) (cf. Yappari suki ya nen 'I like her after all' (Kansai) (cf. Yappari suki na n da (Eastern)), de as in Hona iku de 'Well, I am going' (Kansai) (cf. Jaa iku yo (Eastern)), just to name a few examples. Although the difference may appear unfathomably large, speakers from dialect areas do not generally have trouble in communicating with each other.

Policy for a National Language

One of the characteristics of the Eastern dialect (to which the Tokyo dialect nominally belongs) is the use of -bē ending to signal intention (e.g., iku bē 'I will go'). Others include words like hittakuru 'snatch away', hippagasu 'peel off', nanno kanno 'various', chanto 'properly', yatara 'randomly', choito 'a little', dokkoi 'wait a moment', etc. These characteristics were perhaps deemed unworthy of the dialect spoken at the seat of government and a new variety called the standard language took form beginning in earnest around 1900. The -bē form was replaced in favor of the Kyoto form of -ō (e.g., ikō 'I will go'). Eastern hayaku 'early' when it changes form for added politeness was also replaced by Kyoto hayō, as one sees in contemporary O-hayō (gozaimasu) 'Good morning'. Other polite adjectival forms still used by some in the Tokyo dialect, such as yoroshū gozaimasu 'acceptable', omoshirō gozaimasu 'interesting', akarū gozaimasu 'bright', all reflect the Kyoto variety.

Words for one's parents are a case in point. In the Tokyo area, such as ottosan 'father' (also ottō, otottsan) and okkasan 'mother' (also okkaa) were the normal address forms toward the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). In Meiji 3 (1870), the government approved textbook tells us to call one's father ototo-sama and mother okaka-sama. In Meiji 20 (1887), this changed to chichi-sama and haha-sama, and finally in Meiji 36 (1903), the address forms change once again to otō-san and okā-san. All these are linguistic forms that have not been attested in the area as indigenous forms. As alluded to earlier, the situations involving the so-called standard Japanese is that it is in many ways a constructed, idealized language.

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