Kansai Dialect: a brief primer

Lately we’ve been watching1 the NHK morning drama Gochisosan (ごちそうさん) which takes place in Osaka. In the past I wrote about the Kansai Dialect, but since then I can listen/understand Japanese more easily than before. I’m certainly not fluent, but I can kind of recognize the difference between standard Japanese and Kansai dialect when I listen to people on TV, or my wife’s friends who are from there.

So, this is a simple primer for Japanese-language students to help recognize the difference. This is not comprehensive. It’s just a quick primer:

  • One of the easiest ways to recognize Kansai Dialect is that speakers will end a sentence with yan (やん), not Tokyo-style jan (じゃん which is short for じゃない “janai”).2 These are both conversational endings, among friends, but “yan” is definitely Kansai dialect, while “jan” is more Tokyo/Kanto style. Example sentence: 大丈夫やん! (daijōbu yan, It’ll be fine!)
  • Another less obvious, but common example are verbs that are “progressive” or ongoing. In standard Japanese to say “eating” is tabeteiru (食べている), but in Kansai dialect the “iru” is replaced with “haru” as in tabeteharu (食べてはる).
  • Certain Kansai dialect words are very well known and easy to recognize. For example, instead of hontō ni (本当に “really”), Kansai speakers will say honma in (ホンマに) which means the same thing. I heard celebrities like Tsurube Shōfukutei say this often, but also on Japanese podcasts by Kansai speakers. Another example is aho (アホ) which means “stupid” or “silly”. Yet another example is the casual phrase ookini (おおきに) which means thank you.
  • One other thing I have noticed, but am not 100% certain, is that Kansai speakers often replace the negative ending nai with hen. As in wakarahen (分からへん), instead of wakaranai (分からない) for “I don’t understand”.
  • The polite particle desu (です) is often replaced with dosu and dasu (I think). This varies by city and region though. Kyoto people are famous for saying dosu.
  • Lastly, some common verbs in standard Japanese are replaced by Kansai versions. For example, the word to “throw away”, suteru (捨てる) is often replaced with hokasu (放す).

Anyhow, if you have additional tips or information, feel free to post below. 🙂

1 For those who do watch NHK morning dramas, we enjoyed the hugely popular あまちゃん (Amachan), but we’ve moved on. No あまロス (withdrawal from Amachan) in this household. There are some things I like about Gochisosan better than Amachan.

2 More precisely, it’s a Yokohama-dialect saying, but it’s in the “Tokyo area”. ;p

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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