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Encyclopedia > Okinawan language
ʔucināguci, うちなーぐち, 沖縄口
Spoken in: Japan 
Region: Okinawa Island
Total speakers: fewer than 2 million
Language family: Japonic
   Southern Amami-Okinawan
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: mis
ISO 639-3: ryu — [[]]

Okinawan (Okinawan: ʔucināguci) is a Ryukyuan language spoken in Japan on the southern island of Okinawa, as well as the surrounding islands of Kerama, Kume-jima, Tonaki, Aguni, and a number of smaller islands located to the east of the main island of Okinawa. Okinawa Island (沖縄本島 Okinawa-hontō, the main island of Okinawa) is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands at the edge of the East China Sea, helping to define the seas boundary with the open Pacific Ocean. ... Current distribution of Human Language Families A language family is a group of related languages said to have descended from a common proto-language. ... The Japonic languages or Japanese-Ryukyuan languages constitute a language family that is agreed to have descended from a common ancestral language known as Proto-Japonic or Proto-Japanese-Ryukyuan. ... The Ryukyuan languages are spoken in the RyÅ«kyÅ« Islands and make up a subfamily of the Japonic family. ... ISO 639-1 is the first part of the ISO 639 international-standard language-code family. ... ISO 639-2 is the second part of the ISO 639 standard, which lists codes for the representation of the names of languages. ... ISO 639-3 is in process of development as an international standard for language codes. ... Articles with similar titles include the NATO phonetic alphabet, which has also informally been called the “International Phonetic Alphabet”. For information on how to read IPA transcriptions of English words, see IPA chart for English. ... Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone meaning sound, voice) is the study of the sounds of human speech. ... Unicode is an industry standard designed to allow text and symbols from all of the writing systems of the world to be consistently represented and manipulated by computers. ... The Ryukyuan languages are spoken in the RyÅ«kyÅ« Islands and make up a subfamily of the Japonic family. ... This article is about the prefecture. ... Kumejima (久米島町; -chou) is a town located in Shimajiri district, Okinawa, Japan. ... Tonaki (渡名喜村; -son) is a village located in Shimajiri district, Okinawa, Japan. ... Aguni (粟国村; -son) is a village located in Shimajiri district, Okinawa, Japan. ...

It is divided into two main groups: Central (Standard, Shuri-Naha) and Southern. The Shuri dialect was standardized during the era of the Ryukyuan Kingdom, during the reign of King Sho Shin (1477-1526). It was the official language used by royalty and aristocracy. All of the songs and poems in the language from that era are written in the Shuri dialect. Shuri is a city in Okinawa also known as Shui or Syuri. ... Naha (那覇市; -shi) is the capital city of 沖縄県 Okinawa Prefecture (Okinawan Uchinā) in Japan. ... Brief History of the Ryukyus Before 1945 Large parts of this history come from George Feifers history of the Battle of Okinawa (references). ... List of Ryukyuan songs: Tinsagu nu Hana Asadoya Yunta Shima nu Hito Futami Jouwa Ninjoubushi Tanchamee Jin Jin Hana Categories: Japan-related stubs ...

The speech of Northern Okinawa is usually considered a separate language; see Kunigami language. The Kunigami language is a colloquial variant of the Okinawan language that is spoken largely in the Kunigami district of Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. ...




Okinawan has three short vowels, /a i u/, and five long vowels, /aː eː iː oː uː/. Note that /u/ is rounded, unlike in Japanese.


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive p b t d k ɡ ʔ
Nasal m n ɴ
Tap or flap ɾ
Fricative ɸ s h
Approximant j w
Laryngeal approximant ʔj ʔw

In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. ... Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli (the sockets) of the superior teeth. ... Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate (the middle part of the roof of the mouth). ... Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum). ... Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. ... Glottal consonants are consonants articulated with the glottis. ... A stop or plosive or occlusive is a consonant sound produced by stopping the airflow in the vocal tract. ... A nasal consonant is produced when the velum—that fleshy part of the palate near the back—is lowered, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. ... In phonetics, a flap or tap is a type of consonantal sound, which is produced with a single contraction of the muscles so that one articulator (such as the tongue) is thrown against another. ... Fricatives (or spirants) are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. ... Approximants are speech sounds that could be regarded as intermediate between vowels and typical consonants. ... The laryngeals were three consonant sounds that appear in most current reconstructions of the Proto-Indo-European language. ... Approximants are speech sounds that could be regarded as intermediate between vowels and typical consonants. ...


(Technically, these are morae, not syllables.) Mora (plural moras or morae) is a unit of sound used in phonology that determines syllable weight (which in turn determines stress) in some languages. ... This article discusses the unit of speech. ...

ʔi ʔe ʔa ʔo ʔu ʔja ʔjo ʔju ʔwa ʔɴ
[ʔi] [ʔe] [ʔa] [ʔo] [ʔu] [ʔja] [ʔjo] [ʔju] [ʔɰa] [ʔn]
i e a o u ja jo ju we wa ɴ
[a] [o]
[ja] [jo] [ju] [ɰe] [ɰa] [n]
hi he ha ho hu hja hjo hju hwa
[çi] [çe] [ha] [ho] [ɸu] [ça] [ço] [çu] [ɸa]
gi ge ga go gu gja gwe gwa
[ɡi] [ɡe] [ɡa] [ɡo] [ɡu] [ɡja] [ɡʷe] [ɡʷa]
ki ke ka ko ku kja kwe kwa
[ki] [ke] [ka] [ko] [ku] [kja] [kʷe] [kʷa]
ci ce ca co cu
[ʨi] [ʨe] [ʨa] [ʨo] [ʨu]
zi ze za zo zu
[ʥi] [ʥe] [ʥa] [ʥo] [ʥu]
si se sa so su sja sju
[ɕi] [ɕe] [sa] [so] [su] [ɕa] [ɕu]
di de da do du
ri re ra ro ru
[di] [de] [da] [do] [du]
[ɾi] [ɾe] [ɾa] [ɾo] [ɾu]
ti te ta to tu
[ti] [te] [ta] [to] [tu]
mi me ma mo mu mja mjo
[mi] [me] [ma] [mo] [mu] [mja] [mjo]
bi be ba bo bu bja bjo bju
[bi] [be] [ba] [bo] [bu] [bja] [bjo] [bju]
pi pe pa po pu pja pju
[pi] [pe] [pa] [po] [pu] [pja] [pju]

Correspondences with Japanese

Japanese Okinawan Notes
/e/ /i/ [ti] not [tʃi]
/o/ /u/ [tu] not [tsu], [du] not [dzu]
/ai/ /eː/
/au/ /oː/
/k/ /k/ /ɡ/ also occurs
/ka/ /ka/ /ha/ also occurs
/ki/ /ʨi/ [ʨi]
/ku/ /ku/ /hu/, [ɸu] also occurs
/si/ /si/ /hi/, [çi] also occurs
/su/ /si/ [ɕi]; formerly distinguished as [si]
/hi/ [çi] also occurs
/tu/ /ʨi/ [ʨi]; formerly distinguished as [tsi]
/da/ /ra/ [d] and [ɾ] have merged
/de/ /ri/
/do/ /ru/
/ni/ /ni/ Moraic /ɴ/ also occurs
/nu/ /nu/
/ha/ /hwa/ /pa/ also occurs, but rarely
/hi/ /pi/ ~ /hi/
/mi/ /mi/ Moraic /ɴ/ also occurs
/mu/ /mu/
/ri/ /i/ /iri/ unaffected
/wa/ /wa/ Tends to become /a/ medially


Okinawan dialects retain a number of old grammatical features, such as a distinction between the terminal form (終止形) and the attributive form (連体形), the genitive function of ga (lost in the Shuri dialect), the nominative function of nu (Japanese: no), as well as honorific/plain distribution of ga and nu in nominative use.

書く kaku
to write
Classical Shuri
Irrealis 未然形 書か kaka- kaka-
Continuative 連用形 書き kaki- kaci-
Terminal 終止形 書く kaku kacun
Attributive 連体形 書く kaku kacuru
Realis 已然形 書け kake- kaki-
Imperative 命令形 書け kake kaki

One etymology given for the -un and -uru endings is the continuative form suffixed with uri (Classical Japanese: 居り wori, to be; to exist): -un developed from the terminal form uri; -uru developed from the attributive form uru, i.e:

  • kacuru derives from kaci-uru;
  • kacun derives from kaci-uri; and
  • yumun (Japanese: 読む yomu, to read) derives from yumi + uri.

A similar etymology is given for the terminal -san and attributive -saru endings for adjectives: the stem suffixed with sa (nominalises adjectives, i.e. high → height, hot → heat), suffixed with ari (Classical Japanese: 有り ari, to exist; to have), i.e:

  • takasan (Japanese: 高い takai, high; tall) derives from taka-sa-ari;
  • atsusan (Japanese: 暑い atsui, hot; warm) derives from atsu-sa-ari; and
  • yutasaru (good; pleasant) derives from yuta-sa-aru.

See also

This article describes the modern Okinawan writing system. ...



  • 平山輝男編著 『全国方言辞典〔1〕: 県別方言の特色』 角川書店、1983年(昭和58年)

The Shōwa period (Japanese: 昭和時代, Shōwa-jidai, period of enlightened peace) was the time in Japanese history when Emperor Hirohito reigned over the country, from December 25, 1926 to January 7, 1989. ...

External links


  • Ethnologue report on Kunigami
  • Ethnologue report on Central Okinawan
  • Arakaki, Tomoko: Aspect and Modality in Luchuan (PostScript file)
  • Okinawan Language - English Dictionary

PostScript (PS) is a page description language and programming language used primarily in the electronic and desktop publishing areas. ...


  • Basic Ryukyuan language
  • Ryukyuan dictionary, with spoken examples.
  • Nakasone Seizen manuscripts (mostly on the Nakijin dialect)
  • A Shuri-Naha orthography and phonology
Okinawan language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator

  Results from FactBites:
Japan Focus (6546 words)
The boundaries of languages and language varieties – a term linguists prefer to dialects since it does not connote the idea of a deviation from a chosen standard – do not come into existence by themselves.
Language ideology, the determination of what language(s) ought to be, played a crucial role in the language shift processes in the Ryukyu Islands.
Furthermore, nothing is known about local awareness concerning the possible loss of their languages in the speech communities themselves, the attitudes of the speech communities toward language endangerment, and, to be based on such fundamental information, realistic goals for language revitalization have not yet been set.
LINGUIST List 11.1692: Japanese-Okinawan Languages: Ainu (192 words)
Dear all, The Department of Asian and Pacific Linguistics of The University of Tokyo is proud to announce the publication of "The Ainu Language" by Suzuko Tamura in English translation.
The English translation was made under the auspicies of The Department of Asian and Pacific Linguistics, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, University of Tokyo, as part of its endangered languages project.
Practically the first book ever published in English which presents a detailed syntax of the Ainu language based on primary data obtained through field research by a first-rate Ainu scholar in Japan, it is a must for everyone interested in the Ainu language and/or is concerned about endangered languages in general.
  More results at FactBites »



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