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#1
Old 09-28-2011, 08:04 AM
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Does the Japanese Language Have Regional Accents?

Can a Kyoto person listen to a Hokkaido person speak and think, "Oh, he must be from Hokkaido?"
#2
Old 09-28-2011, 08:26 AM
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Definitely.
#3
Old 09-28-2011, 09:16 AM
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In general, yes, Japan is a linguistic 64-pack of Crayola crayons. However, Hokkaido-ben is probably not the best example. It's not that distinct and doesn't have that many regionalisms. It's not uncommonly taken for a light dusting of Tohoku-ben.
#4
Old 09-28-2011, 12:03 PM
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Absolutely. My daughter studied in Osaka and said the Osaka accent is not only distinct, but is often used as a stereotype in Japanese entertainment, much like a Brooklyn accent in a U.S. movie.
#5
Old 09-28-2011, 05:42 PM
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Not only are the accents distinctive from region to region, but there are major dialectal differences as well. My father-in-law speaks the Osaka dialect that kunilou mentioned.

The reason Hokkaido dialect/accent is not as distinct is that Hokkaido was colonised by speakers of Japanese relatively recently, so has not developed its own regional accent to the same extent as places where Japanese has been spoken since time immemorial.
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:41 PM
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FYI: It is worth noting that Okinawaan (sp?) is different yet again from Mainland Japan as the history (and culture) of these people is different from mainlan Japan.
#7
Old 09-28-2011, 11:53 PM
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Definitely. As of right now, the kansai-ben (Eastern dialect, mostly of Kyoto/Osaka) is considered the cutest, most fashionable dialect right now. If I recall correctly, there is an inverse on stress for many words (for example, speakers in Tokyo would pronounce chopsticks as HA-shi and people in Kyoto would pronounce it ha-SHI.) There are also differences in verb endings among the dialects too, and many areas have grammar that is unique to the local area. A combination of all these factors make it very easy to have a general guess of where a speaker hails from.
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Old 09-29-2011, 12:18 AM
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What about accents across class? Would it be easy to guess whether someone was nobility or burakumin, for example?
#9
Old 09-29-2011, 12:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
Keep in mind that those maps are grossly oversimplified.

As other people have mentioned, there are regional pronunciations/variations in words used that are so different from standard Japanese that they are incomprehensible to people outside the region. And in some cases the regions are tiny, as in people 30 miles away can't understand them.
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Old 09-29-2011, 12:29 AM
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Originally Posted by nikonikosuru View Post
If I recall correctly, there is an inverse on stress for many words (for example, speakers in Tokyo would pronounce chopsticks as HA-shi and people in Kyoto would pronounce it ha-SHI.)
Wait, what? Really? So most of Japan pronounces chopsticks as HAshi and bridge as haSHI, but it's reversed down there? What about candy vs rain? Were most things like this reversed, or was it more words that don't have homophones?
#11
Old 09-29-2011, 01:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
What about accents across class? Would it be easy to guess whether someone was nobility or burakumin, for example?
Hmmm, while I am not sure if it's an accent persay, but differing class levels definitely use different vocabulary and speak with differing politeness levels. While I admit ignorance as to how burakumin speak, blue-collar and white-collar Japanese are very distinct and even a beginning speaker would be able to hear a difference.

I'm learning Tsugaru-ben (Hi-5's BRBSCS), and it has traditionally been considered an extremely hickish dialect. It's recently gotten a bit of a popularity boost due to a national commercial making a parody comparison of it to French, but yeah, to echo what others have posted, when spoken really thickly, it can be completely unintelligible to your average Tokyo-ite.
#12
Old 09-29-2011, 01:28 AM
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I had heard a story that at the end of World War II when the Emperor came on the radio for the first time ever to announce Japan would surrender and "endure the unendurable," one of the ironies was that many of his subjects couldn't understand what he was saying. Don't know if that's true or an exaggeration, though.

Last edited by Koxinga; 09-29-2011 at 01:29 AM.
#13
Old 09-29-2011, 11:12 AM
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Is there any language that does not have regional accents? I doubt it. And let's not count languages with only a handful of speakers, where "regional" is not applicable.

Last edited by John Mace; 09-29-2011 at 11:13 AM.
#14
Old 09-29-2011, 11:48 AM
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At least for me, though, it's odd to think of Japan as having such regional variations, given its perceived emphasis on homogeneity.
#15
Old 09-29-2011, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
At least for me, though, it's odd to think of Japan as having such regional variations, given its perceived emphasis on homogeneity.
Well, you can't fight human nature that much. Especially given the divisions along the various islands. It would only be in the relatively recent decades that the technology would be available to even attempt to enforce a single dialect on the people, and I can't imagine it being successful. We're talking about a nation of some 125M people.

Last edited by John Mace; 09-29-2011 at 11:51 AM.
#16
Old 09-29-2011, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
We're talking about a nation of some 125M people.
Who are divided by a metric fuckton (fT) of mountains.
#17
Old 09-29-2011, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Autolycus View Post
Hmmm, while I am not sure if it's an accent persay
FYI/Nitpick: It's "per se." ("Intrinsically" -- as opposed to, for example, "per accidens" -- "by circumstance")
#18
Old 09-29-2011, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Is there any language that does not have regional accents? I doubt it. And let's not count languages with only a handful of speakers, where "regional" is not applicable.
There are regional accents and then there are regional dialects that are nearly incomprehensible to one another. Many countries have regional accents. It's less common to have places like Japan that have so many dramatically different regional dialects. By analogy look at the Iberian peninsula that has several dozen full-fledged languages that are arguably more similar to each other than many dialects of Japan.
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Old 09-29-2011, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed View Post
Wait, what? Really? So most of Japan pronounces chopsticks as HAshi and bridge as haSHI, but it's reversed down there? What about candy vs rain? Were most things like this reversed, or was it more words that don't have homophones?
Some words have different pitch accents in Kansai than in Tokyo (hashi is an example. Others that spring to mind are "terebi" and "ima"). But I don't think it's a rule that pitch accents are reversed between the two dialects, it's just random as far as I know.
#20
Old 09-29-2011, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
Some words have different pitch accents in Kansai than in Tokyo (hashi is an example. Others that spring to mind are "terebi" and "ima"). But I don't think it's a rule that pitch accents are reversed between the two dialects, it's just random as far as I know.
OK, well what about the hashi case? Do you know if bridge is reversed, or are both pronounced haSHI? It blows my mind a little to know that one of the ways to distinguish homophones is different down there.

If anyone else is curious as to what I mean and I'm not explaining myself well, it'd be like an English speaker saying "I'm going to the grocery store to buy some proDUCE."
#21
Old 09-29-2011, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
At least for me, though, it's odd to think of Japan as having such regional variations, given its perceived emphasis on homogeneity.
Well, they're not robots. Local variations in language, food, etc., are openly acknowledged.

I don't speak Japanese well at all, but when I was living there it was obvious even to me that Osaka had a distinct dialect very different from what was spoken around where I was living in Yamaguchi prefecture -- something about Osaka-ben actually sounded vaguely like German to me.
#22
Old 09-29-2011, 09:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
I had heard a story that at the end of World War II when the Emperor came on the radio for the first time ever to announce Japan would surrender and "endure the unendurable," one of the ironies was that many of his subjects couldn't understand what he was saying. Don't know if that's true or an exaggeration, though.
It's true. The Imperial Court spoke a very formal, archaic, form of Japanese that few people outside the upper classes (or scholars/clerics) were familier with. Presumably the Imperial family's personal servants & palace staff would've understood the dialect as well.
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#23
Old 09-29-2011, 11:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
At least for me, though, it's odd to think of Japan as having such regional variations, given its perceived emphasis on homogeneity.
Think about all the mutually unintelligible dialects in Fujian province alone of China. It's roughly analogous.
#24
Old 09-30-2011, 02:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed View Post
OK, well what about the hashi case? Do you know if bridge is reversed, or are both pronounced haSHI? It blows my mind a little to know that one of the ways to distinguish homophones is different down there.

If anyone else is curious as to what I mean and I'm not explaining myself well, it'd be like an English speaker saying "I'm going to the grocery store to buy some proDUCE."
Sorry I missed your point. Yes, in Osaka a bridge is HAshi and chopsticks are haSHI. Just the opposite from Tokyo.
#25
Old 09-30-2011, 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Relief View Post
There are regional accents and then there are regional dialects that are nearly incomprehensible to one another. Many countries have regional accents. It's less common to have places like Japan that have so many dramatically different regional dialects. By analogy look at the Iberian peninsula that has several dozen full-fledged languages that are arguably more similar to each other than many dialects of Japan.
Several dozen languages in the Iberian peninsula?

What are you doing, count Oscense as a language?
#26
Old 09-30-2011, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
Several dozen languages in the Iberian peninsula?

What are you doing, count Oscense as a language?
Well, depending on where you draw the line between language and dialect, at least a dozen and maybe more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Iberia
#27
Old 09-30-2011, 07:57 AM
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I've found in the United States that people with distinct regional accents are becoming rarer as television tend to flatten out local differences. What many people call a regional accent is actually a lower class accent and younger middle class people sound much the same no matter where they grow up.

Is the same thing happening in Japan.
#28
Old 09-30-2011, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Relief View Post
Well, depending on where you draw the line between language and dialect, at least a dozen and maybe more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Iberia
OK, so you are counting Oscense as a language. Gotcha.
#29
Old 09-30-2011, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by JoelUpchurch View Post
Is the same thing happening in Japan.
In my experience, yes.

My older teachers often speak with a thick accent that is hard to understand. My middle-aged teachers speak with a mild accent. My kids probably use slightly different pitch accents and a few localized words, but otherwise they sound very similar to people on TV.

Also, the average citizen of Aomori City (suburban with a smidge of urban) speaks with much less local dialect than people that live in the farm-towns no more than 20 minutes away. I am certain this is in no small part due to nationalized media and the pushing of hyoujungo (標準語 - standard Japanese).
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