Definitively Not( James )


Last week I wrote about an American English dialect. Regional dialects are incredibly common! Another well known regional dialect is the dialect from Osaka, Japan and the surrounding regions - commonly known as the Kansai dialect, western Japanese, or “Kansai-ben”.

Kansai-ben is usually characterized as being a bit harsher to the ears but more melodic. All of Kansai dialect has an acestor in the Kinai dialect, and was considered the national dialect of Japan while Kyoto was the capital. However, once the capital moved to Edo - now Tokyo - the dialect of that region took hold on the country, now commonly known as Tokyo dialect or Standard Japanese. However, using the Kansai dialect is often a source of pride to people from Kansai, with many being rather attached to it.

Kansai-ben used to be the stereotypical villain but now it’s more commonly associated with boisterous personalities in Japanese pop-culture. Because of the shared regional origins, the Kansai-ben is often associated with a Manzai comedy. Manzai is a type of traditional Japanese stand-up comedy based around a funny man (Tsukommi) and a straight man (Boke) - but more often than not they’ll be speaking with a Kansai dialect.

There are grammatical differences, different words, and a few other differences between Kansai dialect and Tokyo dialect. The difference I think that’s the most interesting is one that is often more difficult for English speakers: Pitch Accent. This is one of the quickest ways that non-Kansai dialect speakers will identity Kansa dialect speakers.

I’m not an expert in pitch accent - far from it. If you’re interested in learning more about Pitch Accent, Dogen has a wonderful 10 minute video but the trick to Standard Japanese intonation is to just say it flat. Right?

Now it’s time for me to butcher an example. Let’s take “Japan” - ni-ho-n. It has 3 mora - which isn’t quite a syllable but.. close enough. For Tokyo dialect, this starts out low pitch, raises, the lowers again. This is called the nakadaka (中高) pattern. For Kansai dialect, though, we start the pitch high, then are low for rest of the word - known as the atamadaka (頭高) pattern.

Of course, the most important thing you need to know when about Kansai-ben when visiting Osaka?

When asked: 「儲かりまっかぁ?」 (Mokari makka?)

Respond with: 「ぼちぼちでんなぁー。たこ焼きとビールが必要や。」 (Bochi bochi, denna. Takoyaki to biru ga hitsuyoya.)