Japanese IS NOT the native language of Okinawa.
The Okinawan language of belongs to the Japanese-Ryukyuan language family which extends from northern Japan to Yonaguni ( located off the coat of Taiwan) in the southern Ryukyu (rope) island chain. Many linguists (such as the renowned Hattori Shiro) believes theShuri (Okinawa) and Kyoto (Japan) dialects separated between the start of the sixth century and the middle of the twelfth century. The Ryukyuan language is classified as an independent language because of the uniqueness of its remote relationships in morphological, phonological, and lexical aspects.
Within the Ryukyuan language, the Okinawan language itself is comprised of many differentdialects and sub-dialects from village to village. The Shuri dialect was standardized under the Ryukyuan kingdom central administration established by King Sho Shin (1477-1526). It was the official language used in conversation by the aristocratic class of Shuri castle. Most Okinawan songs and poems were composed in the Shuri dialect.
The Shuri dialect is characterized by complexity ofhonorific markers which differentiate class, sex, and age. A diversity of respect forms was strictly adhered to among the three social classes of ristocracy, gentry, and commoners; between male and female; and also between different age groups. The appropriate respect forms had to be used not only when two speakers were from the same class, same sex, and even to the same age when the hierarchicaldistinction only related to the month of birth. When two speakers were completely different status, conversational usage was extremely complex.
The phonological characteristics of the Shuri dialect as compared to standard Japanese are mainly the vowel changes of e to i and o to u. For example, the word for rain is pronounced ame in Japanese while it is pronounced ami in Shuri. In thesame manner, the word for cloud is pronounced kumo in Japanese while it is pronounced kumu in Shuri. Some differences between Japanese and Shuri dialect also exist in consonants. Some of the common differences are as follows:
|Differences Between Japanese |
|Japan |Shuri |Japan |Shuri |
|k |chu |yuki (snow) |yuchi |
|chi |tsi |michi (road) |mitsi |
|mi |n |minato (port) |nnatu |
|ri |i |odori (dance) |udui |
|wa |a|kawa (river) |kaa |
Sample of Okinawan Words and Phrases
|1 - One |tii chi |
|2 - Two |taa chi |
|3 - Three|mii chi |
|4 - Four |yuu chi |
|5 - Five |ichi chi |
|6 - Six|muu chi |
|7 - Seven |nana chi |
|8 - Eight |yaa chi |
|9 - Nine...