Tokyo Dialect
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Tokyo Dialect
Tokyo dialect
Native toJapan
Language codes

Tokyo dialect (T?ky? h?gen, T?ky?-ben, T?ky?-go (?, , )) is the Japanese dialect spoken in modern Tokyo. The dialect in modern Tokyo is often considered to be Standard Japanese, but they differ in a number of areas and social classes.

Yamanote (red) and Shitamachi (blue)


Traditional dialects in central Tokyo are generally classified in two groups: Yamanote dialect (, Yamanote kotoba) and Shitamachi dialect (?, Shitamachi kotoba). The Yamanote dialect is characteristic of the old upper class from the Yamanote area. Standard Japanese was based on the Yamanote dialect during the Meiji period. The Shitamachi dialect is a working-class dialect, and it preserves features of Edo Ch?nin (Edokko) speech (see Early Modern Japanese), so also called Edo dialect (?, , Edo kotoba, Edo-ben). Tokyo-style rakugo is typically played in the Shitamachi dialect. Yamanote dialect and Shitamachi dialect can be compared to the British RP and Cockney in English.

Tokyo dialect dates back to Tokugawa Ieyasu's establishment of Edo. Large groups of people, speaking a range of dialects migrated across the country. The Kyoto dialect was the de facto standard of the time and strongly influenced the Edo dialect in the early Edo period; the dialect grew inside the largest city in Japan and became the new de facto Standard Japanese in the late Edo period. Because of its unique history, especially in relation to the Kyoto dialect, Tokyo is a language island in the Kant? region. For example, traditional Kanto dialects have been characterized by the use of volitional and presumptive suffix -be, which is rarely used in Tokyo.


The Shitamachi dialect is primarily known for its lack of distinction between some phonemes that are distinct in Standard Japanese. Most famously, it neutralizes [çi] and [?i] so shiohigari ("shellfish gathering") becomes shioshigari, and shichi ("seven") becomes hichi. Also, it famously fronts [?u?] [du?] to [?i] [di] so Shinjuku becomes Shinjiku, and shujutsu ("operation") becomes shijitsu.

Another notable feature is the monophthongization of [ai ae ie oi] to [e:] in the Shitamachi dialect. For example, hidoi ("terrible") becomes shidee, and taihen da ("It's serious") becomes teehen da. That feature is used in Standard Japanese as informal masculine speech like wakan'nee (wakaranai "I don't know") and sugee (sugoi "great").

In addition, /r/ is pronounced as a trill [r] to convey a vulgar nuance in Shitamachi speech. In informal speech, intervocalic /r/ is often changed to [?] or sokuon so okaerinasai becomes okaen'nasai ("welcome back home") and s? suru to becomes s? sutto ("then, and so").

Pitch accent

A few words are pronounced different pitch accent between Yamanote and Shitamachi. The following words are typical examples:

  • Band? (another name of Kant? region): accent on ba in Yamanote, Accentless in Shitamachi.
  • saka ("slope"): accent on ka in Yamanote, on sa in Shitamachi.
  • tsugi ("next"): accent on gi in Yamanote, on tsu in Shitamachi.
  • sushi: accent on shi in Yamanote, on su in Shitamachi.
  • suna ("sand"): accentless in Yamanote, accent on na in Shitamachi.
  • asahi ("morning sun"): accent on a in Yamanote, on sa in Shitamachi.
  • aniki ("big brother"): accent on a in Yamanote, on ni in Shitamachi.
  • itsumo ("always"): accent on i in Yamanote, on tsu in Shitamachi.
  • hanashi ("talk"): accentless in Yamanote, accent on na in Shitamachi.
  • tamago ("egg"): accent on ma in Yamanote, accentless in Shitamachi.
  • accentless word -sama (a honorific): accent on sa in Yamanote, accentless in Shitamachi.


Most of the grammatical features of the Tokyo dialect are identical to the colloquial form of Standard Japanese like the examples mentioned here. Noticeable features of the Tokyo dialect include the frequent use of interjectory particle sa, which is roughly analogous to "like" as used in American English slang; ts? (common style) and tee (Shitamachi style), instead of to iu ("to say" or "is called"); the frequent use of emphasis sentence-final particle dai or dee in Shitamachi, which is famous for a typical Shitamachi verbal shot teyandee! ([nani o] itte iyagaru n dai!, "What are you talking about!?").

Historically, Kanto dialects lacked keigo (honorific speech). However, because of its connection with Kyoto and the stratification of urban society, the Tokyo dialect now has a refined keigo system. The Yamanote dialect is primarily known for an extreme use of keigo and the keigo copula zamasu or z?masu, sometimes zansu, derived from gozaimasu. The feminine courtesy imperative mood[clarification needed]asobase or asubase is also a well-known keigo word from the traditional Tokyo dialect. For example, "Won't you please wait for me?" translates to for o-machi kudasai in standard Japanese, and o-machi asobase in the traditional Tokyo dialect.


Though it also includes a few distinctive words, it is largely indistinguishable from the standard speech of Tokyo except for phonology. Famous Shitamachi words are the swear word berab?me! or beranmee! (masculine Shitamachi speech is commonly known as Beranmee kuch? or "Beranmee tone"), atab? for atarimae "of course", mattsugu for massugu "straight" and choito for chotto "for a moment, a bit." Atashi is a first-person feminine pronoun in Standard Japanese, but in Shitamachi dialect, it is often used by both men and women. An emphasis prefix o is used frequently with verbs such as oppajimeru for hajimeru "to start" and ottamageru for tamageru "to be startled."

New Tokyo dialect

Traditional Tokyo dialects are now barely used as most families living in Tokyo speak Standard Japanese. The distinction between Shitamachi and Yamanote is now almost extinct.

Historically, many people moved to Tokyo from other regions and sometimes brought their dialects into Tokyo with them. For example, jan (), which is a contraction of ja nai ka ("isn't that right?"), comes from the eastern Ch?bu and Kanagawa dialects, and chigakatta, a nonstandard form of chigatta ("it was different"), comes from the Fukushima and Tochigi dialects.[1]


  1. ^ Fumio Inoue (?) (1998). Nihongo Watching (in Japanese). T?ky?: The Iwanami Shoten (?). ISBN 978-4-00-430540-8.
  • Kazue Akinaga (?) etc (2007). Teruo Hirayama (?) etc (ed.). Nihon no Kotoba series 13, T?ky?-to no Kotoba (in Japanese). T?ky?: The Meiji Shoin (?). ISBN 978-4-625-62400-1.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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