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okinawan language

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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 the Shuri (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 different dialects 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 of honorific 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 hierarchical distinction 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 the same 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
and
Uchina Guchi
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

kuku nuchi

10 - Ten

tuu

100 - One Hundred

hyaa ku

Good Morning

ukimi soo chii

Good day

hai sai

Or

chuu wuga nabira

Good evening

hai sai

Good night

uyukuimi soori

Good bye

guburii sabira

How do you do?

hajimita wuga nabira

How are you?

uganjuu yami seemi

Fine thank you.

uu ganjuu sooi biin

Thank you very much

nifee deebiru

I beg your pardon

chaa bira

Excuse me

guburii sabura

I'm sorry

guburii sabitan

That's all right

shiwaa neebi ran

Please hurry

isujimi sooree

Don't hurry please

yoonnaa shimi sooree

What's this?

kuree nuuyaibiiga

How much is it?

uree chassa yai biiga

Do you have anything cheaper?

naahin yassa shiga ami seemi

Hello

moshi moshi

This is Michael

michael yai biin

Just a minute please

ufee macchi kwimi sooree

I'll call back later

atukara kakiya biisa

Delicious

maa san

It's HOT!

achiisaiibin-do

Ouch!

agaa!!

Expression - Surprise, anger, "Oh my gawd!"

akisamiyoo!

Person who talks loudly, yelling

abiyaa

It's hot, isn't it?

achisan yaa tai

Okinawan doughnut

andagii

Mother

anmaa or ayaa

Pig's feet soup

ashitibichi

Literally " Are you healthy?"

chya gan jyuu?

Good afternoon

chyu uganabira

Person

chu

Good looking

chyuura kagi

Pardon me. May I come in?

(Used when entering a home.)

chaabira sai.

How do you do?

chuu uganabira

People

chu (short sound)

Have you been well?

chaa ganjuu yaibiimi tai

Very(much)

deijii

Crazy person

furaagwa

Glutton

Gachiimaya

Mosquito

Gaajyan

Excuse me.

Guuburi sabida

Castle

Gusuku

Person

Guwa

dirty

Hagoosa

Hello. (everyday greeting)

Hai sai

I'm glad to meet you.

Hajimiti uganabira.

Nice weather we are having

Il kwaa chichi

Please come in.

Ii misooree

Intoxicated

Iichyaa

Small/short

Inchyaasa

money

jin

Good (very)

Jooto

Hair

Karajii

Come here.

kumankai kuuwa

Said before eating a meal.

Kuwachi sabida

It was very delicious/ may I be excused.

Kuwachi sabitan

Where are you going?

maa kai ga

Large big

magii

Tasty, delicious

maasan

Please come back again.

Mataa mensore

Welcome.

Mensooree.

Bring to me

Muchiku

Thank you.

Nifee deebiru.

Sleepy

Nibuii

Sleepy head

niibu yaa

Sweetheart (besides one's wife); girlfriend

ningurugwaa

Goodbye

njichabira

Life is a treasure.

Nuchi Du Takara

What are you doing?

Nuu sou ga?

Application

Oyoo (Japanese - bunkai)

Honorific Mr. Ms.

Sai

Teacher

Shinshi (Japanese - Sensei)

Hand

Ti

Okinawa

Uchina

The Okinawan language

Uchina guchi

Do you understand Okinawan?

Uchinaa-guchi wakai miseemi.

Yes, I understand a little.

Uu, ufee wakai biin.

People from Okinawa

Uchinanchu

Rascal

uumaku

Yes

Uun

You

Unjyu

You (polite)

unju

Please

Unige sabida

I don't understand

Wakaya bidan

I understand

Wakaya bitan

I, me, myself

Wan

Child

Waraba

I'm Sorry.

Wa sai bin

Japan

Yamato

Japanese people

Yamatonchu

Japanese language

Yamatoguchi

Not good looking

yanakaagii

Bad weather isn't it?

Yanakwaa chichi

Loud, noisy

Yagui

Bad child

Yana waraban

Rest awhile.

yukuimisooree

talkative

yuntaku


Okinawan Proverbs


Ataishi turu atairu. - We get along well with those we can get along with well.

Achinee ya tankaa mankaa. - Business is a two-way street.

Aramun jooguu ya duu ganjuu. - One who eats plain food is healthy.

Ichariba choodee. - Once we meet and talk, we are brothers and sisters.

Uya yushi kwa yushi. - Parents and children teach one another.

Kaagee kaa ru ya ru. - Beauty is skin deep.

Kamuru ussaa mii nayun. - The more you eat, the more you gain.

Kuu sa kana sa. - Small things are lovable.

Kuchi ganga naa ya yakutatan. - A smooth talker is a good-for-nothing person.

Kutubaa. Jin chikee. - Spend words as efficiently as money.

Kutuba noo ushikumaran. - A word can't be recalled once spoken.

Shikinoo chui shiihii shiru kurasuru. - Let's live helping each other in this world.

Shinjichi nu ada nayumi. - Kindness will never be wasted in any way.

Jin too waraaran kwa tu ru waraariiru. - We can laugh happily with our children, but not with money.

Chu uyamee ru duu uyamee. - If you respect others, they will respect you.

Choo kukuru ru dee ichi. - The heart is the most essential human quality.

Tusui ya tatashina mun. Warabee shikashina mun. - The old should be Treated with due respect. Children should be treated with gentleness.

Tusui ya takara. - The old people are treasures to us.

Miitundaa duu tichi. - Man and wife are one flesh.

Nuchi nu sadamee wakaran. - Only God knows one's term of life.

Machushi garu ufu iyoo tuyuru. - One who waits patiently will catch a big fish.

Miinai chichi nai. - We learn by watching and listening.

Mii ya tin niru aru. - Our fates are as registered by heaven.

Munoo yuu iyuru mun. - Speak well of others.

Yaasa ru maasaru. - Food is delicious when one is hungry.

Duu nu duu ya duu shiru shiyuru. - You know your body best.

Choo kani ru deeichi. - Common sense is essential.

Yii kutoo isugi. - Do good things quickly.

Chira kaagi yaka chimu gukuru. - Kind hearts are better than fair faces.

Yuu ya shititin mii ya shitinna. - Even if you hide yourself from the world, don't lose sight of your real nature.

Nmarijima nu kutuba wasshii nee kuni n wasshiin. - Forgetting your native tongue means forgetting your native country.

Ashibi nu chura saa ninju nu sunawai. - The more the merrier.

Acha nu neen chi ami. - Tomorrow is a new day.

Yikiga nu kutubaa shuumun gaai. - A man's word is his honor.

Mookiraa kwee michi shiri. - Once you have made a fortune, know how to spend it.


Notes on Pronunciation

There are five vowels:

a - as in "father"
e - as in "pet"
i - as in "each"
o - as in "so"
u - as in "blue"

The double vowels are pronounced with the longer vowel sound. For example: dee is pronounced more like "day" as opposed to "dee" (long "e" sound).



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