Kansai dialect

Kansai dialect
A label in Kansai-ben. The advertisement, Iwashi o tabena akan!, translates as "You must eat sardines!"
A poster written in Kansai-ben. The warning, Chikan wa akan de. Zettai akan de, translates as "Groping is out. Absolutely out."
A caution written in Kansai-ben. The warning, Kii tsuke yaa, Anta no koto ya de, Sono baggu, translates as "Take care not to get your bag snatched"

The Kansai dialect (Shinjitai: 関西弁, Kyūjitai: 關西辯 Kansai-ben?) About this sound listen is a group of Japanese dialects in the Kansai region of Japan. In technical term, it is called Kinki dialect (近畿方言 Kinki Hōgen?); Kansai is also known as "Kinki", hence the alternative term. They are typified by the speech of Osaka, the major city of Kansai, which is referred to specifically as Osaka-ben. It is characterized as being both more melodic and harsher by speakers of the standard language.[1]



A division of Kansai-ben proposed by Mitsuo Okumura, a Japanese linguist. Orange: the Middle Kansai-ben. Blue: the North Kansai-ben. Brown: the West Kansai-ben. Yellow: the East Kansai-ben. Green: the South Kansai-ben.

Since Osaka is the largest city in the region and its speakers gained the most media exposure over the last century, non-Kansai-ben speakers tend to associate the dialect of Osaka with the entire Kansai region. However, technically, Kansai-ben is not a single dialect but a group of related dialects in the region. Each major city and prefecture has a particular dialect, and residents take some pride in their particular dialectical variations.

The common Kansai-ben is spoken in Keihanshin and its surroundings, a radius of about 50 km around the Osaka-Kyoto area.[2] Dialects of other areas such as Kii Peninsula and northern Kansai have different features, some archaic, from the common Kansai-ben. Tajima and Tango (except Maizuru) dialects in northern Kansai are too different to be regarded as Kansai-ben and are thus usually included in Chūgoku dialect. The dialects in Shikoku and the Hokuriku region also share many similarities with the Kansai dialects, but are classified separately.


Kansai-ben has over a thousand years of history. When the Kansai region centered on the ancient Imperial capital of Kyoto was the center of Japan, an archaic form of Kansai-ben was the de facto standard Japanese. Classical Japanese literature was written in archaic Kansai-ben and Kansai-ben had a gradual influence on all of the nation including Edo (now Tokyo). When political and military center of Japan was moved to Edo under the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Kantō region grew in prominence, Edo-ben took the place of Kansai-ben. With Meiji Restoration and the transfer of the capital from Kyoto to Tokyo, Kansai-ben was fixed the position as a non-standard local dialect.

As the Tokyo-ben was adopted with the advent of a national education standard in Japan, some features and intraregional differences of Kansai-ben have diminished and changed. However, Kansai is the second most populated urban region in Japan after Kantō, with a population of about 20 million, so Kansai-ben is still the most widely known and influential non-standard Japanese dialect and a prestige dialect in western Japan. Many Kansai people are attached to their own speech and have strong regional rivalry against Tokyo.[3]

Since the Taishō period, the manzai form of Japanese comedy has been developed in Osaka, and a large number of Osakan comedians have appeared in Japanese media with their own dialect (See also Yoshimoto Kogyo). Because of such associations, Kansai speakers are often viewed as being more amusing or wittier than average other dialects' speakers. Tokyo people even occasionally imitate Kansai-ben to provoke laughter or inject humor such as Nande ya nen! ("You gotta be kidding!" or "Why/What the hell?!", a stereotype Tsukkomi phrase in Manzai).[4]

Because Kansai-ben is widely known especially in comedy, it has become a favorite with Japanese authors, manga and anime artists, as a choice for representing a character somewhat "different" from norm. The speakers of Kansai-ben are often associated with the stereotypical Osakan image: humorous, miser, epicurean, gaudy, vulgar, energetic and yakuza.[5] See also Category:Fictional Kansai characters and this link.


In phonological terms, Kansai-ben is characterized by strong vowels and contrasted with Tokyo-ben, characterized by its strong consonants, but the basis of the phonemes is similar.


Kansai-ben has five vowels /a, i, u, e, o/ as does standard Japanese. However, /u/ is nearer to [u] than it is in Tokyo.

Standard Japanese frequent occurs vowel reduction, but it is rare in Kansai-ben. For example, polite copula desu is pronounced nearly des in standard Japanese, but Kansai speakers pronounce distinct desu or even desuu. In some dialects such as the Tokyo one, ai/oi and ui often fuse into ee and ii like akee, sugee and samii instead of akai ("red"), sugoi ("great") and samui ("cold"), but these transformations are also rare in Kansai-ben. Kansai-ben shows a recurring tendency to lengthen vowels at the end of monomoraic nouns. Common examples are kii for ki ("tree"), too for to ("door") and mee for me ("eye").

Oddly, long vowels in inflections of standard are sometimes shortened in Kansai-ben. This is particularly noticeable in the volitional conjugation of verbs. For instance, sensei, gakkō e ikō ka meaning "sensei, shall we go to school?" is shorter in Kansai-ben as sense, gakko iko ka. The common phrase of agreement, sō da meaning "that's it", is said so ya or even se ya in Kansai.


Unlike the strong vowels, the fricative and plosive consonants are somewhat weak. The phoneme /hi/ in Kansai-ben is nearer to [h] than in standard. Yotsugana is two phonemes as Tokyo, but /zi/ and /zu/ are always pronounced [ʑ] and [z]. Intervocalic /ɡ/ is pronounced [ŋ] as in Tokyo, but nasal consonant is also weak and almost all Kansai speakers are oblivious of the difference between [ɡ] and [ŋ]. In a provocative speech, [r] is sometimes used.

A frequent occurrence in Kansai-ben is the use of h in place of s in suffixes and inflections. Some palatalization of s is apparent in most Kansai speakers, but it seems to have progressed more in morphological suffixes than in core vocabulary. This process has produced -han for -san "Mr., Ms.", -mahen for -masen (formal negative form), and -mahyo for -mashō (formal volitional form), among other examples.

In Kansai, especially in the rural areas, z, d, and r are sometime confused. For example, denden for zenzen "never, not at all", kadara or karara for karada "body". There is a joke describing these confusions: Yorogawa no miru nonre hara rarakurari ya for Yodogawa no mizu nonde hara dadakudari ya "I drank water of Yodo River and have the trots".[6] The r + vowel in the verb conjugations is sometimes changes n as well as colloquial Tokyo speech. For example, nani shiteru nen "What are you doing?" often changes nani shiten nen in fluent Kansai speech.

Pitch accent

Japanese pitch accent map. The Kyoto-Osaka type accent is spoken in Orange area.

The pitch accent in Kansai-ben is very different from the standard Tokyo accent, so non-Kansai Japanese can recognize Kansai people easily from that alone. Kansai-ben's accent is called the Kyoto-Osaka type accent (京阪式アクセント, Keihan-shiki akusento) and is spoken in most of Kansai (except Tajima, Tango, southern Nara, northwestern Banshu, northern Tamba, northeastern Shiga and parts of Kii Peninsula), Shikoku, southern Fukui Prefecture and Ibigawa, Gifu. The Tokyo accent distinguishes words only by downstep, but the Kansai accent distinguishes words also by high/low-initial accents, so Kansai-ben has more pitch patterns than standard Japanese. In the Tokyo accent, the first and second morae are usually different, but in the Kansai accent, they are often the same.

Below is a list of simplified Kansai accent patterns. H represents a high pitch and L represents a low pitch.

  1. High-initial accent (高起式 kōki-shiki?)
    • The first mora is high pitch and the others are low: H-L, H-L-L, H-L-L-L, etc.
    • The high pitch continues for the set mora and the rest are low: H-H-L, H-H-L-L, H-H-H-L, etc.
    • All moras are high pitch: H-H, H-H-H, H-H-H-H, etc.
  2. Low-initial accent (低起式 teiki-shiki?)
    • The high pitch appears on the middle mora and the rest are low again: L-H-L, L-H-L-L, L-L-H-L, etc.
    • The low pitch continues until just before the last: L-L-H, L-L-L-H, L-L-L-L-H, etc.
      • If particles attach to the end of the word, all moras are low: L-L-L(-H), L-L-L-L(-H), L-L-L-L-L(-H)
    • With two-mora words, there are two special accent patterns. Both of these tend to be realized in recent years as L-H, L-H(-L).[7]
      • The second mora rises and falls quickly. If particles attach to the end of the word, the fall is sometimes not realized: L-HL, L-HL(-L) or L-H(-L)
      • The second mora does not fall. If particles attach to the end of the word, both moras are low: L-H, L-L(-H)

The Kansai accent includes some local variations. The traditional pre-modern Kansai accent is kept in Shikoku and parts of Wakayama such as Tanabe city. Even between Kyoto and Osaka, only 30 min by train, a few words' pitch accents change. For example, Tōkyō ikimashita ([I] went to Tokyo) is pronounced H-H-H-H H-H-H-L-L in Osaka, L-L-L-L H-H-L-L-L in Kyoto.

Kansai Tokyo English
hashi H-L L-H(-L) bridge
L-H H-L chopsticks
H-H L-H(-H) edge
nihon 日本 H-L-L L-H-L Japan
二本 L-L-H H-L-L 2 hon
kon'nichiwa こんにちは L-H-L-L-H
L-H-H-H-H Good afternoon
Arigatō ありがとう L-L-L-H-L L-H-L-L-L Thanks


Many words and grammar structures in Kansai-ben are contractions of their classical Japanese equivalents (it is unusual to contract words in such a way in standard Japanese). For example, chigau (to be different or wrong) becomes chau, yoku (well) becomes , and omoshiroi (interesting or funny) becomes omoroi. These contractions follow similar inflection rules as their standard forms so chau is politely said chaimasu in the same way as chigau is inflected to chigaimasu. Common contractions in Tokyo-ben are replaced by specific Kansai-ben variations. The korya and sorya contractions of kore wa and sore wa, heard in relaxed speech in Tokyo, are instead kora and sora in Kansai-ben.


Kansai-ben also has two types of regular verb, godan verbs and ichidan verbs, and two irregular verbs, kuru ("to come") and suru ("to do"), but some conjugations are different from standard Japanese.

The geminated consonants found in godan verbs of standard Japanese verbal inflections are usually replaced with long vowels (often shortened in 3 morae verbs) in Kansai-ben (See also Late Middle Japanese#Onbin). Thus, for the verb iu/yū ("to say"), the past tense in standard Japanese itta or yutta ("said") becomes yūta in Kansai-ben. This particular verb is a dead giveaway of a native Kansai speaker, as most will unconsciously say yūte instead of itte or yutte even if well-practiced at speaking in standard Japanese. Other examples of geminate replacement are waratta ("laughed") becoming warōta or warota and moratta ("received") becoming morōta, morota or even mōta.

The suffix -te shimau (to finish something or to do something in unintentional or unfortunate circumstances) is contracted to -chimau or -chau in colloquial Tokyo speech but to -temau in Kansai speech. Thus, shichimau, or shichau, becomes shitemau. Furthermore, as the verb shimau is affected by the same sound changes as in other verbs ending in -u, the past tense of this form is rendered as -temōta or -temota rather than -chimatta or -chatta: wasurechimatta, or wasurechatta ("I forgot [it]"), in Tokyo is wasuretemōta or wasuretemota in Kansai.

The long vowel of the volitional form is often shortened; for example, tsukaō (the volitional form of tsukau) becomes tsukao, tabeyō (the volitional form of taberu) becomes tabeyo. The irregular verb suru has special volitinal form shō instead of shiyō, and the volitinal form of another irregular verb kuru is sometimes replaced with .

The causative verb ending -(sa)seru is usually replaced with -(sa)su in Kansai-ben; for example, saseru (causative form of suru) changes sasu, iwaseru (causative form of iu) changes iwasu. Te form -(sa)sete and perfective form -(sa)seta often change to -(sa)shite and -(sa)shita. Transformations of -(sa)shite and -(sa)shita also appear in transitive ichidan verbs such as miseru ("to show"), e.g. misete for mishite.

Kansai-ben also uses the potential verb endings -eru for godan and -(ra)reru for ichidan, and their negative forms are -en/ehen and -(ra)ren/(ra)rehen instead of standard -enai and -(ra)renai. However, mainly in Osaka, there is a strong tendency towards treating all potential forms of verbs the same -(r)arehen, whether ichidan or godan. This is because -ehen overlaps with Osakan negative conjugation.

In standard Japanese, The verb iru is used for reference to the existence of an animate object, and iru is replaced with oru in humble language and some written language. In western Japanese, oru is used not only in humble language but also in all other situations instead of iru. Kansai dialect belongs to western Japanese, but iru and its variation, iteru, are used in Osaka, Kyoto, Shiga, and so on. People in these areas consider oru a somewhat lower or masculine word and sometimes avoid using it for elders (exception: respectful expression orareru, oru + respectful auxiliary verb -(r)areru and humble expression orimasu, oru + -masu). In parts of Wakayama, iru is replaced with aru, which is used for inanimate objects in most other dialects.


In casual speech, the negative verb ending, which is -nai in standard Japanese, is expressed with -n and -hen, as in ikan and ikahen "not going", which is ikanai in standard Japanese. -N is a transformation of the classical Japanese negative form -nu and is also used for formal speech and idioms in standard Japanese. -Hen is the result of contraction and phonological change of ren'yōkei + wa senu, the emphasis form of -nu. The godan verbs conjugation before -hen has two varieties: the more common conjugation is -ahen like ikahen, but -ehen like ikehen is also used in Osaka. When the vowel before -hen is i, -hen sometimes changes to -hin, especially in Kyoto. The past nagative form is -nkatta and -henkatta, a mixture of -n/hen and the standard past negative form -nakatta. In traditional Kansai-ben, -nanda and -henanda is used in the past negative form.

  • godan verbs: tsukau ("to use") becomes tsukawan and tsukai wa senu > tsukaiyahen > tsukawahen, tsukaehen
  • kami-ichidan verbs: okiru ("to wake up") becomes okin and oki wa senu > okiyahen > okihen, okihin
    • one mora verbs: miru ("to see") becomes min and mi wa senu > miyahen > meehen, miihin
  • shimo-ichidan verbs: taberu ("to eat") becomes taben and tabe wa senu > tabeyahen > tabehen
    • one mora verbs: neru ("to sleep") becomes nen and ne wa senu > neyahen > neehen
  • s-irregular verb: suru becomes sen and shi wa senu > shiyahen > seehen, shiihin
  • k-irregular verb: kuru becomes kon and ki wa senu > kiyahen > keehen, kiihin
    • Kōhen, a mixture keehen with standard konai, is also used lately by young people, especially in Kobe.

Generally speaking, -hen is used in almost negative sentences and -n is used in strong negative sentences and idiomatic expressions. For example, -n toite or -n totte (do not, standard -nai de), -n demo (even not, standard -nakutemo), -n to (1. unless, standard -nai to or -nakute wa; 2. without, standard -nai de or -zu ni) etc. -N to akan and -na akan (na is a transformation of neba) are often used as "must." -N to akan/na akan may be replaced by -nto ikan/na ikan and -na naran (-na naran is often shortened to -n naran).


Kansai-ben has two imperative forms. One is the normal imperative form, inherited from Late Middle Japanese. The -ro form for ichidan verbs in standard Japanese is much rarer and replaced by -i or -e in Kansai. The normal imperative form is often followed by yo or ya. The other is a somewhat soft form which uses ren'yōkei, an abbreviation of ren'yōkei and nasai. Coincidentally, ren'yōkei + na, the informal imperative mood in Kantō has the same origin. The end of the soft imperative form is often elongated and is generally followed by ya or na. In Kyoto, women often add -yoshi to the soft imperative form.

  • godan verbs: tsukau becomes tsukae in the normal form, tsukai or tsukaii in the soft one.
  • kami-ichidan verbs: okiru becomes okii (L-H-L) in the normal form, oki or okii (L-L-H) in the soft one.
  • shimo-ichidan verbs: taberu becomes tabee (L-H-L) in the normal form, tabe or tabee (L-L-H) in the soft one.
  • s-irregular verb: suru becomes see in the normal form, shi or shii in the soft one.
  • k-irregular verb: kuru becomes koi in the normal form, ki or kii in the soft one.

In the negative imperative mood, Kansai-ben also has the somewhat soft form which uses the ren'yōkei + na, an abbreviation of the ren'yōkei + nasaruna. Na sometimes changes to naya or naina. This soft negative imperative form is the same as the soft imperative and na, Kansai speakers can recognize the difference by accent, but Tokyo speakers are sometimes confused by a command not to do something, which they interpret as an order to do it. Accent on the soft imperative form is flat, and the accent on the soft negative imperative form has a downstep before na.

  • godan verbs: tsukau becomes tsukauna in the normal form, tsukaina in the soft one.
  • kami-ichidan verbs: okiru becomes okiruna in the normal form, okina in the soft one.
  • shimo-ichidan verbs: taberu becomes taberuna in the normal form, tabena in the soft one.
  • s-irregular verb: suru becomes suruna or suna in the normal form, shina in the soft one.
  • k-irregular verb: kuru becomes kuruna in the normal form, kina in the soft one.


The stem of adjective forms in Kansai-ben is generally the same as in standard Japanese, except for regional vocabulary differences. The same process that reduced the Classical Japanese terminal and attributive endings (-shi and -ki, respectively) to -i has reduced also the adverbial (連用形 ren'yōkei?) (-masu stem) ending -ku to -u, yielding such forms as hayō (contraction of hayau) for hayaku ("quickly"). Dropping the consonant from the final mora in all forms of adjective endings has been a frequent occurrence in Japanese over the centuries (and is the origin of such forms as arigatō and omedetō), but the Kantō speech preserved -ku while reducing -shi and -ki to -i, thus accounting for the discrepancy in the standard language.

The -i ending can be dropped and the last vowel of the adjective's stem can be stretched out for a second mora, sometimes with a tonal change for emphasis. By this process, omoshiroi "interesting, funny" becomes omoshirō and atsui "hot" becomes atsū or attsū. This use of the adjective's stem, often as an exclamation, is seen in classical literature and many dialects of modern Japanese, but is more often used in Kansai dialect.

There is not a special conjugated form for presumptive of adjectives in Kansai-ben, it is just addition of yaro to the plain form. For example, yasukarō (the presumptive form of yasui "cheap") is hardly used and is usually replaced with the plain form + yaro likes yasui yaro. Polite suffixs desu/dasu/dosu and -masu are also added yaro for presumptive form instead of deshō in standard Japanese. For example, kyō wa hare deshō ("It may be fine weather today") is replaced with kyō wa hare desu yaro.


Ya is mainly used in yellow zone.

The standard Japanese copula da is replaced by the Kansai-ben copula ya. The inflected forms maintain this difference, giving yaro for darō (volitional), yatta for datta (past). The negative copula de wa nai or ja nai is replaced by ya nai or ya arahen/arehen in Kansai-ben. Ya originated from ja (a variation of dearu as da) in the late of Edo period and ja is still used slightly in acrid speech. Now ja is commonly used in other western Japanese areas like Hiroshima and is also used for the stereotype of old men in fiction.

It should be noted that ya and ja are used only informally, the same as the standard da, while the standard desu is by and large used for the polite (keigo) copula. Kansai-ben has its own keigo copulas: dosu in Kyoto and dasu in Osaka, but both are now archaic because the standard desu has become dominant. Dasu is sometimes shortened to da, not to be confused with the standard non-keigo copula.

In traditional Kansai-ben, there is another polite style de omasu between the polite style dasu/dosu and the polite formal style de gozaimasu. Omasu means the polite form of the verb aru and also be used for polite form of adjectives like gozaimasu. In Kyoto, omasu is often replaced with osu. In Osaka, omasu is sometimes shortended to oma like dasu to da. Omasu and osu have their negative forms omahen and ohen.

The politeness levels of copula
impolite informal polite1 polite2 polite formal
Osaka ja ya dasu de omasu de oma de gozaimasu
Kyoto dosu de osu


Common Kansai-ben as Osaka-ben and Kyoto-ben uses the same grammar form -te iru of a verb, usually contracted to -teru, to form the continuous and progressive aspects, same as that of standard Japanese. -Te iru is replaced with -te oru, usually contracted to -toru/tōru, in somewhat informal and arrogant speech, same as the usage of iru/oru. And -te iru is replaced with -te aru, often contracted to -taru/tāru, in the expression to the condition of inanimate objects. -Te aru is only used with transitive verbs in standard Japanese, but also used with intransitive verbs in Kansai-ben. One should note that -te yaru "to do for someone" is also contracted to -taru (-charu in Senshu and Wakayama), do not confuse.

Other Western Japanese as Chūgoku and Shikoku dialects has the discrimination of grammatical aspect, -oru in progressive and -te oru in perfect. -Oru and -te oru have some regional variations. In Kansai region, some dialects of southern Hyogo and Kii Peninsula have these discrimination, too. In parts of Wakayama, -oru and -te oru are replaced with -aru and -te aru, often contracted to -yaru and -tāru/chāru.


Historically, extensive use of keigo (honorific speech) was a feature of Kansai-ben, especially Kyoto-ben, while Kantō-ben, from which standard Japanese developed, formerly lacked it. Keigo in standard Japanese was originally borrowed from Kansai-ben. However, keigo is no longer considered a feature of the dialect since Standard Japanese now also has it. Even today, keigo is used more often in Kansai-ben than in the other dialects except for the standard Japanese, to which people switch in formal situations.

In Kansai-ben, -naharu, a transformation of -nasaru, is used for the respectful language. In more honorific speech, o- yasu, a transformation of o- asobasu, is also used especially in Kyoto. For polite invitation or order, -nahare/nahai and o- yasu are used instead of -nasai and o- asobase in standard Japanese; -tokun nahare (also -toku nahare) and -tokure yasu (also -tokuryasu) are used instead of -te kudasai in standard Japanese. Oide yasu and okoshi yasu (more respectful), meaning "welcome", are the common phrases of sightseeing areas in Kyoto.

Now -naharu and o- yasu have gone out of use, and -haru (sometimes -yaharu), a transformation of -naharu, is often used for showing reasonable respect without formality especially in Kyoto. The conjugation before -haru has two varieties between Kyoto and Osaka. In Southern Hyogo, including Kobe, -te ya is used instead of -haru. In formal speech, -naharu and -haru/yaharu connect with -masu form and -te ya changes -te desu.

The honorific form of Kansai-ben
use see eat do come -te form
original tsukau miru taberu suru kuru -teru
-naharu tsukainaharu minaharu tabenaharu shinaharu kinaharu -tenaharu
-haru in Kyoto tsukawaharu miharu tabeharu shiharu kiharu -taharu
-haru in Osaka tsukaiharu -teharu
-yaharu miyaharu shiyaharu kiyaharu -teyaharu
-te ya tsukōte ya mite ya tabete ya shite ya kite ya -totte ya


There is some difference in the particles between Kansai-ben and standard Japanese. In colloquial Kansai-ben, case markers (格助詞 kaku-joshi?) are often left out especially the accusative case o and the quotation particles to and tte. The ellipsis of to and tte happens only before two verbs: iu/yū (say) and omou (think). For example, Tanaka-san, ashita kuru tte yūteta ("Mr. Tanaka said that he will come tomorrow") can change to Tanaka-san, ashita kuru yūteta, but Tanaka-san, ashita kuru tte kinō yūteta ("Mr. Tanaka said yesterday that he will come tomorrow") never changes to Tanaka-san, ashita kuru kinō yūteta. And to iu is sometimes contracted to chū or tchū instead of tsū or ttsū in Tokyo.

The interjectory particle (間投助詞 kantō-joshi?) na or is used very often in Kansai-ben instead of ne or in standard Japanese. In standard Japanese, na/nā is less formal and masculine style, but in Kansai-ben na/nā is used by both men and women in many familiar situations. It is not only used as interjectory particle (as emphasis for the imperative form, expression a admiration, and address to listeners, for example), and the meaning varies depending on context and voice intonation, so much so that is called the world's third most difficult word to translate.[8] Besides na/nā and ne/nē, no or is also used as masculine or harsh particle in Kansai.

Kara and node, the conjunctive particles (接続助詞 setsuzoku-joshi?) meaning "because," are replaced by sakai or yotte. Ni is sometimes added to the end of both, and sakai changes to sake in some areas. Sakai was so famous as the characteristic particle of Kansai-ben that a special saying was made out of it: "Sakai in Osaka and Berabō in Edo" (大阪さかいに江戸べらぼう Ōsaka sakai ni Edo berabō?)". However, in recent years, the standard kara and node have become dominant.

It is also characteristic of Kansai-ben to use a particle kate. Kate has two usages. When kate is used with conjugative words, mainly in the past form and the negative form, it is the equivalent of the English "even if" or "even though", such as Kaze hiita kate, watashi wa ryokō e iku ("Even if [I] catch a cold, I will go on the trip"). When kate is used with nouns, it means something like "even", "too," or "either", such as Ore kate shiran ("I don't know, either"), and is similar to the particle mo.

Sentence final particles

The sentence-final particles (終助詞 shū-joshi?) used in Kansai-ben differ widely from those used in standard Japanese. The most prominent to Tokyo-ben speakers is the use of wa by men. In standard Japanese, this is a particle with the same meaning as yo, but is used exclusively by women and so is said to sound softer. In Kansai-ben, however, it functions in almost exactly the same manner as yo does in standard Japanese and is used equally by both men and women in many different levels of conversation.

Another difference in sentence final particles that strikes the ear of the Tokyo speaker is the nen particle. It comes from no ya (particle no + copula ya, also n ya) and much the same as the standard Japanese no da (also n da). Nen has some variation, such as neya (rather archaic), ne (shortened version), and nya (softer version of neya). When copula connects these particles, da + no da changes na no da (na n da) and ya + no ya changes na no ya (na n ya), but ya + nen does not change na nen. No da is never used with polite form, but no ya and nen can be used with polite form in Kansai-ben such as nani shitemasu nen? "What are you doing?". In past tense, nen changes to -ten; for example, "I love you" would be suki ya nen or sukkya nen, and "I loved you" would be suki yatten. However, its use in plain form verbs is restricted to declarative sentences and emphatic questions; for the progressive form of the verb suru, the simple question form would be Nani shiteru n? (emphatic form: Nani shiten nen?!), with declarative form ~shiten nen.

The emphatic particle ze, heard often from Tokyo men, is rarely heard in Kansai. Instead, the particle de is used, arising from the replacement of z with d in words. However, despite the similarity with ze, the Kansai de does not carry nearly as heavy or rude a connotation, as it is influenced by the lesser stress on formality and distance in Kansai. The particle zo is also replaced to do by some Kansai speakers. Unlike the replacement of ze with de, the replacement of zo with do carries a masculine or rude impression.

The emphasis or question particle jan ka in the casual speech of Kanto changes to yan ka in Kansai. Yan ka has a masculine variation yan ke (in areas like Kawachi, but yan ke is also used by women) and a shortened variation yan, just like jan in Kanto. Jan ka and jan are used only in informal speech, but yan ka and yan can be used with formal forms like sugoi desu yan! ("It is great!"). Youngsters sometimes use yan nā, the combination of yan and , as tag question.


In some cases, Kansai-ben uses entirely different words. The verb hokasu corresponds to standard Japanese suteru "to throw away", and metcha corresponds to the standard Japanese slang chō "very". Chō, in Kansai-ben, means "a little" and is a contracted form of chotto. Thus the phrase chō matte "wait a minute" in Kansai-ben sounds very strange to a Tokyo person.

Some Japanese words gain entirely different meanings or are used in different ways when used in Kansai-ben. One such usage is of the word naosu (usually used to mean "correct" or "repair" in the standard language) in the sense of "put away" or "put back." For example, kono jitensha naoshite means "please put back this bicycle" in Kansai, but many standard speakers are bewildered since in standard Japanese it would mean "please repair this bicycle".

Another widely recognized Kansai-specific usage is of aho. Basically equivalent to the standard baka "idiot, fool", aho is both a term of reproach and a term of endearment to the Kansai speaker, somewhat like English twit or silly. Baka, which is used as "idiot" in most regions, becomes "complete moron" and a stronger insult than aho. Where a Tokyo citizen would almost certainly object to being called baka, being called aho by a Kansai person is not necessarily much of an insult. Being called baka by a Kansai speaker is however a much more severe criticism than it would be by a Tokyo speaker. Most Kansai-ben speakers cannot stand being called baka but don't mind being called aho.

Well-known Kansai-ben words

Here are some vocabularies and phrases famous as part of the Kansai dialect:

Kansai-ben accent Standard Japanese English Note Example
akan, akimahen (polite form) H-H-H, H-H-H-H-H dame, ikemasen, shimatta wrong, no good, must, oh no! abbreviation of "rachi ga akanu"; -ta(ra) akan means "must not ..."; -na akan and -nto akan means "must ...". Tabeta(ra) akan. = "You must not eat." : Tabena/Tabento akan = "You must eat."
aho L-HL baka silly, idiot, fool sometimes used friendly with a joke; this accompanies a stereotype that baka is considered a much more serious insult in Kansai; Ahondara (L-L-L-H-L) is strong abusive form; Ahokusai (L-L-H-L-L) and Ahorashii(L-L-H-L-L) are adjective form. Honma aho ya nā. = "You are really silly."
beppin H-H-H bijin beautiful woman Originally written 別品, meaning a product of exceptional quality; extrapolated to apply to women of exceptional beauty, rewritten as 別嬪. Often appended with -san. Beppin-san ya na. = "You are a pretty woman."
chau H-H chigau, dewa nai, janai that isn't it, that isn't good, nope, wrong reduplication chau chau is often used for informal negative phrase Are, chauchau chau? Chau chau, chauchau chau n chau? = "It is a Chow Chow, isn't it?" "No, it isn't a Chow Chow, is it?" (a famous pun with Kansai-ben)
dabo L-HL baka silly, idiot, fool used in Kobe and Banshu; harsher than aho
dekka, makka desu ka, masu ka keigo copula (question) desu, masu + ka (interrogative particle); also dakka in Osaka; somewhat archaic Mōkarimakka? = "How is business?"
denna, manna desu ne, masu ne keigo copula (emphasis) desu, masu + na; also danna in Osaka and donna in Kyoto; somewhat archaic Bochi-bochi denna. = "So-so, y'know."
desse, masse desu yo, masu yo keigo copula (explain, advise) desu, masu + e (change from yo); also dasse in Osaka and dosse in Kyoto; somewhat archaic Ee toko oshiemasse! = "I will show you a nice place!"
dessharo, massharo deshō, darō keigo copula (surmise, make sure) desu, masu + yaro; also dassharo in Osaka and dossharo in Kyoto; somewhat archaic Kyō wa haremassharo. = "It may be fine weather today."
donai H-H-H donna, how (demonstrative) konai means konna (such, like this); sonai means sonna (such, like it); anai means anna (such, like that) Donai ya nen! = "How does it!?"
do excessively (prefix) often used with bad meanings do-aho! = "You are a complete fool!"
dotsuku H-H-H naguru to clobber somebody do + tsuku (突く; prick, push); also dozuku Anta, dotsuku de! = "Hey, I'll clobber you!"
donkusai L-L-H-L-L manuke, nibui stupid, clumsy, inefficient, lazy literally "stupid-smelling" (臭い)
ee L-H yoi, ii good, proper, all right used only in Plain form. other conjugations are same as yoi. (Perfective form yokatta does not become ekatta) Kakko ee de. = "You look cool."
egetsunai H-H-H-L-L akudoi, iyarashii, rokotsu-na wicked, vicious, obnoxious Egetsunai yarikata = "Vicious way"
erai H-L-L erai, taihen great, high-status, terrible the usage as meaning "terrible" is more often in Kansai than in Tokyo; also sometimes used as meaning "tired" as shindoi in western Japanese Erai kotcha! (< erai koto ya) = "It is a terrible/difficult thing/matter!"
gotsui H-L-L ikatsui, sugoi rough, huge gottsu means "very" or "terribly" as metcha Gotsui kii = "Huge tree"
gyōsan, yōsan H-L-L-L or L-L-H-L takusan a lot of, many also yōke (H-L-L); in kanji Gyōsan tabei ya. = "Eat heartily."
hannari H-L-L-L or L-L-H-L hanayaka, jōhin elegant, splendid, graceful mainly in Kyoto Hannari shita kimono = "Elegant kimono"
hiku H-H shiku spread on a flat surface (e.g. bedding, butter) A result of the palatalization of "s" occurring elsewhere in the dialect. Futon hiitoite ya. = "Lay out the futons, will you?"
hokasu H-H-H suteru to throw away, to dump also horu (H-H). Note particularly that the phrase "gomi (o) hottoite" means "throw out the garbage" in Kansai-ben, but "let the garbage be" in standard Japanese. Sore hokashitoite. = "Dump it."
honde H-H-H sorede and so, so that (conjunction) Honde na, kinō na, watashi na... = "And, in yesterday, I..."
honnara, hona (conjunction) H-L-L-L, H-L (sore)dewa, (sore)ja, (sore)nara then, in that case, if that's true often used for informal good-by. Hona mata. = "Well then."
honma L-L-H, H-H-H hontō true, real in kanji Sore honma? = "Is that true?"
ikezu L-H-L ijiwaru spiteful, ill-natured Ikezu sen toitee na. = "Don't be spiteful to me."
itemau, itekomasu H-H-H-H, H-H-H-H-H yattsukeru, yatchimau to beat, to finish off Itemau do ware! = "I'll finish you off!" (typical fighting words)
kamahen or kamehen H-L-L-L kamawanai never mind; it's doesn't matter abbreviation of "kamawahen" Kamahen, kamahen. = "It doesn't matter: it's OK."
kanawan, kanan H-H-L-L, H-L-L iya da, tamaranai can't stand it; unpleasant; unwelcome Kō atsui to kanawan na. = "I can't stand this hot weather."
kashiwa L-H-L toriniku chicken (food) Kashiwa hito-kire chōdai. = "Give me a cut of chicken."
kattā shatsu, kattā H-H-H L-L, H-L-L wai shatsu dress shirt originally a brand of Mizuno, a sportswear company in Osaka. kattā is a pun of "cutter" and "katta" (won, beat, overcame).
kettai-na H-L-L-L kimyō-na, hen-na, okashi-na, fushigi-na strange Kettai-na fuku ya na. = "They are strange clothes."
kettakuso warui H-H-H-H H-L-L imaimashii, haradatashii damned, stupid, irritating kettai + kuso "shit" + warui "bad"
kii warui H-H H-L-L kanji ga warui, iyana kanji be not in a good feeling kii is a lengthened vowel form of ki ().
kosobai or koshobai H-H-L-L kusuguttai ticklish
maido L-H-L dōmo commercial greeting the original meaning is "Thank you always". in kanji. Maido, irasshai! = "Hello, may I help you?"
makudo L-H-L makku McDonald's abbreviation of "Makudonarudo" (Japanese pronunciation of McDonald's) Makudo iko. = "Let's go to McDonald's."
metcha or messa or mutcha L-H totemo, chō very mostly used by younger people. also bari (L-H) in Hyogo. Metcha omoroi mise shitten nen. = "I know a really interesting shop."
nanbo L-L-H ikura, ikutsu how much, no matter how, how old transformation of nanihodo (何程) Sore nanbo de kōta n? = "How much did you pay for it?"
nukui H-L-L atatakai, attakai warm
ochokuru H-H-H-H karakau, chakasu make fun of, tease Ore ochokuru no mo eekagen ni see! = "That's enough to tease me!"
okan, oton L-H-L, L-H-L okāsan, otōsan mother, father very casual form; some people feel rudeness
ōkini or ōkeni H-L-H-L or L-L-H-L arigatō thanks abbreviation of "ōki ni arigatō" (thank you very much, ōki ni means "very much"). Of course, arigatō is also used. Sometimes, it is used ironically to mean "No thank you". Maido ōkini! = "Thanks always!"
shānai H-H-L-L shōganai, shikataganai it can't be helped
shibaku H-H-H naguru, tataku to beat somebody (with hands or rods) Shibaitaroka! ( < shibaite yarō ka) = "Do you want me to give you a beating?"
shindoi L-L-H-L tsukareru, tsurai, kurushii tired, exhausted change from shinrō (; hardship). shindoi has come to be used throughout Japan in recent years. Aa shindo. = "Ah, I'm tired."
shōmonai L-L-H-L-L tsumaranai, omoshirokunai, kudaranai dull, unimportant, uninteresting changed from shiyō mo nai (仕様も無い, means "There isn't anything")
taku H-H niru boil, simmer in standard Japanese, taku is used only for cooking rice Daikon yō taketa. = "The daikon was boiled well."
waya H-L mucha-kucha, dainashi, dame going for nothing, fruitless Sappari waya ya. = "It's no good at all."
yaru H-H yaru, ageru to give (informal) used more widely than in standard Japanese towards equals as well as inferiors

Pronouns and honorifics

Standard pronouns are also generally used in Kansai, but there are some local pronoun words. The first pronoun watashi has many variations: watai, wate (both gender), ate (somewhat feminine), and wai (masculine). These are now archaic, but these are still widely used in fictitious creations to represent stereotypical Kansai speakers.

Uchi is also famous for the typical feminine first-person pronoun of Kansai-ben and it is still popular among Kansai girls. An archaic first-person pronoun, ware, is used as a hostile and impolite second-person pronoun in Kansai. Jibun (自分) is a Japanese word meaning "oneself," but it has an additional usage in Kansai as a casual second-person pronoun.

In Kansai-ben, the honorific suffix -san is sometimes pronounced -han when -san follows a, e and o; for example, okāsan ("mother") becomes okāhan, and Satō-san ("Mr. Satō") becomes Satō-han. It is also the characteristic of Kansai-ben that honorific suffixes can be used for specific familiar inanimate objects as well, especially in Kyoto. In standard Japanese, the usage is considered childish, but in Kansai-ben, o-imo-san, o-mame-san and ame-chan are often heard not only in children's speech but also in adults' speech.

Regional differences

Since Kansai-ben is actually a group of related dialects, not all share the same vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammatical features. However, all have the characteristics described in the discussion of general differences above. Each dialect has its own specific features discussed individually here.


Osaka-ben is often identified with Kansai-ben by most Japanese, but some of the terms considered to be characteristic of Kansai-ben are actually restricted to Osaka and its environs. Perhaps the most famous is the term mōkarimakka?, roughly translated as "how is business?", and derived from the verb mōkaru (儲かる), "to be profitable, to yield a profit". This is supposedly said as a greeting from one Osakan to another, and the appropriate answer is another Osaka phrase, mā, bochi bochi denna "well, so-so, y'know."

The idea behind mōkarimakka is that Osaka was historically the center of the merchant culture. The phrase developed among shopkeepers and can be used today to greet a business proprietor in a friendly and familiar way but was probably never a universal greeting and certainly is not today. It can however be used in a joking manner with any Osakan and will at least result in a smile and a few laughs, along with the mā, bochi bochi denna response.

The latter phrase is also specific to Osaka, in particular the term bochi bochi (L-L-H-L). This means essentially "so-so": getting better little by little or not getting any worse. Unlike mōkarimakka, bochi bochi is used in many situations to indicate gradual improvement or lack of negative change. For the foreign speaker used to the repetitive question "can you really understand Japanese", responding with bochi bochi is sure to astound and amuse listeners. Also, bochi bochi (H-L-L-L) can be used in place of the standard Japanese soro soro, for instance bochi bochi iko ka "it is about time to be going".

Southern branches of Osaka-ben, such as Senshū-ben (泉州弁) and Kawachi-ben (河内弁), are famous for their harsh locution, characterized by roll speaking, the question particle ke, and the second person ware. The farther south in Osaka you go, the dirtier the language is considered to be, with the local Senshū-ben of Kishiwada said to represent the peak of harshness.[9] One striking example of Kishiwada dialect is to say tori shibaki iko ke?, which means "let's go eat chicken", but linguistically translates into "let's go fuck some birds up".


Kyōto-ben is characterized by softness and an adherence to politeness and indirectness. The verb inflection -haru is an essential part of casual speech in Kyoto. In other parts of Kansai, -haru has a certain level of politeness above the base (informal) form of the verb, putting it somewhere between the informal and the more polite -masu conjugations. However, in Kyoto, its position is much closer to the informal than it is to the polite mood, perhaps owing to its widespread use. The Osaka phrase Nani shiten nen, equivalent to the standard Nani shiteru no, would in Kyoto be Nani shiteharu no (and sometimes Nani shitaharu no) using the -haru conjugation for an informal question.


The dialects of southern Hyōgo prefecture, such as Kōbe-ben (神戸弁) and Banshū-ben (播州弁), have some grammar features of other Western Japanese dialects. One of them is the discrimination of aspect, -yoru in progressive and -toru in perfect. Kobe/Banshu-ben is notable for conjugating -yō and -tō for -yoru and -toru. For example, "the teacher has been coming" become Sensei kitō/kiton de and "the teacher is coming" become sensei kiyō/kiyon de in Kobe/Banshu, but, in Osaka, both examples become sensei kiten/kiton de. Another feature of Kobe/Banshu-ben is the polite copula -te ya, common in Tamba, Maizuru and San'yō dialects.

The difference between Kobe-ben and Banshu-ben is the relation with Osaka-ben. Due to their distance between Osaka, Kobe-ben is more near to Osaka-ben than Banshu-ben. In recent years, Kobe-ben is losing its features in favor of some features from Osaka-ben without -tō. Another difference is that Banshū-ben sometimes sounds violent to other Kansai speakers, as well as Kawachi-ben. Some examples are the emphatic final particle doi and the question particle ke.


The dialect in Mie Prefecture is made up of Ise-ben (伊勢弁), Shima-ben (志摩弁) and Iga-ben (伊賀弁). It uses the normal Kansai accent and basic grammar, but some of the vocabulary is affected by the Nagoya dialect. For example, instead of -te haru (respectful suffix), they have the Nagoya-style -te mieru. The similarity to Nagoya-ben becomes more pronounced in the northernmost parts of the prefecture; the dialect of Nagashima, for instance, could be considered far closer to Nagoya dialect than to Ise-ben.

In and around Ise city, some variations on typical Kansai vocabulary can be found, mostly used by older residents. For instance, the typical expression ōkini is sometimes pronounced ōkina in Ise. Near the Isuzu River and Naikū shrine, some old men use the first-person pronoun otai.


The dialect in old province Kii Province, present-day Wakayama Prefecture and southern parts of Mie Prefecture, is fairly different from common Kansai-ben and comprises many regional variants. It is famous for heavy confusion of z and d, especially on the southern coast. The ichidan verb negative form -hen sometimes changes -yan in Wakayama, Mie and Nara. is often used as sentence final particle. Ra follows the volitional conjugation of verbs as iko ra yō! ("Let's go!"). Wakayama people hardly ever use keigo, which is rather unusual for dialects in Kansai.


Shiga Prefecture is the eastern neighbor of Kyoto, so Shiga dialect is similar in many ways to Kyoto-ben. For example, Kyoto dialect's characteristic -haru/yaharu is also commonly used in Shiga, though some Shiga people tend to pronounce -aru/yaaru. One of its features is that the demonstrative pronoun so- often changes to ho-; for example, so ya becomes ho ya and sore (that) becomes hore. In Nagahama, people often use the friendly-sounding auxiliary verb -ansu/yansu; for example, Hanako-chan ga yūte yansu means "Hanako-chan is saying." In Hikone, the soft emphatic final particle hon can be heard; for example, Kamahen hon and Ee hon.


The dialect in Nara prefecture is divided into northern and southern (parts of Yoshino). The northern dialect has few distinctive from Osaka-ben and Kyoto-ben, but southern dialect is a language island because its geographic isolation with mountains. The southern dialect uses Tokyo type accent, has the discrimination of grammatical aspect, and does not show a tendency to lengthen vowels at the end of monomoraic nouns.

Major works with Kansai-ben

Kansai-ben appears in many Japanese works such as novels, films, manga, and anime. Some musicians incorporate Kansai-ben into their lyrics. Here are some major works with natural Kansai-ben. Since there is no efficient way to portray Kansai-ben in other languages, most English language adaptations of manga and anime use a Southern American accent as a counterpart.

Novels and films

Manga and anime


See also

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  1. ^ Omusubi: Japan's Regional Diversity, retrieved January 23, 2007
  2. ^ Mitsuo Okumura (1968). 関西弁の地理的範囲 (Kansaiben no chiriteki han'i). 言語生活 (Gengo seikatsu) 202 number. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo.
  3. ^ Fumiko Inoue (2009). 関西における方言と共通語 (Kansai ni okeru hōgen to Kyōtsūgo). 月刊言語 (Gekkan gengo) 456 number. Tokyo: Taishukan Shoten.
  4. ^ Masataka Jinnouchi (2003). Studies in regionalism in communication and the effect of the Kansai dialect on it.
  5. ^ Satoshi Kinsui (2003). ヴァーチャル日本語 役割語の謎 (Virtual nihongo, Yakuwarigo no nazo). Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 978-4000068277
  6. ^ "大阪弁完全マスター講座 第三十四話 よろがわ [Osaka-ben perfect master lecture No. 34 Yoro River]" (in Japanese). Osaka Convention Bureau. http://www.osaka-info.jp/jp/about/cat1/post_33.html. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  7. ^ NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute (1998). NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典 (NHK Nihongo Hatsuon Akusento Jiten). pp149-150. ISBN 978-4-14-011112-3
  8. ^ "Congo word 'most untranslatable'". BBC News. June 22, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3830521.stm. Retrieved September 19, 2011. 
  9. ^ Riichi Nakaba (2005). Kishiwada Shonen Gurentai. Kodansha. ISBN 4-06-275074-0


  • Palter, DC and Slotsve, Kaoru Horiuchi (1995). Colloquial Kansai Japanese: The Dialects and Culture of the Kansai Region. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3723-6.
  • Tse, Peter (1993). Kansai Japanese: The language of Osaka, Kyoto, and western Japan. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-1868-1.
  • Takahashi, Hiroshi and Kyoko (1995). How to speak Osaka Dialect. Kobe: Taiseido Shobo Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-4-88463-076-9
  • Minoru Umegaki (Ed.) (1962). 近畿方言の総合的研究 (Kinki hōgen no sōgōteki kenkyū). Tokyo: Sanseido.
  • Isamu Maeda (1965). 上方語源辞典 (Kamigata gogen jiten). Tokyo: Tokyodo Publishing.
  • Kiichi Iitoyo, Sukezumi Hino, Ryōichi Satō (Ed.) (1982). 講座方言学7 -近畿地方の方言- (Kōza hōgengaku 7 -Kinki chihō no hōgen-). Tokyo: Kokushokankōkai
  • Shinji Sanada, Makiko Okamoto, Yoko Ujihara (2006). 聞いておぼえる関西(大阪)弁入門 (Kiite oboeru Kansai Ōsaka-ben nyūmon). Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo Publishing. ISBN 978-4894762961.

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