Okinawan Culture 04 - Introduction to Uchinaaguchi(うちなーぐち/沖縄口)

Photo credit: https://www.travelvoice.jp/

Uchinaaguchi is the native name of the Okinawan language, which is autochthonously spoken on Okinawa and some of the surrounding islands. Uchinaaguchi is one of the Ryukyuan languages. Uchinaaguchi and the other Ryukyuan languages are sister languages of Japanese, and they differ in the same degree as Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French.

There is strong regional variation within Uchinaaguchi, and it could even be said that every settlement on Okinawa has its own unique form of Uchinaaguchi. An especially significant difference can be found in the Uchinaaguchi varieties spoken in Northern Okinawa (also referred to as the Kunigami language), and the varieties spoken in the South-Central part. The Uchinaaguchi varieties spoken in Onna Village are transitional forms between Northern and South-Central Okinawan.

After the Ryukyu Kingdom was assimilated by Japan in 1879, the use of Uchinaaguchi and other Ryukyuan languages was strongly discouraged in the education system in favor of Standard Japanese. As a result, Uchinaaguchi and the other Ryukyuan languages are in danger of becoming extinct, and are listed in the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

Today, most locals speak Uchinaa-Yamatuguchi (Okinawan Japanese), a form of Japanese with traces of Uchinaaguchi influence in it.

Greetings and self-introduction in Uchinaaguchi

    Why not using common uchinaaguchi phrases in our daily conversations? Here are some basic uchinaaguchi phrases you can use for greetings and self-introduction.

*Click each item to listen to the pronunciation of each word/phrase.

Shimakutuba day

    18th September is a special day for Uchinaaguchi called “Shimakutuba day” (a day for “languages passed down on the Okinawa islands”). This day was established on 31st March 2006 based on “the local ordinance regarding Shimakutuba day” by the Okinawa Prefectural Government. On this day, various events and symposia are held to appreciate and promote “Shimakutuba” all over the prefecture.

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This post was developed in collaboration between Eedee and OIST Resource Centre.