The Local Dialect - Sanuki-ben 讃岐弁

You may have heard of hyōjungo, the most common form of Japanese found in Tōkyō, most national TV networks, and in Japanese textbooks. And you may have heard of kansai-ben, the dialect of Japanese spoken in the Kansai area. But chances are that you haven't heard much about Sanuki-ben, which is spoken throughout Kagawa.

Sanuki is the old name for Kagawa Prefecture, and ben, or 弁, means 'dialect'. Most places you go to in Japan will speak their own variety of the language, and Kagawa is no exception.

If you've been learning Japanese for 5 years or 5 weeks, it's pretty unlikely you've picked up any Sanuki-ben, so hopefully this page can introduce you to some of its more common features and vocabulary.

General Overview

Sanuki-ben is classified in Japanese as a Keihan-shiki Accent, meaning that it is one of the accents spoken in the Kyōto-Ōsaka-Kinki-Shikoku area, and shares features with some of these other accents. This is due to the historic importance of maritime commerce and communication which gave rise to close links between the areas surrounding the Seto Inland Sea, with the Kinki and Chūgoku regions providing many of the variations found in Sanuki-ben and Awa-ben (the dialect of Tokushima Prefecture). So, you can hear akan! あかん! or aho! あほ! in both Ōsaka and on Shikoku, as well as many grammatical similarities.

Common Words and Phrases

Check out this table for some of the most common words and verb forms compared to their standard Japanese equivalents. If you can work some of these into your conversation, you're bound to get some sort of reaction from the people you're talking to.

Standard Japanese 讃岐弁 Sanuki-ben Meaning
じゃ/や/だ informal copula - "to be"
~ない 〜ん negative copula/verb ending- "not", "is not", "does not" etc.
~なんだ 〜なんや/じゃ/〜なんよ emphatic copula - "is…"
~たのだ 〜たんや/たんじゃ/〜たんよ past tense emphatic copula/verb ending
している 〜しょうる/〜しよる/~しとる present continuous verb - "to be doing something"
駄目だ いかん/あかん "no good, useless"
バカ ホッコ "fool, idiot"
疲れた/気分が悪い えらい "to be tired, to feel unwell"
おもしろい おもっしょい "interesting"
~かな? 〜かいの? interrogative particle
から けん/きん conjuctive particle indicating cause or reason
じゃないの? 〜ちゃん?/ちゃあん? negative copula and adverbial final particle, "isn't it?"
どう/どのように どな adverb, "how…?"
言っている よおる/言いよる/言うとる "to say"
してみろ してみい・してんまい "try something"
たくさん よっけ・ようけ "lots of something"
~してしまう 〜してしもう "to do something unintended or to finish something"
間違っている まっちゃいよる/まっちゃっとる "to be wrong or mistaken"
本当に ほんま・ほんに "really"
あ行/か行
  • あかん / akan - 駄目だという意味.  "Useless", "no good", "hopeless". This is mostly Kansai-ben influence, and while some young people in Kagawa use it, it is mostly found on Shōdoshima.
  • いまさっき / ima sakki - つい先程やまさに今の意味。"Just now". E.g. "いまさっき帰ったとこじゃが".
  • おきる / okiru - 腹が膨れる。This means that you are full, and that you can't eat anymore. E.g. “お腹おきた”、”腹おきてもう食えんわ”、”腹、おきたんな?”(=”お腹、いっぱいになりましたか?”).
  • おもっしょい / omosshoi - "面白い". Interesting. 「この漫画おもっしょいのお」.
  • かまへん(かまん) / kamahen (kaman) "構わない"."〜でも良い". "To not mind", "to be fine with something".
  • 〜きん / kin 〜から。This particle is used to indicate cause or reason for something."暑いきん、クーラーつけようで", "かかんきんこん、こんきんかかん(〔手紙を〕書かんきん来ん、来んきん書かん=書かないので来ない、来ないので書かない)".
  • 〜けん / ken〜から。This particle is used to indicate cause or reason for something, and is the same as kin above. "明日早いけん、もう寝まい" (明日早いからもう寝なさい).
  • こんぴらさん / konpirasan - This is the local way to refer to the Kotohira-gu shrine.
さ行/た行
な行/は行
ま行/や行
ら行/わ行
East, West, and the Islands

Sanuki-ben can also be further broken down into West and East Sanuki-ben, with phonological and semantic variation creating two distinct, but obviously closely linked accent variants. Shōdoshima also has distinct features that separate from the rest of the Kagawa with many words taken from the Kansai and Chūgoku regions.

One of the best examples of this is natives from West Kagawa who say やきん yakin and those from East Kagawa who say やけん yaken in place of the standard だから da kara.

This table provides a look at some of the more common regional variations within Kagawa Prefecture.

Standard Japanese 西讃弁 / West Sanuki-ben 東讃弁 / East Sanuki-ben 小豆島弁 / Shōdoshima
〜から 〜きん/きに 〜けん/けに 〜さかい/せに/から
〜だね 〜やな/じゃな 〜やの/じゃの/だの 〜やな
〜なんか 〜や/やかし/やか 〜や/やこし/やこ 〜や/やこし/やこ
〜してみなさい 〜してご/〜してごんな/しまい/せぇ 〜しまい/せぇ 〜してみい
ください つか/つかさい/つかいな いた/たー いた
〜けれど 〜けど/けんど/きんど 〜けど/けんど 〜けど/けんど

Another feature which separates east and west is their distinctive use of the interjectory particles な and の.
For example, あれはね (Standard Japanese), あれはの (East Sanuki-ben), and あれはな (West Sanuki-ben).
In addition, while the use of の in this context is gender neutral in the Takamatsu area, it tends to be restricted to men in most other areas.

Contractions, Vowels, and Nasal Sound Changes

Sanuki-ben has a large number of contracted word forms that you're likely to encounter.

There is also the tendency in some areas of kagawa to avoid the "アウ" or "au" combination of vowels. Unlike Kansai-ben where this is perfectly acceptable, i.e. "ちゃうん?" (じゃないの?), Sanuki-ben will often prefer "ちゃん” or "ちゃあん".

Sanuki-ben also has a large number of nasal sound changes that contribute to its unique vocabulary.
"おもしろい"→"おもっしょい", "殴りあい"→"なぐっりゃい", "代わりを出す"→"代わっりょ出す", "にぎやか"→"にんぎゃか・にっぎゃか", "教える"→"おっせる", "忘れる"→"わっせる", "怒られる"→"おんかれる・おっかれる"

There is also a strong tendency to affix "な" "na" to indicate an interrogative. For example, "何やっとんな?" "そうちゃんな?" "乗ってくんな?(乗って行くかい?)"

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