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Kansaiben (関西弁) and Oosakaben (大阪弁)

First Off: Is This Real Grammar?

Well yes, technically this is real grammar, but for a language that isn't an official language as such. This section pertains to the dialect of Japanese spoken in the Kinki (近畿) part of Japan. Yes, you read it right, Kinki. Not kinky... Kinki.

The map of Japan

(1) hokkaidou prefecture
(2) touhoku prefecture
(3) kantou prefecture
(4) chuubu prefecture
(5) kinki prefecture
(6) chuukoku prefecture
(7) shikoku prefecture
(8) kyuushuu prefecture
(9) the island of okinawa

The Kinki region (近畿地方, kinki-chihou) consists of southern Honshu's (本州) two main prefectures Oosaka-fu [大阪府] and Kyouto-fu (京都府), as well as the five prefectures Hyougo-ken (兵庫県) , Mie-ken (三重県), Nara-ken (奈良県), Shiga-ken (滋賀県) and Wakayama-ken (和歌山県). While Kinki and Kansai are basically synonymous words, the word Kansai, 関西, is usually used to refer to the 'triangle' region Oosaka, Kyouto and Koube (神戸).

For even more fun, what you know as "kansaiben" is probably most likely actually Oosakaben; the specific dialect of Kinki Japanese spoken in the Oosaka area. Since it's fairly hard to tell what's what without knowing what the (sometimes not so) subtle differences are between the flavours of Kansaiben, this section's here to at least explain how the heck to interpreted this flavourful version of Japanese.

Kinki chihouThe Kinki chihou map

Before we continue, I would like to recommend everyone who's interested in this dialect to purchace "Colloquial Kansai Japanese" by DC Palter and Kaoru Slotsve (isbn 0804837236, Tuttle publishing, roughly US$15). I do this, because this is the only book I know that explains kansaiben in a pleasant way. Not to mention they use normal japanese in their examples (kanji/kana mix) instead of just romaji and english, so I love them. Platonically, of course... however, this does not detract from the fact that they have written a very good book on the subject and you'll probably want to have it since it's not that expensive (plus it has funny drawings, so you know you want it.)

The Differences

There are three differences between standard Japanse (hyoujungen, 標準語) and Oosaka dialect. The first is in basic composition, the second is of a grammatical nature, concerning how to form "valid" oosaka Japanese, and the the third concerns vocabulary, which is a nice list of different words indeed.


We start with the syntax differences: compared to standard Japanese, words are pronounced differently, according to a few 'rules' (of which the most important one is: If you hear it used by someone in the kansai region, then that's how you use it).

1. Words are often contracted in kansaiben.

The standard yoku (よく), meaning "well", has been contracted to you (よう)
The standard chigau (違う), meaning "to be different" or "to be wrong", has been contracted to chau (ちゃう)
The standard omoshiroi (面白い), meaning "interesting" or "fun", has been contracted to omoroi (おもろい)
The standard soreja (それじゃ), meaning "Well then..." or "See you later", has been contracted to honja (ほんじゃ)

2. S sounds in standard Japanese tend to be replaced with H sounds.

ikimahen (行きまへん) is used instead of ikimasen (行きません) for "Will not go"
han (はん) is used instead of san (さん), the neutral polite name suffix.

3. The copula "verb" is や

ya (や) is used instead of da (だ) for copula "be"
yanai (やない) is used instead of dewanai/janai (ではない/じゃない) for copula negation

4. Long vowel sounds at the end of words are often shortened.

souda (そうだ), "that's how it is", gets shortened to soya (そや), or seya (せや)
ikou (行こう), "Let's go", gets shortened to iko (行こ)

5. Confusingly, short vowel sounds at the end of words are often lengthed.

-te+mi (てみ), the "trying out"verb form, tends to become -te+mii (てみい) instead
te (手), "hand", tends to become te- (手ー) instead
ki (木), "tree", tends to become ki- (木ー) instead

6. The glottal stop (っ...) is usually turned into a double vowel, or slurred,

shimatta (しまった), used to illustrate inadventent action, is slurred to shimota (しもた) tsukatte (使って), the -te form of tsukuru, is changed to a long vowel, as well being slurred: tsukōte (つこうて/つこーて)

7. Colloquially, there is nothing like a good slur.

omoshiroi (面白い) becomes omoroi (おもろい), but is colloquially used as omoro- (おもろー) atsui (暑い), meaning "hot", becomes atsuu (あつー) kimochi warui (気持ち悪い), meaning "grosses out", becomes kimoi (きもい)

To make matters even worse (or not!), kansaiben has word accents placed different. First of all, there actually ARE accents. Compared to standard Japanese, Kansai and through extention Oosaka dialect is a lot more emphatically expressive, and sounds funkier because it's less dead. (note: this is just own opinion, there are bound to be people who will contest the statement, but I think kansaiben sounds more lively).


The grammar

The rules of grammar differ between toukyouben (tokyo dialect) and kansaiben (kansai dialect) most perceivably in the verb conjugations. Informal negation (ない) and progresive/resultant/habitual form (ている) are very different from the tokyo version. This section explains the differences between standard Japanese and Oosaka dialect by noting differences in Japanese grammar, not English grammar projected onto Japanese - so if you don't know what "renyoukei"s or "izenkei"s are, it's time to start learning real Japanese grammar ^__^

This section highlights six differences in Oosaka dialect: 1. Negation, 2. Past tense, 3. -teiru form, 4. Giving and receiving, 5. Honorific and 6. Commanding


Negation (mizenkei + nai)

negation in Oosaka dialect can be achieved by substitution hen (へん) for nai (ない) in the plain negation form. However, in addition to the normal standard japanese plain negation (mizenkei + nai -> mizenkei + hen) it is also possible to suffix hen to the izenkei instead, showing that there are parts of Japan where the classical imperfect is still being used as a normal imperfect. This does create a slightly tricky situation, as this second form of plain negation sounds identical to the negative (short) potential form for a verb, so telling the difference in Oosaka dialect is not always an easy task (you'll have to learn to interpret context even more than in standard Japanese for this one =).

examples of the normal mizenkei negation:

  • akiramehen (諦め+へん) instead of akiramenai (諦め+ない) meaning "won't give up"
  • yomahen (読ま+へん) instead of yomanai (読ま+ない) meaning "won't read

examples of the izenkei negation

  • yomehen (読め+へん) meaning "won't read" as plain negative, but meaning "cannot read" as negative potential
  • kaehen (買え+へん) meaning "won't buy" as plain negative, but meaning "cannot buy" as negative potential

It should be noted that nai (ない) as normal (though very weirdly irregular from a linguistic point of view) negation for aru (ある) actually has a regular mizenkei negation in most Kansai dialects: arahen (あら+へん).

Romaji: oya.? bideo ga arahen de.
English: Whe? The video's gone.

in contrast to the standard Japanese version:

Romaji: ara, bideo ga nai n da.
English: Huh, the video's gone

Lastly, one also hears the classical short negation (mizenkei + "n") a lot more in most Kansai dialects than in standard Japanese, resulting in negations such as "iran" (don't need), "tsukawan" (don't use), "yuwan" (don't say) and the likes. Because in regions where standard Japanese is de rigeur this is only used by rude, burly men (or maybe your friends), this aspect of kansaiben is one of the things that makes peopl from for instance tokyo think people from the kansai region are "rude" or just "conversationally challenged" - clearly this is a silly idea.


Past tense (renyoukei + ta)

Past tense is most regularly performed with the helper 'verb' "ten" (てん) instead of "ta" (た). This conjugation is also used for what in standard Japanese ~たんだ is used for. Note that the same contractions apply for both the standard Japanese past tense and the kainsai dialect past tenses

examples of the past test:

  • miten (見てん) instead of mita (見た) for "seen".
  • shiten (してん) instead of shita (した) for "done".
  • oyonden (泳んでん) instead of oyonda (泳んた) for "swam".

A second option is to use "tan" instead of "ta" as auxiliary verb:

  • mitan (見たん) instead of mita (見た) for "seen".
  • shitan (したん) instead of shita (した) for "done".
  • oyondan (泳んだん) instead of oyonda (泳んた) for "swam".

Depending on the region, you will hear "ten", "tan" or even "ton". You won't heard "tin" or "tun" because a) these would of course be "chin" and "tsun" and b) these two are not really easy on the mouth or several verbs (shichin? shitsun?), so they never beat the popularity of the other three


The "-teiru" form (renyoukei+teiru)

the standard Japanese "-teiru" form - used to show continuous or habitual act, or resultant state - has more than one form in Oosaka dialect. The first option when wanting to express this form is to use oru (おる) instead of iru (いる) in the conjugation, thus forming -teoru, which can be contracted to -toru in colloquial settings.. The second option is to use -tennen (てんねん) instead of -teiru (ている).

Romaji: nani o shitoru?
English: What are you doing?
Romaji: nani o shitennen?
English: What are you doing?

Note that oru (おる) is a humbling verb in standard Japanese, used to humble one's own actions (or in-group actions), so from the "normal" perspective, the use of oru for other people's actions can be perceived as wrong or uneducated.

If you're in the Kyouto area, you may also hear "ton" being used, which adds to the confusion of whether you're hearing a paste tense (see above) or a continuous act/resultant state form. Kyouto is high on using the "o" sound, even their "desu" has been replaced with "dosu" ^^


Giving and receiving (-te + ageru/kudasaru/kureru/yaru, -te + morau/itadaku)

Again we see the great love for contracting words to simpler and easier forms. One of the surprises to you might be the plentiful use of yaru (やる) for giving to people, instead of to "things not on the social ladder" like pets (giving food to the cat) or plants (watering your bonsai tree - which you shouldn't do too often by the way).



The combination -te+agete, (which is used to mean either giving, or doing for someone), is contracted to -tatte:

Romaji: gomi o hokashitatte.
English: Would you throw out the garbage?

The combination -te+yari, (the renyoukei imperative form of -te yaru) is considered an informal giving-amongst-equals construction in most of the kansai dialects, and.is contracted to -tari or -tare. (the feeling first more asking, the second feeling more commanding)

Romaji: okaahan ni sono tegami o kashitari na.
Englsih: Give that letter to your mother, okay?

The combination -te+yaru, in standard Japanese for giving in a situation where social status is non-existent, is in kansai dialects used whenever social status is simply not important, like informal colloquial chatting. It is frequently contracted to -taru or -taro.

Romaji: eeya, eeya. ore ya shukudai o yuttaru de.
English: Don't sweat it. I'll tell him what the homework is.

Note that "iu" (言う, to say) is "yuu" (ゆう) in most dialects in Japan, not just the kansai region. While in standard Japanese this distinction is often imperceivable colloquially, in written form it is always いう, whereas in most dialects it isn't.

As a warning, before you go off using yaru like you never did before with a new feeling of libety, yaru is considered assertive speech and as such is used less by women, who more often use ageru or a contraction thereof instead. To soften yaru's edges, it's usually followed by the (unisex version of the) particle "wa", the flavourful kansai emphatic particle.



We can be incredibly short about the changes for receiving: the past tense of the verb morau (neutral receiving) is contracted to morota, and that's about it ^^;


Honorific (o + renyoukei + nasaru)

The verb "haru" (はる) is used in kansaiben as a replacement for the standard Japanese honourific "nasaru" (なさる), meaning to do (replacing suru). An intrinsic part of honorific polite speech (or "keigo", 敬語) in the kansai area, this verb is used in settings that do not warrant standard Japanese levels of formality (like a job interview) but also do not allow colloquical levels of speech. Let's say a reception hosted by a kansai resident that you do not really know. Formality is dictated, but there's no good reason to be a stale guest by using hyoujungen.

In most parts of Kansai, as well as the larger Kinki region, this honourific verb is added to the renyoukei, but there are some areas (including Kyouyo and Nara) that add it to the mizenkei instead, so be careful and listen around you which is prefered..

Interestingly, the usability of "haru" is broader than that of nasaru, in that it can be combined with any verb to form an honorific version of that verb, while in Standard Japanese there are certain verbs that have their own special honorific pattern. As example of honorific speech, a few lines which all translate to the same thing, namely an enquiry and opening to a conversation about reading habits:

Romaji: nani o yomiharu n desu ka.
English: What do you read?
Romaji: nani o yomiharimasu ka.
English: What do you read?
日本語:何を読まはるんですか。 (used in Kyoto and Nara for instance)
English: nani o yomaharu n desu ka.
English: What do you read?


Commanding forms

Not infrequently do you have to boss people around. friends who don't want to get you your coffee, your dog for thinking tatami is something you wrestle, or your wall for not listening to your problems after a good night drinking (or maybe bad!). At these points you'll want to use a commanding form, and in kansaiben that's a very easy thing to do: use the renyoukei. This possibility exists in standard Japanese too, but is used far more in the kansai region. For more emphasis, you can extend the vowel sound:

Romaji: ore no kuroshi o kikii!
English: Listen to my sufferings! (walls need shouting you see...)



The kansai dialects uses different sentence particles than standard Japanese too, so it might be worthwhile listing the most obvious ones here:

kansaiben official japanese english
かい [kai] か [ka] a slightly less formal question mark.
かいな [kaina] - sarcastic question particle.
かて [kate] も [mo], ~ても [temo], (で)さえ [(de)sae] even [given that...]
がな [gana] なあ intensifying sentence ending particle.
さん [san] ございます (not in all instances!) used as a replacement particle for gozaimasu in standard phrases like "ohayou san" instead of "ohayou gozaimasu".
で [de] よ [yo], ぞ[zo] considered assertive and therefore used less by women.
でっか [dekka] ですか [desu ka] contracted form.
ちゃう [chau] じゃない?[janai?] questioning ending.
な [na] ね [ne] the kansai version of ne, used just as much by women as by men.
なん [nan] なの [nano] stating a fact, question a fact.
ねん [nen] - neutral sentence ending particle.
ねや [neya] のだ[noda] implicit reason.
~まっか [makka] ~ますか [-masu ka] contraction.
~まっせ [masse] ~ますよ [-masu yo] contraction.
もん [mon] もの "being that, as it is" (if you can come up with a better trans, please ;)
や [ya] です [desu], だ [da] the kansaiben flavour of the copula verb.
ら [等] [ra] ~たち [達] [tachi] plurality marker for groups of people associated to 1 person.
わ [wa] よ [yo] used by both genders as a neutral sentence ender.
ん [n] の [no] contraction, neutral sentence ender


A word List that you might find useful

Because the word list is rather long, it has its own little (well, obviously not really little) page, which you can reach here



Option a) Move to Japan's Kinki region. This costs a lot of money but of your choices, it's probably the most fun.

Option b) Dig out those $15 and buy the recommended book:"Colloquial Kansai Japanese" by DC Palter and Kaoru Slotsve (isbn 0804837236), printed by Tuttle publishing. This does not cost you a lot of money, and is still a fairly good choice.