Hachijō language

Native to Japan
Region southern Izu Islands
Native speakers
Unknown; 10,000 inhabitants of the islands (2007)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 hhjm
Glottolog hach1239[1]

The small group of Hachijo or Hachijōjima dialects are the most divergent form of Japanese. They are spoken on the southern Izu Islands south of Tokyo, Hachijō Island and the smaller Aogashima, as well as on the Daitō Islands of Okinawa Prefecture, which were settled from Hachijo in the Meiji period. Based on the criterion of mutual intelligibility, Hachijo may be considered a distinct Japonic language.

Hachijo dialects retain ancient Eastern Japanese features, as recorded in the 8th-century Man'yōshū. There are also lexical similarities with the dialects of Kyushu and even the Ryukyuan languages; it is not clear if these indicate the southern Izu islands were settled from that region, if they are loans brought by sailors traveling among the southern islands, or if they might be independent retentions of Old Japanese.[2]


The dialect of Aogashima is quite distinct. There are also numerous dialects on Hachijo Island, with the speech of nearly every village distinct. There may be a few speakers left of the dialect of Little Hachijo Island, which was abandoned in 1969.


Hachijo uses the be-verb aru with all subjects, without the animate–inanimate (iru–aru) distinction made on the mainland. It also distinguishes between the attributive form (連体形 rentaikei) and terminal form (終止形 shūshikei) of verbs and adjectives, a distinction that existed in Early Middle Japanese but has all but vanished from the modern language.


Hachijo preserves a number of phrases that have been otherwise lost in the rest of Japan, such as まぐれる magureru for standard 気絶する kizetsu suru 'to faint, pass out'. There are also words which occur in standard Japanese, but with different meanings:[3]

Hachijō Japanese Meaning Japanese cognate
yama hatake field yama 'mountain'
ureshi naru byōki ga naotte kuru to heal from an illness ureshiku naru 'become happy'
kowai tsukareru to be tired kowai 'to be tough, stubborn'
gomi takigi firewood gomi 'trash'


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Hachijo". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Masayoshi Shibatani, 1990. The Languages of Japan
  3. "島言葉(八丈方言)を見直そう (Summary of the Hachijo dialect)". Hachijo-jima Official Site. 八丈町教育課生涯学習係. Retrieved 2013-08-23.

Further reading

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