Tokunoshima language

Last updated
Native to Japan
Region Tokunoshima of the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture
Native speakers
5,100 (2004) [1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tkn
Glottolog toku1246   Toku-No-Shima

The Tokunoshima language (シマグチ (島口)Shimaguchi or シマユミィタShimayumiita), also Toku-No-Shima, is a dialect cluster spoken on Tokunoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture of southwestern Japan. It is part of the Amami–Okinawan languages, which are part of the Japonic languages.



Okamura (2007) posits two divisions of Tokunoshima: Kametsu–Amagi in the north and Isen in the south. [2] Kametsu is the traditional politico-cultural center of the island. It has been a center of distributions of new lexical traits, some of which were not confined in Tokunoshima Town but spread to Amagi Town in the northeast and, less frequently, to Isen. The dialects of Isen are considered more conservative by the speakers. [3]

Folk terminology

According to Okamura Takahiro (b. 1936 in Asama, Amagi Town), the speakers of Tokunoshima call their tongues sïmagucï, which consists of two morphemes. The first part sïma (Standard Japanese shima) refers to an island both in Standard Japanese and Tokunoshima but it also means (one's own) local community in Tokunoshima and other Amami dialects. The second part kucï (Standard Japanese kuchi) means a mouth, and by extension, speech. Hence, sïmagucï refers to the speech of one's own community and of the island as a whole. Note that sïmagucï is more strongly associated with the former because the speakers of Tokunoshima are fully aware that each shima has a distinct language. [2]


The following is the phonology of the Kametsu dialect, which is based on Hirayama et al. (1986). [4]


As with most Ryukyuan languages to the north of Central Okinawan, stops are described as "plain" C’ and "glottalized" C‘. Phonetically, the two series are lightly aspirated [Cʰ] and tenuis [C˭], respectively. [5]

Consonant phonemes
Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal Moraic
Nasal mn  Q
Stop bdɡʔ
Affricate t͡ʃʰt͡ʃ˭dz
Fricative sh
Approximant jw
Flap r[ clarification needed ]



Tokunoshima has /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /ɨ/ and /ɘ/, long and short.

Correspondences to Standard Japanese

Only major sound correspondences are listed.

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  1. Tokunoshima at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. 1 2 Okamura Takahiro 岡村隆博 (2007). Amami hōgen: kana moji de no kakikata 奄美方言—カナ文字での書き方 (in Japanese).
  3. Shibata Takeshi 柴田武; et al. (1977). Amami Tokunoshima no kotoba 奄美徳之島のことば (in Japanese). pp. 42–43.
  4. Hirayama Teruo 平山輝男, ed. (1986). Amami hōgen kiso goi no kenkyū 奄美方言基礎語彙の研究 (in Japanese).
  5. Samuel E. Martin (1970) "Shodon: A Dialect of the Northern Ryukyus", in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 90, no. 1 (JanMar), pp. 97139.