Takashi Kobayashi, Professor, Department of Linguistic Science, Japanese Language
Born in 1957 in Niigata Prefecture. Graduated from Tohoku University, Faculty of Arts and Letters. Later he studied in the doctoral program of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters. Worked as a researcher at the National Institute for Japanese Language and compiled the “Grammar Atlas of Japanese Dialects” which investigated dialects in 800 locations across Japan. Since then, has done research on “Japanese history through dialectology.” In 1994, became an Associate Professor of Japanese Linguistics at Tohoku University Faculty of Arts and Letters, and currently holds a position as Professor at the same university.
Headed the Center for the Study of Dialectology, performed field survey of dialects in the Tohoku region together with students and at the same time, created a dialect database for Japan. Compiled and wrote the following works: “The Current State of Dialects” (1996), “Dialectological Study of the History of Japanese”
(2006), “Dialectology Series 1-4” (2006-2008). In March 2012, published “Research on the dialect of the Southern Sanriku area (Miyagi and Iwate prefectures)” as part of a project organized by the Japanese Linguistics Laboratory headed by Professor Takashi Kobayashi. This project describes the dialect survey that was conducted in Kesennuma City and the southern Sanriku area in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures in 2005-2007.
In order to save a dialect, they published “Introduction to the Kesennuma Dialect for Supporters.”
Six months after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the Pacific coastal area of Tohoku on March 11, 2011. On August 27, 2011, the Center for the Study of Dialectology of Tohoku University published a booklet titled “Introduction to the Kesennuma Dialect for Supporters” (Introduction to the Kesennuma Dialect).
Professor Kobayashi and the students had visited the Kesennuma area for three years before the disaster and interviewed about 90 people to investigate the dialect.Immediately after the disaster, they saw the devastation in the stricken area, and quickly compiled the results into a practical pocket book.The following message entitled “To the Readers of this brochure” gives the reason for publishing this brochure.
- (1) “Shi” sounds like “su.”
- (2) The sounds “ka, ki, ku, ke, ko” and “ta, chi, tsu, te, to” are heard as “ga, gi, gu, ge, go” and “da, ji, zu, de, do,” respectively.
- (3) “Ki” sounds like “chi.”
- (1) “... sa” (meaning “to” in standard Japanese)
- (2) “... pe/... ppe” (meaning “would ...(guess)” and “will ... (will)”)
- (3) “... kko” (an endearing term used for naming small things around us)
3. Words easily mistaken
- (1) “nageru” (used for “throw away” but means “throw” in standard Japanese)
- (2) “dakara/hondakara” (“that’s right”; “because” in standard Japanese)
- (3) “kowai/kowe” (“tired”; “scared” in standard Japanese)
- (4) “waganne” (“I can’t do it”; “I can’t understand” in standard Japanese)
Let’s use these words! “Recommended Kesennuma speech”:
- - Good evening: “Obandesu”
- - Goodbye: “Sainah,” “Matadain,” and “Osuzukani”
- - That’s right: “Hodegasu”
When showing a diagram of the human body, the following words indicate “illnesses and feelings”:
- “ambea” (healthy)
- “sabuki” (cough)
- “harapiri” (acute diarrhea)
- “fukesame” (frequent change in symptoms)
- “kozasu” (to aggravate an illness)
- “sukkoguru” (to graze your skin)
- “izui” (to feel strange)
- “haka haka” (to run out of breath)
- “afura afura” (to feel woozy and ill)
- “nedasorane” (could not get a good night’s sleep (with all the noise)
- “seraserasuru (seserapoi)” (to have a scratchy throat)
As described in the message, the brochure was compiled so that outside supporters and the local people could communicate smoothly with each other and have a comfortable and pleasant relationship. In view of the devastation in the Kesennuma area that might have lead regional collapse, this measure was a practical tool to “save the disaster-stricken area and its supporters through understanding of the local dialect.”
At present, although this is the only book published by the Center for the Study of Dialectology, the dialect spoken in Kesennuma share some similarities with the dialects spoken in other areas of the Tohoku region, and is also similar to the dialect spoken along the southern coast of Iwate Prefecture as well as Miyagi Prefecture. Therefore, this book can be used for the dialects in a wider area.
Recently, the Kesennuma City Government requested more books from our laboratory, so we provided them with the necessary number of books out of our remaining stock.
The dialect used in the Tohoku region became famous throughout Japan because of the popularity of the TV drama “Ama-chan” in which the dialect is used.
In the drama, the interjection “jeje,” which was said whenever characters were surprised, impressed, or wanted to emphasize something, was a new and fresh sound to the audience, leading to its popularity.
This “jeje” is from the dialect spoken in northern Iwate Prefecture to the coastal area of southern Aomori Prefecture. From central Iwate Prefecture where Morioka is located to the inland area of southern Aomori, the word changes to “jaja,” and from the southern part of Iwate Prefecture to the Oshika Peninsula, it changes to “baba.” Across the Ou Mountain Range in Akita Prefecture, people use “ba.” The term “ba” is a corrupted form of “aba,” which originated from mono no aware (pathos and impermanence of things).
Because “Introduction to the Kesennuma Dialect” is focused on the dialect used in daily activities in disaster-stricken Kesennuma, interjections and onomatopoeia are omitted. However, in dialect studies, interjections and onomatopoeia are as important as nouns, verbs, and adjectives for showing differences in dialects.
The dialects in the Tohoku region can be aptly characterized as “a culture of sound and voice.” Compared with other areas in Japan, these dialects excel in expressing people’s feelings, describing what they are looking at, or what they are currently feeling by realistically using interjections and onomatopoeia. This is why you can hear many kinds of interjections and onomatopoeia in Tohoku.