5 fun examples of Tochigi-ben (or whatever Mrs. Adamu’s family speaks)

After a long hiatus, Mrs. Adamu is back with a blog post about her local dialect, Tochigi-ben. She grew up in Ashikaga through elementary school and spent the rest of her school days in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture. We visit about once a month with her immediate family who still live in Chiba.

During my trips there, in addition to noticing strange Christian signs I’ve managed to pick up some phrases of the local dialect from her relatives. Some examples:

1. 「わりかし」= 意外と 
Her father says this a lot, especially when he buys sashimi from his favorite roadside merchant.
A cute term for cockroach. They do appear from time to time.
I use this one mainly as a joke because her family says いぐど! all the time as if they have a cold.
This ends up sounding kind of angry a lot of the time.
5. 疑問形語尾の「ん?」
  「もう食べたん?」「寝てたん?」「テレビ見てるん?」 (= もう食べたの? etc)
This one Mrs. Adamu uses herself all the time when talking on the phone to relatives.

14 thoughts on “5 fun examples of Tochigi-ben (or whatever Mrs. Adamu’s family speaks)”

  1. 1. 「わりかし」= 意外と 

    Hardly unique to Tochigi. warikasi comes from warikata and was a popular phrase in the 50s and 60s. You can hear it all over Japan from elderly people.

    2. 「ごきちゃん」=ごきぶり 

    Many dialects have this X-chan. Shortening a word to two mora is the norm.

    3. 語尾の「ど」

    Your translation is true to the etymology. In Middle Japanese, and likely much earlier, /z/ was prenasalized, close to *[nz]. Due to this influence, there is sporadic variation between /s/~/d/. This -do is found all over Japan.

    4. 語尾の「(だ)がね」

    Rather than -yone, -gane is more precisely equivalent to -none. -ga has always had this kind of usage–since at least the early 8th century–but this usage has mostly been taken over by -no over time. In the case of -dagane, the older copula -na should be used resulting in -nanone.

    5. 疑問形語尾の「ん?」
      「もう食べたん?」「寝てたん?」「テレビ見てるん?」 (= もう食べたの? etc)

    As you seem to have guessed, this is nothing more than a contraction of -no > -n. It occurs all over Japan.

  2. Thx for the info!

    Maybe Tochigi is too close to Tokyo to have its own real dialect. Still, they talk differnt from other folks. Maybe its just cuz they are mostly older. I never hear Tokyo people talking like this

  3. I was going to make some comments but I see Kindaichi has already got there. “Warakashi” is used a lot out where I am, which does have its own dialect, though not as thick as those up in the Deep North or Deep South.

  4. Tochigi-ben does exist, and I’m sure it shares similarities with other dialects in the region. It’s not the individual expressions that make up the dialect, but the combination of those parts.

    The Yoshimoto-kogyo comedy duo U字工事 are currently “breaking” because of their Tochigi-ben based act.

    I think it’s important to note that your wife doesn’t make the claim that these phrases are necessarily Tochigi-ben, but rather expressions used by her family.

  5. If there’s a Tochigi-ben Mrs. Adamu’s grandmother speaks it… hardly anyone can understand what the hell she is saying

  6. @Adamu
    You used what is a defining feature of the Tohoku dialects without really commenting on it; the voicing of medial consonants as in 行くぞ/ど(all over Japan) →いぐど(Tohoku).

    Try a youtube search for 津軽弁でジャズ to get an example of Tsugaru-ben, the most phonemically distinct variety.

  7. Even more enlightening (and extremely enternaining!), a Tsugaru-ben version of 夢の中へ:
    youtube com/watch?v=jNtBxJsyhcs (substitute . for space between youtube and com)

  8. “Tsugaru-ben, the most phonemically distinct variety.”
    Is it more distinctive than Kagoshima dialects, for example?

  9. @Wataru
    I should have written “…the most phonemically distinct of the Tohoku varieties”.

    Note that this is claim about language sound only. Grammar, vocabulary and intelligibility for 標準語 speakers are different matters.

  10. Yeah, “warikashi” is no more a dialect than “awayokuba”. They are just not on the Japanese heavy rotation playlist, but sound great when you bust them out in conversation.

    “dagane” is used a lot in Saitama as well. I knew a guy who used to shrug his shoulders and say なんだがね! all the time. Hell, I’m beginning to think there’s a ton of overlap between what the people of Eastern Saitama/Southern Gunma/Ibaraki/Western Tochigi consider their “dialects”. They should never have drawn prefectural lines…

    As for the contraction of anything with ん, ownership of this is often claimed by Saitamaniacs, especially when there’s a hickish upward inflection at the end of the question.

    Conclusion: Mrs. Adamu’s family is really from Saitama. No?

  11. I live in Ashikaga, and I asked a few of my friends about this, and they said that it’s not really “Tochigi-ben” just like.. a Tohoku dialect.

  12. Bridget it looks like you *just* arrived in Ashikaga. Welcome back to Japan

    I wonder if younger people north of Tokyo speak some kind of generic Tohoku-based dialect because they feel they have to.

  13. You forgot the mandatory sentence ending 『べ』.

    No good Tochigian worth their salt would dare not liberally sprinkle べ into their speech. Or, if from northern Tochigi, ぺ. 行くべ。これ美味しいだべ。

    My wife and I make a conscious effort to not get sucked in, and speak proper Japanese.


  14. Late to the party, but this makes it less likely that anyone will refute my assertion that SAITAMA OWNS FINAL ん! SUCK IT, LESSER NORTH-OF-TOKYO PREFECTURES!

    Local dialects have become less distinct than they used to be thanks to (a) conscious effort to standardize (via education) on Tokyo dialect, (b) instant nationwide communications, and (c) greater mobility. But it would be interesting if at this point, rather than everything bleaching towards hyojungo, dialects were sort of… consolidating.

    I have heard (totally anecdotally, no idea if this is true or not) that something like this has been happening in “Kansai” as a result of that region’s special and beloved place in the national consciousness (though I also am given to understand that True Osakans and True Kyotoids hate being thrown in the generic “kansai-ben” basket together). I wonder if a similar process might be at work in more low-key regions too.

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