Thursday, August 23, 2012

Origins of Tosaben and Hataben

   Dialects exist everywhere in Japan, and in Kochi two main dialects are spoken: Tosaben and Hataben. Here is a brief explanation about how these two dialects were formed.

   Because a language is influenced by climate, society, culture, etc., it is necessary to learn about these things to understand a dialect.

Tsurayuki Kino
   In hot and humid Kochi, sometimes it rains as heavily as some tropical areas and many typhoons hit. The way Kochi is shaped with the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Shikoku Mountains to the north has isolated the region, making it difficult to communicate with the outside world. The fact that it took Tsurayuki Kino, a famous poet in the Heian Period (794-1192), 55 days to get back home to Kyoto after his service as a governor in Kochi tells of such geographical remoteness.

   Also, Kochi used to be a penal colony for criminals, some of which were educated intellectuals from afar, and it is believed that they had some influence on Tosaben. There is a tendency that a warmer climate increases the number of vowels spoken, and Tosaben has such characteristics. Another Tosaben characteristic is that many ancient words used during the Heian Period remain in present-day Tosaben due to such closed-off geographical environments.

   The western part of Kochi is called the Hata region and it was under the rule of a separate nation during ancient times, resulting in a distinct culture differing from the rest of Kochi. In particular, Norifusa Ichijo, the chief adviser to the emperor, introduced many aspects of Kyoto’s culture to the region after he and his family fled the Onin War in 1467 to settle down in present-day Shimanto City. This is why the center of the city, Nakamura, is dubbed “Little Kyoto.”
   The Ichijo clan had contacts with the Otomo clan which governed present-day Oita prefecture in Kyushu, so there are commonalities between the Oita dialect and Hataben. For example, the accent of these two dialects is in the Tokyo style while the accent of Tosaben is in the Kyoto-Osaka style.

   The Ichijo clan was eventually ousted from the Hata region by the Chosokabe clan. Later, during the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Yamauchi clan united and ruled all of Kochi including the Hata region.
   However, because travel had been strictly restrained, characteristics of Kochi’s dialects remained preserved until the Meiji era (1868-1912). Although some of the words are no longer used due to the spread of TV and radio and freedom of movement, modern day Tosaben and Hataben still continue to attract researchers as dialects unique to Kochi.

Taken from vol.35 PDF

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