Reading Notes on the novel「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかる

I am reading the novel 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかるand the two main characters of the story use the Kansai dialect when they talk to each other. This particularity certainly confers a touch of authenticity to the novel, but it also adds difficulty for non-native readers.

I will go through some of the features of the Kansai dialect, mainly thanks to the Wikipedia page on the subject and other Japanese forums or blogs I found when looking for a particular expression. I have consulted so many sites that it is hard to tell which of them were really useful. If I were to cite just one site, I would say that this one gives a useful list of some Kansai particularities.

These are just personal notes that help me understand the novel I am reading. It is by no means a complete or structured presentation of the Kansai dialect.

Some features of the Kansai dialect

Thi first important thing to know is that the negation ない becomes へん in Kansai dialect. Thus, 寝られへん means 寝られない. With the verb する, I often see “せえへん” (しない), for example, “もう、せえへん”.

I also noted the usage of ほんま instead of 本当.

あかん means だめ, and even if I could guess the meaning of “行ったらあかん” from the context, it is always better to know the words’ exact meaning.

Another thing that stroke me is the massive use of わ at the end of the Jinji’s sentences. Jinji is a male character, and わ in standard Japanese gives a feminine touch to the sentence and is used by women. This is why it puzzled me so much to “hear” Jinji end half his sentences with わ. But now I know that this is one of Kansai dialect’s particularities: the sentence-ending particle わ is heavily used by men.

や will also often come at the end of sentences. In some cases, it is used instead of “だ”. For example, the exclamation “…だな” or “…だね” will become やな or やね. I found sentences like: “どこにいてるんや。何してるんや.”

どない means どう or どっち. I often come across “どないしたらええんや” or “どないしたんや”.

Similarly, the ending じゃない becomes やんか or やん.

I have also often seen せや which means そうだ.

Another transformation is the grammar てしまう which becomes てしもた in the past tense. For example, “忘れてしまった” in standard Japanese becomes 忘れてしもた in Kansai dialect. I found the expression “欲しなってしもたんや” in the novel.

Another thing that I often see is しゃあない which means 仕方ない. For example, I found the sentence: “言うてもしゃあない”. According to Wikipedia, saying 言うて instead of 言って is something that speakers of the Kansai dialect frequently do.

As for the pronunciation, the novel also transcribes how words are generally pronounced in Kansai dialect. For example, while speakers often lengthen some short vowels, long ones are sometimes shortened. Both characters also transformいい into ええ systematically. But these transformations do not hinder much our understanding. For example, the vowel え appears long in the sentence: 電話は出えへん.


That’s it for my first contact with the Kansai dialect! It is of course just a glimpse into it, and there are many other rules. Understanding dialects is not my priority right now so I will not dig further into this subject for the time being. Nevertheless, I am glad to have spent some time working on this because, even if it was merely for the sake of the novel, I still feel that I know a little more about Japanese now.

I hope that I will be able to post my review of the 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」next Wednesday!

10 thoughts on “Reading Notes on the novel「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかる

  1. The intonation is also different from hyoijungo. Whenever some japanese person who speaks standard Japanes tries to say something in kansaiben like naniyanen the intonation is always wrong. It’s very tricky for non kansai people to speak kansai ben.

    Btw It’s easy to remember kansaiben with audio. I would hate it if my first encounter with kansaiben is without audio. Reading unfamiliar dialects sucks imo because the intonation plays a big part

    I’m very comfortable with understanding with kansaiben because there’s so many interesting Japanese people on tv who speak in kansai ben and I love Japanese tv and have seen a lot.The most famous people I could think of is the comedy duo downtown.

    1. Yes, it’s strange to “study” a dialect from a written document because the intonation plays such an important part. I guess my goal was not to get familiar with Kansai dialect, but just to understand the novel.

      I wish I could watch TV programs because I know how good they are to improve one’s listening skills. But I am not used to watching TV and I don’t really like watching variety talk shows.

      I may watch the film adaptation of the novel, it will be a good opportunity to hear the Kansai dialect!

      1. Do you get access to Japanese tv In Korea? Do you watch any tv? What you wrote was kinda cryptic

        1. There is a Japanese channel yes, but I don’t usually watch TV. I’ve tried to watch Korean programs to improve my listening, but I really don’t like watching TV (except for sport). I guess that, if someone who don’t like reading novels in his mother tongue would want to read novels in his target language to improve his reading, he would experience the same problem that I have with TV.

          1. Not necessarily. I like Japanese tv more than Korean tv. I just asked about tv because audio and context are incredibly helpful and effective with learning languages. For me tv was a rich and hilarious source of Japanese. So you are learning Korean on the side as welll??

          2. I’m not really learning Korean now, I just try to maintain my actual level. I have been so wrapped up in learning Japanese these last months, that I haven’t put much effort into Korean for a while.

  2. I think a lot of the stuff you could have figured it out without looking it up if you were to hear it or watch kansai people talk on. Tv

    1. Sorry for the late reply, since I moved my blog to, it seems that I am not notified when I receive comments, I’ll look into it.
      I’ve heard of the Dream of the Red Chamber, but I never read it. I studied a little bit the Classic Chinese Novels at university, but it was the four masterpieces of the Ming dynasty (so it included the Jin Ping Mei rather than the Dream of the Red Chamber), but even for these ones, I only read excerpts in translation. Maybe I’ll read it one day!

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