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!