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I feel like I hear だべ all the time (through TV and on the streets of Yokohama where I live), but I'm wondering about it's origins and modern usage.

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The title and your question seem to be slightly different. –  sawa Aug 24 '11 at 21:21
    
ah but they are intrinsically linked. What it meant in one time and location and what it means in modern times and locations is all related to dialect, I feel. –  Claytonian Aug 24 '11 at 22:38
    
I can tell you that the origin is classical Japanese べし (or some common predecessor), but I'd be interested to read a history showing how we got from there to modern べ (which is why I got the easy part out of the way in a comment). –  Matt Aug 25 '11 at 4:46
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2 Answers

It's Tohoku dialect.

Basically, だべ is だろう, 行ぐべ is 行こう. There are a lot of variations though, as you can say for example だすっぺ for でしょう.

I doubt though that your hear that a lot on TV, except during interviews of people who suffers from the tsunami or nuclear accident. And it would be subtitled anyway…

Edit: Ok, so it seems that だべ is in fact an "coastal" ending. This is why your heard it in Yokohama, while in didn't where I lived. It's used all along the Pacific coast, and is thus not restricted to Tôhoku. I do not know, though, if they use べ without だ as in the examples I gave.

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To be precise, it's Tōhoku and Kantō dialect (they even call our accent/us "Kantō-bei"! classic West/East divide thing), but it has definitely suffered a blow in the Tokyo region due to the influence of 標準語 and people from other prefectures. Still a thing in the surrounding areas though, like Saitama etc. –  Matt Aug 25 '11 at 4:41
    
I have lived in Kanagawa-ken too, and never heard it there… Nor in Tôkyô, even from Tôhoku people… How old are Kantô people talking with this particle? –  Axioplase Aug 25 '11 at 5:24
    
In (northern) Saitama, all ages. I confess I hear it a lot less in Kanagawa, and mostly (but not entirely) from older folks. I imagine that it's probably better preserved in Tohoku because of less outside influence. –  Matt Aug 25 '11 at 5:43
    
I think it's because Saitama borders Gunma, Tochigi (Ashinori-ben, not mainstream Tochigi-ben) and Ibaraki, where usage such dialect is more prominent (Gunma has だんべ). The southern part of Saitama is more similar to that of southern part of Kantō (Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa). –  syockit Aug 25 '11 at 5:59
    
It's Tohoku dialect.では (Touhoku「東北」)ですか??Northern most six prefectures of Honshuの方言ですか? –  ZarNge Aug 25 '11 at 7:44
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I believe べ is the equivalent of the volitional in some, usually considered rural, northern dialects.

For instance, いぐべ = 行こう (with a systematic voicing thrown in for a good measure) of Miyagi-ben.

You can also see "Tohoku Dialects as a Speech of Rednecks: Language Crossing in Japanese TV Programs".

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Nice article on crossing. –  Axioplase Oct 26 '11 at 17:02
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