When I was still in Okinawa I learned how to say "cheers" / "乾杯{かんぱい}".

You can either say just karii or you can use the extended version I pefer karii sabira.

My question is how to write it? I have found things saying katakana is best and others saying hiragana is best, but I'm also not sure the best way to write the long "i".

  • かりいさびら
  • かりーさびら
  • カリイサビラ
  • カリーサビラ

Then while I was looking up just a bit earlier I was surprised to find at least one way to write it in Kanji!

  • 嘉例
  • 佳例

This is just the karii part, so the other options would be the same for the sabira part.

  • According to detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1237843047, さびら corresponds to MSJ します. Assuming they're cognate, this would be a Japonic form, so there'd be no kanji. Not sure if this is part of what you're asking.
    – dainichi
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 1:40
  • Regarding hiragana vs. katakana, I usually see dialects written with hiragana (if the MSJ cognate is written with hiragana), and foreign languages transcribed with katakana. So I guess this ties in with the question of whether Ryukyuan is a separate language.
    – dainichi
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 1:44
  • I'm not looking for a kanji for "sabira". I'm just looking for how best to write "karii sabira" these days out of the forms I've found or any other I don't know about. Of my three books on, in, or about Ryukyuan, they all vary but they're from different eras. I don't know if the speech community has a current preference today in 2014. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 6:34

2 Answers 2


As far as I know, there's nothing like the Joyo list for Okinawan, so there's no "right" way in that sense. Ryukyu University is probably the closest thing to an authority in this area; I'm pretty sure they would write "カリー サビラ" (note space!). I couldn't find it in their Shuri-Naha dialect dictionary, but they did have "クヮッチー サビラ":


My understanding is that they use katakana because their orthography is to be understood as strictly sound-based; not sure if it's also a political statement to emphasize the language/dialect distinction.

However, Ryukyu University are not philosopher-kings of the Ryukyus and so the languages there are written in all kinds of ad-hoc ways. In particular a lot of people write in hiragana because nowadays those are the "friendly" characters, the ones kids learn first and the default for non-foreign words.

I don't think it's possible to boil down the preferences of the entire speech community, but my subjective impression (as an outsider) is that people who are passionate about the language as part of their cultural heritage, with no particular connection to linguistics as an academic discipline, do tend to prefer hiragana.

  • Yes my 100-year old book uses katakana but I noticed hiragana a lot more about the place. Kanji I only noticed when looking up this term. Commented May 5, 2014 at 10:44
  • 1
    Kanji and hiragana, written unphonetically according to Old Japanese roots/cognates, was in fact the official writing system for most of the Ryukyu Kingdom's duration. So calligraphy in Okinawan is generally in kanji and hiragana.
    – ithisa
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:05
  • That's an excellent point -- there might not be an "official" way to write Okinawan right now, but that hasn't always been the case, and back in the day hiragana was preferred. That has to have been a big influence on the present situation (even if the details of how the kana are used are different), one I shouldn't have overlooked.
    – Matt
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:34

Well, I guess the best advisor will be Google. (I'm using exact seach here)

かりいさびら - 24 hits

かりーさびら - 102 000 hits

カリイサビラ - 1 810 hits

カリーサビラ - 794 hits

嘉例さびら - 554 hits

佳例さびら - 3 hits

So judging from the Google opinion - かりーさびら is your choise.

  • 1
    This is interesting, but see Google results may not be as reliable as you imagine. Also interesting is that if we click forward in the results, we get 11, 53, 103, 85, 37, and 3 results respectively. Unfortunately, it's not clear how either set of numbers corresponds to usage, but this second set of numbers appears to point vaguely in the direction of カリイサビラ and カリーサビラ.
    – user1478
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 22:10
  • 1
    Personally, my impression has been that Google searches are most valuable as a source for negative results rather than positive. So in this case, it seems that 佳例さびら is indeed rare, for example, with no examples of actual usage returned by Google, while 嘉例さびら appears to occur in Google's index mainly as a song title.
    – user1478
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 22:12

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