I have heard on various occasions that modern day keigo was borrowed from Kansai-ben. It states this on Wikipedia:

Historically, extensive use of keigo (honorific speech) was a feature of Kansai-ben, especially Kyoto-ben, while Kantō-ben, from which standard Japanese developed, formerly lacked it. Keigo in standard Japanese was originally borrowed from Kansai-ben. However, keigo is no longer considered a feature of the dialect since Standard Japanese now also has it. Even today, keigo is used more often in Kansai-ben than in the other dialects except for the standard Japanese, to which people switch in formal situations.

but I can't seem to find any credible sources. Does anyone know of any credible sources or more info on this?


1 Answer 1


I'm saying this not as a specialist but based on my studies of bungo (literary Japanese) and as someone who lived in Kansai for 4 years, but as far as I know there is nothing particularly Kansai-ben-ish about the concept of keigo in itself.

What you've heard may have to do with particular forms that keigo uses nowadays, by judging from my own exposure to Kansai-ben, I don't know that this is actually the case.

Keigo itself has always existed in Japanese and was far more elaborate in the older language, the one that is now called bungo or kogo. Some particular forms have there all along, such as using the passive form as an honorific, so even in this sense, keigo is hardly derived from Kansai-ben.

Having said that, Kansai was the cradle of the Japanese civilization that we know today, so in a way, everything related to the high culture started there and spread to the rest of the land.

So I think it's really the other way around - Kansai-ben could be the dialect that preserves the old language the most in terms of structures, vocabulary etc.

  • The quote specifically says that Kantō-ben lacked honorific speech. The claim seems to be that as old Kantō-ben evolved into Modern (standard) Japanese, it borrowed honorific speech from Kansai-ben. I don't see how to reconcile your idea "it's really the other way around" with the claim from the quote and you don't seem to explain why the claim should be incorrect.
    – Earthliŋ
    Jul 28, 2015 at 14:52
  • Perhaps Eleusis phrased it poorly, but it's not that Kansai-ben borrowed keigo from Kantō-ben, it's that people from the Kansai area used keigo more than everyone else or even exclusively. To say that modern Japanese borrows keigo from Kansai-ben is to say that Kansai-ben developed keigo, which from what Eleusis says with regards to their studies of bungo would be untrue.
    – Pandacoder
    Jul 28, 2015 at 17:12
  • I don't know that Edo-speech had no keigo, the article has no source for that claim and I couldn't find sources myself. It sounds rather incredible, since the oldest attested forms of Japanese already had keigo, and Kanto was a backwater that was conquered by Yamato (coming from Kansai) at a very early stage. But if there's a source for that I'd be happy to be enlightened and learn something new.
    – Sunlight
    Jul 28, 2015 at 19:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .