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I've observed that in many cases where people are speaking informally and want to make an impact especially in exclamations, the speakers will change diphthongs at the end of words to an elongated え.

Examples are:

すごい -> すげえ

お前【まえ】 -> おめえ

手前【てまえ】 -> てめえ

うるさい -> うるせえ

ひどい -> ひでえ

ない -> ねえ

Some of these being extremely rude.

I'm wondering about how general this is and in what cases it can be used. I'm going to limit myself to 東京弁【とうきょうべん】, as I can imagine there is a lot of variety depending on where the speaker comes from.

Though, in some cases I can see it leading to confusion, like with:

嫌【きら】い -> きれえ

Which sounds like きれい, though maybe just to foreigners and not native speakers, context and tone of voice might also make it abundantly clear.

Also, it'd be nice to get a list of some common words where this can be done, if it is in fact not a very general thing. How productive is this change, and what are the exceptions or rules that prevent this change?

Thanks in advance, and sorry for any Japanese mistakes.

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    "context and tone of voice might also make it abundantly clear" >> Yes! 綺麗 is [きれえ]{HLL} and 嫌え is [きれえ]{LHH} – Chocolate Nov 9 '15 at 5:16
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It is assumed by 東京弁{とうきょうべん} you mean 標準語{ひょうじゅんご} - Japanese Standardised Language. Although there is a dialect called 東京弁 some have argued it contains elements from all the different regional dialects as people have gravitated towards the capital. Further, 東京弁 contains two traditional sub-dialects [山]{やま}の[手]{て}[言葉]{ことば} and 下町言葉{したまちことば} both of which have almost died out (as they were absorbed into the Tokyo standard).

In 標準語 these words do not officially appear (even in spoken examples). However, they do see use especially with younger people and especially with males. Almost all the words you have mentioned sound like they come from a High School to Mid 30 year old male. As to some being "extremely rude", if the initial word before the diphthong edition was rude, the word still retains it's appropriate level of rudeness.

Also to look at some of your examples...

  • うるさい may also be heard as うぜえー
  • 嫌{きら}い does not become きれえ. Your initial assumption about hearing something else was correct.
    • Most often 綺麗{きれい} becomes きれえ.

It is of note that in almost all circumstances using these words will not elicit good responses from people unless you know the person quite well or would like to get into a fight with someone (in the case of referring to anyone as てめえ).

It is most likely to be done to adjectives, but it is difficult to come up with an all encompassing list as this can be done to a great many words. However, here are a few.

  • 寒{さむ}い -> さめえ OR さみい
  • 暑{あつ}い -> あちぇえ OR あちい
  • 安{やす}い -> やせえ
  • 高{たか}い -> たけえ
  • 可愛{かわい}い -> かわええ
  • 強{つよ}い -> ついぇえ
  • 怖{こわ}い -> こうぇえ
  • 短{みじか}い -> みじけえ
  • 長{なが}い -> なげえ
  • 臭{くさ}い -> くせえ
  • うまい -> うめえ
  • でかい -> でけえ
  • まずい -> まっぜえ
  • 偉{えら}い -> えれぇ
  • 小さい -> ちっちぇえ OR ちっちゃい

  • choco also mentions, 赤い -> あけえ

As to the productivity of the change, that is largely based on the speakers preference. It is often seen to be easier to speak as this type of language accentuates rolling between syllables without pauses rather than pausing as you would with 標準語。

The rules / exceptions that prevent the change would be that it isn't considered proper Japanese (標準語) nor is it generally considered gender neutral. Also, some perceive people who talk this way as either a bit "wild" or somewhat uneducated.

Choco also provided a link to a list of 横浜弁 (which seems to be similarly in use in Tokyo proper [link also includes 山形弁と鹿児島弁] and is all in Japanese).

  • I shall include them. I used to hear and read stouch all the time. Turns out it is Australian Slang. I shall change that one to a more understandable word. – The Wandering Coder Nov 9 '15 at 2:47
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    あまり関西では使わないような気が。。。『「赤い→あけえ」「凄い→すげえ」「寒い→さみい」のような二重母音アイ・オイ・ウイの同化融合も「わたい→わて(一人称)」「かい→け(疑問・反語の終助詞)」などの数例を除いて起こらず』Wiki ・・・ 追記:こちらこちらが参考になるかも – Chocolate Nov 9 '15 at 4:54
  • @choco リンクありがとうございます。実際と経験が違ったみたい。関西弁の関係してるところを消しまして、chocoさんからのリンクも含めました。 – The Wandering Coder Nov 9 '15 at 5:27
  • I find this shift particularly interesting as it mirrors the historical loss of diphthongs in the move from Middle Korean to Modern Korean. These diphthongs are the ones still present in the hangul spellings -- 애 "ae" /ɛ/ and 에 "e" /e/, and their palatalized counterparts 얘 "yae" /jɛ/ and 예 "ye" /je/. 애 "ae" was originally a diphthong of 아 "a" /a/ + 이 "i" /i/, while 에 "e" was originally a diphthong of 어 "eo" /ə/ + "i" /i/. This kind of monophthongization appears to be a regular historical process for human speech in general. – Eiríkr Útlendi Nov 9 '15 at 8:51
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It's widely seen in eastern dialects including Tokyo dialect (not Standard Japanese), and heavily dialectal speakers may apply it to almost all diphthongs.

To answer your question, you are not supposed to use it as long as you speak Standard Japanese.

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