In my book I found both むかしっから and むかしから within the span of a couple pages, in very similar contexts. What is the significance of that small-tsu (with regards to the meaning, not the pronunciation)?

The only place where I can find a distinction is in Google translate:

昔っから ==> Since old times

昔から ==> Always

Is the difference between these as subtle as it seems? Can one be used where the other cannot/sounds unnatural?


Everyone in the comments seems to agree that it's just a matter of emphasis, but I'll add the context @Tim requested. (I wrote it out like it appears in the book, but I added the bold)

The lines are said a few pages apart (which is actually some time), but both are said by two long time friends, one a fighter, the other a healer.

The first one is said by the fighter to the healer. She's saying that he wouldn't have known if anyone was following them.


The second one is said by the healer to the young boy that they're protecting. The fighter's been asleep and the other two are cooking.


  • There's not a lick of difference as far as I know...but [insert JSL disclaimer here]. Oct 10 '12 at 19:55
  • I'll keep this as a comment for now because I don't have a reference but when somebody tells me something has been the case/taking palce for "a long long long time" they will say something that sounds like "mukaash'kara....[nantokayatte kite ita]". (My mother in law comes to mind but it could be anyone.) This sounds like the same thing. If this is in the normal narrative perhaps the writer is just using it to convey this effect (literary license?).
    – Tim
    Oct 10 '12 at 22:01
  • 1
    Possibly related? : とっても versus とても
    – Flaw
    Oct 11 '12 at 1:08
  • @flaw: I agree: it seems to be giving more emphasis, consistent with thoughts (maybe I am actually hearing "mukasssh'kara").
    – Tim
    Oct 11 '12 at 11:00
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    If anyone is making things up, it is not you but Google Translate, I guess. I do not recognize any difference in meanings other than emphasis, but it is difficult to disprove a claim that there might be a difference in usages which most speakers are not aware of. Because Google Translate uses statistical machine translation, it could reveal a tendency which speakers are not aware of, at least in principle. Oct 11 '12 at 16:24

[This answer is based on the discussion. If somebody can improve or add to this please do.]

昔っから is a colloquial variation of the word 昔 ("a long time ago") probably made to provide emphasis in the spoken language. This practice is not restricted to 昔 and was covered in the question "とっても versus とても". If the word's use in the example was not for emphasis then it might be a characteristic of the way the character speaks. I think that is less likely but the two examples you give are quotes from different characters and possibly only one of them is inclined to use this colloquialism. Interestingly we both seem to have heard native speakers vary the their pronunciation of this word for emphasis but not in the same way and not in the way the speaker does in this book, but possibly that is just the nature of spoken language.

Any differences in translation would be due to the translator's choice on what was most appropriate to the context in each passage.

  • Re:"might be a characteristic of the way the character speaks", I think the fighter's usage of あんた is another example of those "characteristics". Both the fighter and the healer are speaking informally, but the fighter seems to speak a little rougher (or something). Oct 14 '12 at 1:45
  • @SomethingJapanese: I did not go into that details but yes I agree with you.
    – Tim
    Oct 14 '12 at 9:02

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