As is well known there are many different dialects in Japan. There are many examples where the vocabulary, the grammar and/or the pronunciation are different in different dialects. It recently occurred to me that the 読み of a 漢字 may be dependent on the dialect as well.

For example, I am wondering whether 赤い is always read as あかい regardless of the dialect, even though the pronunciation of あかい may be different in different dialects. To give another example, if 日本 appears in an article, is it always read as if にほん or にっぽん had been written there, or are there any chances that it would be interpreted as something else in terms of kanas based on dialects.

To reiterate, I am not asking about the differences in pronunciations between dialects, I am asking whether the way a 漢字 is interpreted in terms of kanas (that is how 読み is usually defined) can be different in different dialects. I would also like to exclude 名乗り読み and the names of places since those are a little bit too convoluted. I am also aware that the accents may be different in different dialects (the classsical example being various 漢字 read as はし), I am interested in differences beyond the accents. I have done a little preliminary research on the topic and it seems the answer is that the 読み are always the same (I may be using the wrong keywords though), but I would like to confirm this is indeed the case.

I would really appreciate it if anyone can confirm that it is indeed the case, or if it is not, provide a non-exhaustive list of cases where the 読み are different in different dialects.

  • 1
    海人 (うみんちゅ in Okinawa, あま elsewhere) came to my mind. This page and this page have several other examples, and there should be many more.
    – naruto
    Nov 23, 2021 at 9:06
  • Thank you very much. They look really interesting. Would you mind writing an answer based on these? Nov 23, 2021 at 9:10
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    関東煮 came to my mind. The last character is read as だき in Kansai, from the verb たく, rather than に from にる. This is due to a difference in vocabulary.
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 23, 2021 at 9:16
  • Thank you very much. That is interesting to know. I didn't know much about 海人 but 明明後日 in naruto's comment and 関東煮 seem to be words that are quite commonly used. Nov 23, 2021 at 9:21
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    I think the name 関東煮 is used only in Kansai, though. Definitely not in Kanto...
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 23, 2021 at 9:25

1 Answer 1


It's up to the author whether to write a certain dialectal word in kana or in kanji with furigana. For example, there are many words for snail in Japanese, most of which are typically written in kana but have also been assigned to the kanji 蝸牛 as jukujikun. You can read this page to see various furigana have been actually put on top of 蝸牛 by novelists from various parts of Japan (蝸牛【かぎゅう】, 蝸牛【かたつむり】, 蝸牛【でんでんむし】, 蝸牛【なめくずら】, 蝸牛【まいまいつぶろ】...). Therefore, it is only natural to me that different dialects can have different ways of reading a kanji word.

Now you may ask: Would an average speaker of modern standard Japanese ever intentionally change the reading of a certain kanji word because a certain dialect is being used? Aside from proper nouns, I don't think there are many such examples, but one example would be 海人; the ordinary reading of this is あま, but even Tokyoites may read it as うみんちゅ when they know the context is related to Okinawa.

  • I think your reasoning that the different dialects can have different ways of reading based on the 蝸牛 example makes much sense to me. The "now you may ask" part is also great. It is actually one of the questions I intend to ask. Thank you very much for your great comment and answer. Nov 23, 2021 at 10:26

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