Yonaguni language

与那国物言/ドゥナンムヌイ Dunan Munui
Native to Japan
Region Yonaguni
Native speakers
400 (2015)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 yoi
Glottolog yona1241[2]

The Yonaguni language (与那国物言/ドゥナンムヌイ Dunan Munui) is a Southern Ryukyuan language spoken by around 400 people on the island of Yonaguni, in the Ryukyu Islands, the westernmost of the chain lying just east of Taiwan. It is most closely related to Yaeyama. Due to the Japanese policy on languages, the language is not recognized by the government and is instead called the Yonaguni dialect (与那国方言 Yonaguni hōgen).



The table below shows the vowels present in the Yonaguni language. Vowels which are only allophonic appear in parentheses.

Front Near-front Central Near-back Back
Close i u
Near-close (ɪ) (ʊ)
Close-Mid o[a]
Open a (ɑ)
^a [o] can also probably be recognized as an independent phoneme and not just as an allophone of /u/. However, its distribution is very limited. Exluding a few interjections, the only morpheme in which it appears is the sentence-final, exclamatory particle do.


The table below shows the consonants present in the Yonaguni language. Consonants which are only allophonic appear in parentheses. Plosive and affricate phonemes have three-way contrast between fortis, lenis, and voiced consonants.

Labial Labio-
Alveolar Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative (ɸ) s (ɕ) (ç) h
Affricate t͡s (t͡ɕ)
Nasal m n ŋ
Flap ɾ
Approximant (ʍ) w ɪ

Phonological cognates

In the Yonaguni language, as well as in Miyako, Yaeyama, /b/ is cognate with Standard Japanese /w/. Yonaguni also has /d/ where Japanese and other Ryukyuan languages have /j/. Thus, for example, Yonaguni /dami(-n)/ ('to hurt, to ache') is cognate with the archaic or dialectal Japanese verb /jame(-ru)/ ('to hurt, to ache') rather than with Japanese /itam(-u)/ (same meaning). Yonaguni /d/ is probably a recent development from an earlier */j/, however, judging from the fact that even the */j/ in loanwords of Sinitic origin is pronounced /d/ by speakers of the Yonaguni language.

Yonaguni language also exhibits intervocalic voicing of plosives, as do many Japonic languages.

Writing system

Main article: Kaidā logogram

Yonaguni was once written with a unique writing system called Kaidā logograms. However, after conquest by the Ryukyu Kingdom and later annexation by the Empire of Japan, the logograms were replaced by Japanese kana and Chinese characters.


  1. Yamada, Masahiro; Pellard, Thomas; Shimoji, Michinori (2015). Heinrich, Patrick; Miyara, Shinsho; Shimaji, Michinori, eds. Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages: History, Structure, and Use. Handbooks of Japanese Language and Linguistics. 11. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 449–478. ISBN 978-1-61451-161-8.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Yonaguni". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Further reading

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