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🌏 Region(s): Ryukyu (Okinawa)




  1. Indicates the topic or theme of a sentence or string of thought. Topic marker; topic particle.

    In Okinawan, the topic marker や ya is primarily used with proper nouns or names and words ending in a long vowel (e.g. ちゅー chuu ⇒ ちゅーや chuuya "today") or sequence of vowels (むい mui ⇒ むいや muiya "hill"). For words ending in a short vowel or nasal consonant, the topic marker becomes fused, lengthening and changing the vowel quality:

    Sound Topicalized (+や) Example Topicalized
    a あー aa いらな irana "sickle" いらなー iranaa
    i えー ee くり kuri "this" くれー kuree
    u おー oo まーす maasu "salt" まーそー maasoo
    e えー ee    
    おー oo    
    n のー noo いん in "dog" いのー inoo

    The topic marker や ya may also be used for literary or stylistic purposes, so that くり kuri "this" may be topicalized as くりや kuriya in writing.


The Okinawan topic marker や ya and its fused variants likely originate from an older form あ a (common in a number of Japanese dialects), itself a reduction of the form は wa still used in standard Japanese. Supporting evidence for this includes: intervocalic -w- dropping in Okinawan and other Ryukyuan variants (cf. kawakaa "river"); the change o(w)au(w)a ⇒ oo observed in Okinawa (*yowamiyoomi ~ yoon "weak")  and Yaeyama (*uwaoo "pig"); the rarity of the sequence e+a in all Japonic variants; sequences containing three vocalic morae are chiefly not permissible; and the natural progression from aya after the high vowel /i/.


Because the topic marker is bound in Okinawan, it should not be separated from the word it topicalizes in romanization. Thus, ひーじゃーや "goat" should be written hiijaaya rather than separately as hiijaa ya.


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