|Region||Kikai Island of the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture|
The Kikai language (しまゆみた Shimayumita) is spoken on Kikai Island, Kagoshima Prefecture of southwestern Japan. It is debated whether it is a single dialect cluster. Regardless, all Kikai dialects are members of the Amami–Okinawan languages, which are part of the Japonic languages.
As Kikai does not have recognition within Japan as a language, it is officially known as the Kikai Island dialect (喜界島方言 Kikai-jima hōgen).
The classification of Kikai is disputed. Some even dispute the existence of the Kikai cluster.
The languages of the Amami Islands can be divided into the conservative northern group (Northern Amami Ōshima, Southern Amami Ōshima and Tokunoshima) and the innovative southern group (Okinoerabu and Yoron). The problem here is which Kikai belongs to.
It has been noted that northern communities of Kikai are phonologically more conservative and show some similarity to Amami Ōshima and Tokunoshima while the rest of the island is closer to Southern Amami. For example, Northern Kikai retains seven vowels, /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /ɨ/ and /ɘ/ while South–Central Kikai only has five vowels. /k/ is palatalized into /t͡ɕ/ before /i/ in South–Central Kikai but not in Northern Kikai.
For this reason, Nakamoto (1976) disassembled Kikai into two:
By contrast, Karimata (2000) tentatively supported the Kikai cluster in consideration of other shared phonological features. Lawrence (2011) argued that lexical evidence supported the Kikai cluster although he refrained from determining its phylogenetic relationship with other Amami dialects.
There are 33 local communities on Kikai Island. Despite being a small, flat island, Kikai shows considerable variations in lexicon, phonology and morphology. The dialects on the island are mutually intelligible. Northern communities of Onotsu, Shitooke (and Sateku) are phonologically more conservative than the rest of the island.
Iwakura Ichirō (1904–1943), a folklorist from Aden, stated that the language of Kikai Island was called /simajumita/ in the dialect of Aden.
The following is the phonology of the Onotsu dialect, which is based on Shirata (2013b).
As with most Ryukyuan languages to the north of Central Okinawan, stops are described as "plain" C’ and "glottalized" C‘. Phonetically, the two series are aspirated [Cʰ] and tenuis [C˭], respectively.
According to Shirata (2013b), Onotsu dialect has /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/. In more conventional interpretations, two more vowels /ɨ/ and /ɘ/ are added. Shirata analyzes conventional /Ci/ and /Cɨ/ as /Cji/ and /Ci/, respectively. Similarly, /Ce/ and /Cɘ/ are interpreted as /Cje/ and /Ce/.
The following is the phonology of the Kamikatetsu dialect, which is based on Shirata (2013a).
Kamikatetsu has /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/.