Useful Information about Japanese

The Japanese Language

Japanese language

The origin and classification of the Japanese language is still a subject of considerable debate among linguists.
It has not been possible to determine a clear connection to other languages of the world.
One reason for this is that written Japanese is relatively new, the oldest Japanese documents that we have date back to the 8th Century AD.

One noticeable similarity that Japanese does have is with Korean and ancient Asian languages.
(Turkish languages, Mongolian languages and Tungus languages).
The construction and grammar of Japanese is largely identical to Korean, but apart from a few Chinese words the lexicon of the two languages have little in common.
This shows how difficult classifying Japanese is.
The one proven relation to Japanese is the Ryukyu group of languages spoken on the Ryukyu group of Islands.
However these languages are classified by many Linguists as merely Dialects of Japanese.

A particular characteristic of Japanese

japanese language

A particular characteristic of Japanese is that it is spoken almost exclusively by native speakers.
Therefore Japanese is not a world language, although with 127.7 million native speakers it is the 9th most spoken language in the world.
The largest Japanese expatriate communities are found in the USA and South America (above all Brazil).

A brief history of the Japanese Language

The development of the Japanese language can be divided into five stages:

  • The first and oldest proven stage of Japanese’s development was Old Japanese, which is dated back to the Nara Era (710 to 794)
  • The second stage was Classical Japanese in the Heien Era (794 to 1192)
  • The third stage was Middle Japanese in the Kamakura, Muromachi and Azuchi-Momoyama Eras (1192- 1603)
  • The fourth stage was New Japanese in the Edo Era (1603-1868)
  • The fifth and last stage is Modern Standard Japanese which began with the Meiji Era (1868- present)

The three Japanese scripts

The modern Japanese system of writing is one of the most complex in the world.
It consists firstly of the Kanji system of Ideograms which are derived from the Chinese script.
These ideograms are often used as the basis for many Japanese words.
The others are referred to as the Kana script and consist of the Hiragana and Katakana syllable scripts.
Hiragana is mainly used for grammar.
Katakana is mainly used for foreign language words.
The Roman alphabet, known in Japanese as Romaji, is only used for the transcription of the language.

Would you like to learn more about the Japanese language?

  1. Here is a very informative entry about the Japanese Language from Wikipedia.
  2. Would you like to learn Japanese?
    Here are the Japanese courses from 17 Minute Languages.
    A1/A2: Basic Japanese for Beginners
    B1/B2: Further Japanese for Intermediate Students
    C1/C2: Advanced Vocabulary with over 1800 words
    B2-C2: Business Japanese
  3. Did you know there is a “Test your Japanese” test?
  4. Do you know the “Japan Foundation”?
    This is the official Culture Institute of Japan.
    Its website has a lot of information about the language and culture of Japan.