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is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
, where it is the
national language A national language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
. It is a member of the
Japonic Japonic or Japanese–Ryukyuan is a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
(or Japanese- Ryukyuan) language family, and its ultimate derivation and relation to other languages is unclear. Japonic languages have been grouped with other language families such as
Ainu Ainu or Aynu may refer to: *Ainu people, an East Asian ethnic group of Japan and Russian Far East *Ainu languages, a family of languages **Ainu language of Hokkaido **Kuril Ainu language, extinct language of the Kuril Islands **Sakhalin Ainu languag ...
,
Austroasiatic The Austroasiatic languages , also known as Mon–Khmer , are a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and wri ...
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
, and the now-discredited
Altaic Altaic (; also called Transeurasian) is a ''sprachbund A sprachbund (, lit. "language federation"), also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads, is a group of language A language ...
, but none of these proposals have gained widespread acceptance. Little is known of the language's prehistory, or when it first appeared in Japan. Chinese documents from the 3rd century AD recorded a few Japanese words, but substantial texts did not appear until the 8th century. During the
Heian period The is the last division of classical Japanese history The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times around 30,000 BCE. The Jōmon period The is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditi ...
(794–1185) in Japan, the
Chinese language Chinese ( or also , especially for the written language) is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic lan ...
had considerable influence on the
vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), m ...
and
phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonology
of
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period The of the history of Japan The first human inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ...
.
Late Middle Japanese was a stage of the Japanese language is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a ...
(1185–1600) included changes in features that brought it closer to the modern language, and the first appearance of European loanwords. The standard dialect moved from the
Kansai The or the , lies in the southern-central region of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in the north toward the an ...
region in the south, up to the
Edo Edo ( ja, , , "bay-entrance" or "estuary"), also Romanization of Japanese, romanized as Jedo, Yedo or Yeddo, is the geographical renaming, former name of Tokyo. Edo, formerly a ''jōkamachi'' (castle town) centered on Edo Castle located in Musas ...

Edo
region (modern
Tokyo Tokyo (Japanese language, Japanese: , ''Tōkyō'' ), historically known in the west as Tokio and officially the Tokyo Metropolis (, ''Tōkyō-to''), is capital of Japan, the capital and most populous Prefectures of Japan, prefecture of Japan ...

Tokyo
) in the
Early Modern Japanese was the stage of the Japanese language is an spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in , where it is the . It is a member of the (or Japanese-) language family, and its ultimate derivation and is unclear. Japonic languages have ...
period (early 17th century–mid 19th century). Following the end of Japan's self-imposed isolation in 1853, the flow of
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (lin ...
s from European languages increased significantly. English loanwords, in particular, have become frequent, and Japanese words from English roots have proliferated. Japanese is an
agglutinative The middle sign is in Hungarian, which agglutinates extensively. (The top and bottom signs are in Romanian and German, respectively, both inflecting languages.) The English translation is "Ministry of Food and Agriculture: Satu Mare County D ...
,
mora Mora may refer to: Places * Doctor Mora, city in the Mexican state of Guanajuato * Mora (Cordillera), Bolivia * Mora, Cameroon, a town * Mora (canton), Costa Rica * Mora, Cyprus, a village * Mora, Maharashtra, India, a port near Mumbai * Mora, Port ...

mora
-timed language with relatively simple
phonotactics Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). A ...
, a pure vowel system, phonemic vowel and
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...

consonant
length, and a lexically significant pitch-accent. Word order is normally
subject–object–verb In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
with
particles In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can be ascribed several physical property, physical or chemical , chemical properties ...
marking the
grammatical function In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most language ...
of words, and sentence structure is
topic–comment In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment (rheme or Focus (linguistics), focus) is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structure ...
.
Sentence-final particle Sentence-final particles, including modal particles, interactional particles, etc., are minimal lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morp ...
s are used to add emotional or emphatic impact, or make questions. Nouns have no
grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is ...
or
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is a ...
, and there are no articles. Verbs are conjugated, primarily for tense and
voice The human voice consists of sound Voice production, made by a human being using the vocal tract, including Speech, talking, singing, Laughter, laughing, crying, screaming, shouting, humming or yelling. The human voice frequency is specifically a ...
, but not
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
.
Japanese adjectives This article deals with Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
are also conjugated. Japanese has a complex system of honorifics, with verb forms and vocabulary to indicate the relative status of the speaker, the listener, and persons mentioned. Japanese has no demonstrable genealogical relationship with
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
, though in its written form it makes prevalent use of
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
, known as , and a large portion of its vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. The
Japanese writing system The modern Japanese writing system uses a combination of logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by huma ...
also uses two
syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables *Abugida, writing system us ...
(or moraic) scripts: ''
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
'' ( or ) and ''
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
'' ( or ), however
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic writing system based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet, derived from a form of the Cumae alphabet, Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet used by the Etruscan civilizat ...

Latin script
is used in a limited fashion (such as for imported acronyms). The
numeral system A numeral system (or system of numeration) is a writing system for expressing numbers; that is, a mathematical notation for representing numbers of a given set, using Numerical digit, digits or other symbols in a consistent manner. The same s ...
uses mostly
Arabic numerals Arabic numerals are the ten numerical digit A numerical digit (often shortened to just digit) is a single symbol used alone (such as "2") or in combinations (such as "25"), to represent numbers in a Positional notation, positional numeral sy ...

Arabic numerals
, but also traditional
Chinese numerals Chinese numerals are words and characters used to denote number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has bee ...
.


History


Prehistory

Proto-Japonic Proto-Japonic or Proto-Japanese–Ryukyuan is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' ...
, the common ancestor of the Japanese and Ryukyuan languages, is thought to have been brought to Japan by settlers coming from the Korean peninsula sometime in the early- to mid-4th century BC (the
Yayoi period #REDIRECT Yayoi period#REDIRECT Yayoi period The , started at the beginning of the Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in sever ...
), replacing the languages of the original Jōmon inhabitants, including the ancestor of the modern
Ainu language Ainu ( ''Ainu-itak'') or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people The Ainu or the Aynu ( ain, アィヌ, , ; ja, アイヌ, ; russian: Áйны, ), also known as the in historical Japan ...
. Very little is known about the Japanese of this period. Because writing had yet to be introduced from China, there is no direct evidence, and anything that can be discerned about this period must be based on reconstructions of
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period The of the history of Japan The first human inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ...
.


Old Japanese

Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language. Through the spread of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
, the Chinese writing system was imported to Japan. The earliest texts found in Japan are written in
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; Written vernacular Chinese, modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the cla ...
, but they may have been meant to be read as Japanese by the
kanbun A is a form of Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language ...
method. Some of these Chinese texts show influences of Japanese grammar, such as the word order (for example, placing the verb after the object). In these hybrid texts,
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
are also occasionally used phonetically to represent
Japanese particles Japanese particles In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can be ascribed several physical property, physical or chemical ...
. The earliest text, the ''
Kojiki , also sometimes read as ''Furukotofumi'' or ''Furukotobumi'', is an early Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in th ...

Kojiki
'', dates to the early 8th century, and was written entirely in Chinese characters. The end of Old Japanese coincides with the end of the
Nara period The of the history of Japan The first human inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ''Nihon rettō'') is a group of 6,852 islands that form the country of Japan , image_flag ...
in 794. Old Japanese uses the
Man'yōgana is an ancient writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful ...
system of writing, which uses ''kanji'' for their phonetic as well as semantic values. Based on the Man'yōgana system, Old Japanese can be reconstructed as having 88 distinct syllables. Texts written with Man'yōgana use two different ''kanji'' for each of the syllables now pronounced (ki), (hi), (mi), (ke), (he), (me), (ko), (so), (to), (no), (mo), (yo) and (ro). (The ''Kojiki'' has 88, but all later texts have 87. The distinction between mo1 and mo2 apparently was lost immediately following its composition.) This set of syllables shrank to 67 in
Early Middle Japanese The is a stage of the Japanese language is an spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in , where it is the . It is a member of the (or Japanese-) language family, and its ultimate derivation and is unclear. Japonic languages have ...
, though some were added through Chinese influence. Due to these extra syllables, it has been hypothesized that Old Japanese's vowel system was larger than that of Modern Japanese – it perhaps contained up to eight vowels. According to
Shinkichi Hashimoto was a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = ...
, the extra syllables in Man'yōgana derive from differences between the vowels of the syllables in question. These differences would indicate that Old Japanese had an eight-vowel system, in contrast to the five vowels of later Japanese. The vowel system would have to have shrunk some time between these texts and the invention of the ''
kana The term may refer to a number of syllabaries In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...

kana
'' (''
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
'' and ''
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
'') in the early 9th century. According to this view, the eight-vowel system of ancient Japanese would resemble that of the Uralic and
Altaic language Altaic (; also called Transeurasian) is a ''sprachbund'' (i.e. a linguistic area) and proposed language family that would include the Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, Mongolian and Tungusic languages, Tungusic language families and ...
families. However, it is not fully certain that the alternation between syllables necessarily reflects a difference in the vowels rather than the consonants – at the moment, the only undisputed fact is that they are different syllables. A newer reconstruction of ancient Japanese shows striking similarities with Southeast-Asian languages, especially with
Austronesian languages The Austronesian languages (, , , ) are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign ...
. Old Japanese does not have , but rather (preserved in modern ''fu'', ), which has been reconstructed to an earlier *. Man'yōgana also has a symbol for , which merges with before the end of the period. Several fossilizations of Old Japanese grammatical elements remain in the modern language – the genitive particle ''tsu'' (superseded by modern ''no'') is preserved in words such as ''matsuge'' ("eyelash", lit. "hair of the eye"); modern ''mieru'' ("to be visible") and ''kikoeru'' ("to be audible") retain what may have been a mediopassive suffix -''yu(ru)'' (''kikoyu'' → ''kikoyuru'' (the attributive form, which slowly replaced the plain form starting in the late Heian period) > ''kikoeru'' (as all shimo-nidan verbs in modern Japanese did)); and the genitive particle ''ga'' remains in intentionally archaic speech.


Early Middle Japanese

Early Middle Japanese is the Japanese of the
Heian period The is the last division of classical Japanese history The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times around 30,000 BCE. The Jōmon period The is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditi ...
, from 794 to 1185. It formed the basis for the
literary standard The literary norm or linguistic norm or linguistic standard or language norm is a historically determined set of commonly used language assets, as well as rules for their selection and use, which have been recognized by society as the most appropria ...
of
Classical Japanese The classical Japanese language ( ''bungo'', "literary language"), also called "old writing" ( ''kobun''), sometimes simply called "Medieval Japanese" is the literary form A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be ...
, which remained in common use until the early 20th century. During this time, Japanese underwent numerous
phonological Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...
developments, in many cases instigated by an influx of Chinese loanwords. These included phonemic length distinction for both
consonants In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of d ...
and
vowels A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables * ...
, palatal consonants (e.g. ''kya'') and labial consonant clusters (e.g. ''kwa''), and
closed syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of Phone (phonetics), speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often consid ...
s. This had the effect of changing Japanese into a
mora-timed Isochrony is the postulated rhythm Rhythm (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popula ...
language.


Late Middle Japanese

Late Middle Japanese covers the years from 1185 to 1600, and is normally divided into two sections, roughly equivalent to the
Kamakura period#REDIRECT Kamakura period The is a period of History of Japan, Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Kamakura by the first ''shōgun'', Minamoto no Yoritomo. Th ...
and the Muromachi period, respectively. The later forms of Late Middle Japanese are the first to be described by non-native sources, in this case the
Jesuit , image = Ihs-logo.svg , caption = Christogram A Christogram (Latin ') is a monogram or combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ, traditionally used as a Christian symbolism ...
and
Franciscan , image = FrancescoCoA PioM.svg , image_size = 250px , caption = A cross, Christ's arm and Saint Francis's arm, a universal symbol of the Franciscans , abbreviation = OFM , predecessor = , m ...
missionaries; and thus there is better documentation of Late Middle Japanese phonology than for previous forms (for instance, the ''
Arte da Lingoa de Iapam The ''Art of the Japanese Language'' ( pt, Arte da Lingoa de Iapam and in modern Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese lang ...
''). Among other sound changes, the sequence merges to , in contrast with ; is reintroduced from Chinese; and merges with . Some forms rather more familiar to Modern Japanese speakers begin to appear – the continuative ending -''te'' begins to reduce onto the verb (e.g. ''yonde'' for earlier ''yomite''), the -k- in the final syllable of adjectives drops out (''shiroi'' for earlier ''shiroki''); and some forms exist where modern standard Japanese has retained the earlier form (e.g. ''hayaku'' > ''hayau'' > ''hayɔɔ'', where modern Japanese just has ''hayaku'', though the alternative form is preserved in the standard greeting ''o-hayō gozaimasu'' "good morning"; this ending is also seen in ''o-medetō'' "congratulations", from ''medetaku''). Late Middle Japanese has the first loanwords from European languages – now-common words borrowed into Japanese in this period include ''pan'' ("bread") and ''tabako'' ("tobacco", now "cigarette"), both from
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
.


Modern Japanese

Modern Japanese is considered to begin with the
Edo period The or is the period between 1603 and 1867 in the history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a c ...
(which spanned from 1603 to 1867). Since Old Japanese, the de facto standard Japanese had been the
Kansai dialect The is a group of Japanese dialects The dialects of the Japanese language fall into two primary clades, Eastern (including Tokyo) and Western (including Kyoto), with the dialects of Kyushu and Hachijō Island often distinguished as addition ...

Kansai dialect
, especially that of
Kyoto Kyoto (; : , ''Kyōto'' ), officially , is the capital city of in . Located in the on the island of , Kyoto forms a part of the along with and . As of 2021, the city has a population of 1.45 million, making up 57% of the prefecture's total p ...

Kyoto
. However, during the Edo period, Edo (now Tokyo) developed into the largest city in Japan, and the Edo-area dialect became standard Japanese. Since the end of Japan's self-imposed isolation in 1853, the flow of loanwords from European languages has increased significantly. The period since 1945 has seen many words borrowed from other languagessuch as German, Portuguese and English. Many English loan words especially relate to technologyfor example, ''pasokon'' (short for "personal computer"), ''intānetto'' ("internet"), and ''kamera'' ("camera"). Due to the large quantity of English loanwords, modern Japanese has developed a distinction between and , and and , with the latter in each pair only found in loanwords.


Geographic distribution

Although Japanese is spoken almost exclusively in Japan, it has been spoken outside. Before and during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, through Japanese annexation of
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
and
Korea Korea is a region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (environmental ...

Korea
, as well as partial occupation of
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...

China
, the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
, and various Pacific islands, locals in learned Japanese as the language of the empire. As a result, many elderly people in these countries can still speak Japanese. Japanese emigrant communities (the largest of which are to be found in
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
, with 1.4 million to 1.5 million Japanese immigrants and descendants, according to Brazilian
IBGE The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics ( pt, Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística; IBGE) is the agency responsible for official collection of statistical Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, org ...
data, more than the 1.2 million of the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
) sometimes employ Japanese as their primary language. Approximately 12% of
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
residents speak Japanese, with an estimated 12.6% of the population of Japanese ancestry in 2008. Japanese emigrants can also be found in
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = National seal , national_motto ...

Peru
,
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered ...

Argentina
,
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
(especially in the eastern states),
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...

Canada
(especially in
Vancouver Vancouver ( ) is a major city in , located in the region of . As the in the province, the recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The area had a population of 2,463,431 in 2016, making it the . Vancouver has the highe ...

Vancouver
where 1.4% of the population has Japanese ancestry), the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
(notably
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
, where 16.7% of the population has Japanese ancestry, and
California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States. With over 39.3million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the List of states and territories of the United States by population, most populous and the List of ...

California
), and the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
(particularly in
Davao region Davao Region, formerly called Southern Mindanao ( ceb, Rehiyon sa Davao; tl, Rehiyon ng Davao), is an administrative region Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management Management (or managing) is the administra ...
and
Laguna Laguna (Italian and Spanish for lagoon) may refer to: People * Abe Laguna (born 1992), American DJ known as Ookay * Andrés Laguna (1499–1559), Spanish humanist physician, pharmacologist, and botanist * Ana Laguna (born 1955), Spanish-Swedish ba ...
province).


Official status

Japanese has no in Japan, but is the ''
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
''
national language A national language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
of the country. There is a form of the language considered standard: , meaning "standard Japanese", or , "common language". The meanings of the two terms are almost the same. ''Hyōjungo'' or ''kyōtsūgo'' is a conception that forms the counterpart of dialect. This normative language was born after the from the language spoken in the higher-class areas of Tokyo (see
Yamanote and are traditional names for two areas of Tokyo Tokyo (: , ''Tōkyō'' ), historically known in the west as Tokio and officially the Tokyo Metropolis (, ''Tōkyō-to''), is and most populous . Located at the head of , the prefecture fo ...

Yamanote
). ''Hyōjungo'' is taught in schools and used on television and in official communications. It is the version of Japanese discussed in this article. Formerly, standard was different from . The two systems have different rules of grammar and some variance in vocabulary. ''Bungo'' was the main method of writing Japanese until about 1900; since then ''kōgo'' gradually extended its influence and the two methods were both used in writing until the 1940s. ''Bungo'' still has some relevance for historians, literary scholars, and lawyers (many Japanese laws that survived
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
are still written in ''bungo'', although there are ongoing efforts to modernize their language). ''Kōgo'' is the dominant method of both speaking and writing Japanese today, although ''bungo'' grammar and vocabulary are occasionally used in modern Japanese for effect. The 1982 state constitution of
Angaur or Ngeaur is an island and state in the Island country, island nation of Palau. . History The first sighting of Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror, and Peleliu recorded by Westerners was by the Spanish expedition of Ruy López de Villalobos at the end ...
,
Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, t ...

Palau
, names Japanese along with Palauan and English as an official language of the state. However, the results of the 2005 census show that in April 2005 there were no usual or legal residents of Angaur aged 5 or older who spoke Japanese at home at all.


Dialects and mutual intelligibility

Japanese dialects typically differ in terms of
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
, inflectional
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies ...
,
vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed la ...
, and particle usage. Some even differ in
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables ...

vowel
and
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of d ...
inventories, although this is uncommon. In terms of
mutual intelligibility In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
, a survey in 1967 found the four most unintelligible dialects (excluding
Ryūkyūan languages The , also Lewchewan languages, are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands The , also known as the or the , are a chain of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered dee ...
and ) to students from Greater Tokyo are the Kiso dialect (in the deep mountains of
Nagano Prefecture is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basin, endorheic basins. There are currently 44 landlocked countries and 5 list of states with limited r ...
), the Himi dialect (in Toyama Prefecture), the Kagoshima dialect and the Katsuyama, Okayama, Maniwa dialect (in Okayama Prefecture). The survey is based on recordings of 12- to 20- second long, of 135 to 244 phonemes, which 42 students listened and translated word-by-word. The listeners are all Keio University students grew up in the Kanto region. There are some language islands in mountain villages or isolated islands such as Hachijōjima, Hachijō-jima island whose dialects are descended from the Eastern dialect of
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period The of the history of Japan The first human inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ...
. Dialects of the Kansai region are spoken or known by many Japanese, and Osaka dialect in particular is associated with comedy (see
Kansai dialect The is a group of Japanese dialects The dialects of the Japanese language fall into two primary clades, Eastern (including Tokyo) and Western (including Kyoto), with the dialects of Kyushu and Hachijō Island often distinguished as addition ...

Kansai dialect
). Dialects of Tōhoku and North Kantō region, Kantō are associated with typical farmers. The
Ryūkyūan languages The , also Lewchewan languages, are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands The , also known as the or the , are a chain of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered dee ...
, spoken in Okinawa Prefecture, Okinawa and the Amami Islands (politically part of Kagoshima Prefecture, Kagoshima), are distinct enough to be considered a separate branch of the
Japonic Japonic or Japanese–Ryukyuan is a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
family; not only is each language unintelligible to Japanese speakers, but most are unintelligible to those who speak other Ryūkyūan languages. However, in contrast to linguists, many ordinary Japanese people tend to consider the Ryūkyūan languages as dialects of Japanese. The imperial court also seems to have spoken an unusual variant of the Japanese of the time. Most likely being the spoken form of Classical Japanese language, a writing style that was prevalent during the
Heian period The is the last division of classical Japanese history The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times around 30,000 BCE. The Jōmon period The is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditi ...
, but began decline during the late Meiji period. The
Ryūkyūan languages The , also Lewchewan languages, are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands The , also known as the or the , are a chain of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered dee ...
are spoken by a decreasing number of elderly people so UNESCO classified it as endangered, because they could become extinct by 2050. Young people mostly use Japanese and cannot understand the Ryukyuan languages. Okinawan Japanese is a variant of Standard Japanese influenced by the Ryukyuan languages. It is the primary dialect spoken among young people in the Ryukyu Islands. Modern Japanese has become prevalent nationwide (including the Ryūkyū islands) due to education, mass media, and an increase of mobility within Japan, as well as economic integration.


Classification

Japanese is a member of the Japonic languages family, which also includes Ryukyuan languages, the languages spoken throughout the Ryūkyū Islands. As these closely related languages are commonly treated as dialects of the same language, Japanese is often called a language isolate. According to Martine Irma Robbeets, Japanese has been subject to more attempts to show its relation to other languages than any other language in the world. Since Japanese first gained the consideration of linguists in the late 19th century, attempts have been made to show its genealogical relation to languages or language families such as Ainu, Korean, Chinese, Tibeto-Burman languages, Tibeto-Burman, Ural–Altaic languages, Ural-Altaic, Altaic, Uralic languages, Uralic, Mon–Khmer languages, Mon–Khmer, Malayo-Polynesian languages, Malayo-Polynesian and Ryukyuan. At the fringe, some linguists have suggested a link to Indo-European languages, including Greek language, Greek, and to Lepcha language, Lepcha. As it stands, only the link to Ryukyuan has wide support.


Current theories and possibilities

Modern main theories tried to link Japanese on the one hand to northern Asian languages, like Korean language, Korean or the bigger
Altaic Altaic (; also called Transeurasian) is a ''sprachbund A sprachbund (, lit. "language federation"), also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads, is a group of language A language ...
family (also sometimes known as "Transeurasian") and on the other hand to various Southeast Asian languages, especially to Austronesian languages, Austronesian. None of these proposals have gained wide acceptance and the Altaic language family itself is now considered controversial. Other theories view the Japanese language as an early creole language formed through inputs from at least two distinct language groups or as a distinct language of its own that has absorbed various aspects from neighbouring languages. For now, Japanese is classified as a member of the Japonic languages or as a language isolate with no known living relatives if Ryukyuan is counted as dialects.


Phonology


Vowels

All Japanese vowels are purethat is, there are no diphthongs, only monophthongs. The only unusual vowel is the high back vowel , which may be roundedness, compressed rather than rounded and fronted. Japanese has five vowels, and vowel length is phonemic, with each having both a short and a long version. Elongated vowels are usually denoted with a line over the vowel (a Macron (diacritic), macron) in Romanization of Japanese, rōmaji, a repeated vowel character in
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
, or a chōonpu succeeding the vowel in
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
.


Consonants

Some Japanese consonants have several allophones, which may give the impression of a larger inventory of sounds. However, some of these allophones have since become phonemic. For example, in the Japanese language up to and including the first half of the 20th century, the phonemic sequence was Palatalization (sound change), palatalized and realized phonetically as , approximately ''chi'' ; however, now and are distinct, as evidenced by words like ''tī'' "Western-style tea" and ''chii'' "social status". The "r" of the Japanese language is of particular interest, ranging between an apical consonant, apical central consonant, central tap consonant, tap and a lateral approximant. The "g" is also notable; unless it starts a sentence, it may be pronounced , in the Kanto prestige dialect and in other eastern dialects. The
phonotactics Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). A ...
of Japanese are relatively simple. The syllable structure is (C)(G)V(C), that is, a core vowel surrounded by an optional onset consonant, a glide and either the first part of a Gemination, geminate consonant (/, represented as Q) or a Japanese phonology#Moraic nasal, moraic nasal in the coda (/, represented as N). The nasal is sensitive to its phonetic environment and assimilation (linguistics), assimilates to the following phoneme, with pronunciations including . Onset-glide clusters only occur at the start of syllables but clusters across syllables are allowed as long as the two consonants are the moraic nasal followed by a homorganic consonant. Japanese also includes a
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
, which is not represented in syllabic writing; for example ("chopsticks") and ("bridge") are both spelled (''hashi''), and are only differentiated by the tone contour.


Grammar


Sentence structure

Japanese word order is classified as
subject–object–verb In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
. Unlike many Indo-European languages, the only strict rule of word order is that the verb must be placed at the end of a sentence (possibly followed by sentence-end particles). This is because Japanese sentence elements are marked with
particles In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can be ascribed several physical property, physical or chemical , chemical properties ...
that identify their grammatical functions. The basic sentence structure is
topic–comment In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment (rheme or Focus (linguistics), focus) is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structure ...
. For example, ''Kochira wa Tanaka-san desu'' (). ''kochira'' ("this") is the topic of the sentence, indicated by the particle ''wa''. The verb ''de aru'' (''desu'' is a contraction of its polite form ''de arimasu'') is a Copula (linguistics), copula, commonly translated as "to be" or "it is" (though there are other verbs that can be translated as "to be"), though technically it holds no meaning and is used to give a sentence 'politeness'. As a phrase, ''Tanaka-san desu'' is the comment. This sentence literally translates to "As for this person, (it) is Mx Tanaka." Thus Japanese, like many other Asian languages, is often called a topic-prominent language, which means it has a strong tendency to indicate the topic separately from the subject, and that the two do not always coincide. The sentence ''Zō wa hana ga nagai'' () literally means, "As for elephant(s), (the) nose(s) (is/are) long". The topic is ''zō'' "elephant", and the subject is ''hana'' "nose". In Japanese, the subject or object of a sentence need not be stated if it is obvious from context. As a result of this grammatical permissiveness, there is a tendency to gravitate towards brevity; Japanese speakers tend to omit pronouns on the theory they are inferred from the previous sentence, and are therefore understood. In the context of the above example, ''hana-ga nagai'' would mean "[their] noses are long," while ''nagai'' by itself would mean "[they] are long." A single verb can be a complete sentence: ''Yatta!'' () "[I / we / they / etc] did [it]!". In addition, since adjectives can form the predicate in a Japanese sentence (below), a single adjective can be a complete sentence: ''Urayamashii!'' () "[I'm] jealous [of it]!". While the language has some words that are typically translated as pronouns, these are not used as frequently as pronouns in some Indo-European languages, and function differently. In some cases Japanese relies on special verb forms and auxiliary verbs to indicate the direction of benefit of an action: "down" to indicate the out-group gives a benefit to the in-group; and "up" to indicate the in-group gives a benefit to the out-group. Here, the in-group includes the speaker and the out-group does not, and their boundary depends on context. For example, ''oshiete moratta'' () (literally, "explained" with a benefit from the out-group to the in-group) means "[he/she/they] explained [it] to [me/us]". Similarly, ''oshiete ageta'' () (literally, "explained" with a benefit from the in-group to the out-group) means "[I/we] explained [it] to [him/her/them]". Such beneficiary auxiliary verbs thus serve a function comparable to that of pronouns and prepositions in Indo-European languages to indicate the actor and the recipient of an action. Japanese pronouns, Japanese "pronouns" also function differently from most modern Indo-European pronouns (and more like nouns) in that they can take modifiers as any other noun may. For instance, one does not say in English:
The amazed he ran down the street. (grammatically incorrect insertion of a pronoun)
But one ''can'' grammatically say essentially the same thing in Japanese:
Transliteration: ''Odoroita kare wa michi o hashitte itta.'' (grammatically correct)
This is partly because these words evolved from regular nouns, such as ''kimi'' "you" ( "lord"), ''anata'' "you" ( "that side, yonder"), and ''boku'' "I" ( "servant"). This is why some linguists do not classify Japanese "pronouns" as pronouns, but rather as referential nouns, much like Spanish ''usted'' (contracted from ''vuestra merced'', "your [(flattering Majestic plural, majestic) Majestic plural, plural] grace") or Portuguese ''o senhor''. Japanese personal pronouns are generally used only in situations requiring special emphasis as to who is doing what to whom. The choice of words used as pronouns is correlated with the sex of the speaker and the social situation in which they are spoken: men and women alike in a formal situation generally refer to themselves as ''watashi'' ( "private") or ''watakushi'' (also ), while men in rougher or intimate conversation are much more likely to use the word ''ore'' ( "oneself", "myself") or ''boku''. Similarly, different words such as ''anata'', ''kimi'', and ''omae'' (, more formally "the one before me") may refer to a listener depending on the listener's relative social position and the degree of familiarity between the speaker and the listener. When used in different social relationships, the same word may have positive (intimate or respectful) or negative (distant or disrespectful) connotations. Japanese often use titles of the person referred to where pronouns would be used in English. For example, when speaking to one's teacher, it is appropriate to use ''sensei'' (, teacher), but inappropriate to use ''anata''. This is because ''anata'' is used to refer to people of equal or lower status, and one's teacher has higher status.


Inflection and conjugation

Japanese nouns have no grammatical number, gender or article aspect. The noun ''hon'' () may refer to a single book or several books; ''hito'' () can mean "person" or "people", and ''ki'' () can be "tree" or "trees". Where number is important, it can be indicated by providing a quantity (often with a Japanese counter word, counter word) or (rarely) by adding a suffix, or sometimes by duplication (e.g. , ''hitobito'', usually written with an iteration mark as ). Words for people are usually understood as singular. Thus ''Tanaka-san'' usually means ''Mx Tanaka''. Words that refer to people and animals can be made to indicate a group of individuals through the addition of a collective suffix (a noun suffix that indicates a group), such as ''-tachi'', but this is not a true plural: the meaning is closer to the English phrase "and company". A group described as ''Tanaka-san-tachi'' may include people not named Tanaka. Some Japanese nouns are effectively plural, such as ''hitobito'' "people" and ''wareware'' "we/us", while the word ''tomodachi'' "friend" is considered singular, although plural in form. Verbs are Japanese verb conjugations, conjugated to show tenses, of which there are two: past and present (or non-past) which is used for the present and the future. For verbs that represent an ongoing process, the ''-te iru'' form indicates a continuous (or progressive) grammatical aspect, aspect, similar to the suffix ''ing'' in English. For others that represent a change of state, the ''-te iru'' form indicates a perfect aspect. For example, ''kite iru'' means "He has come (and is still here)", but ''tabete iru'' means "He is eating". Questions (both with an interrogative pronoun and yes/no questions) have the same structure as affirmative sentences, but with intonation rising at the end. In the formal register, the question particle ''-ka'' is added. For example, ''ii desu'' () "It is OK" becomes ''ii desu-ka'' () "Is it OK?". In a more informal tone sometimes the particle ''-no'' () is added instead to show a personal interest of the speaker: ''Dōshite konai-no?'' "Why aren't (you) coming?". Some simple queries are formed simply by mentioning the topic with an interrogative intonation to call for the hearer's attention: ''Kore wa?'' "(What about) this?"; ''O-namae wa?'' () "(What's your) name?". Negatives are formed by inflecting the verb. For example, ''Pan o taberu'' () "I will eat bread" or "I eat bread" becomes ''Pan o tabenai'' () "I will not eat bread" or "I do not eat bread". Plain negative forms are ''i''-adjectives (see below) and inflect as such, e.g. ''Pan o tabenakatta'' () "I did not eat bread". The so-called ''-te'' verb form is used for a variety of purposes: either progressive or perfect aspect (see above); combining verbs in a temporal sequence (''Asagohan o tabete sugu dekakeru'' "I'll eat breakfast and leave at once"), simple commands, conditional statements and permissions (''Dekakete-mo ii?'' "May I go out?"), etc. The word ''da'' (plain), ''desu'' (polite) is the Copula (linguistics)#Japanese, copula verb. It corresponds approximately to the English ''be'', but often takes on other roles, including a marker for tense, when the verb is conjugated into its past form ''datta'' (plain), ''deshita'' (polite). This comes into use because only ''i''-adjectives and verbs can carry tense in Japanese. Two additional common verbs are used to indicate existence ("there is") or, in some contexts, property: ''aru'' (negative ''nai'') and ''iru'' (negative ''inai''), for inanimate and animate things, respectively. For example, ''Neko ga iru'' "There's a cat", ''Ii kangae-ga nai'' "[I] haven't got a good idea". The verb "to do" (''suru'', polite form ''shimasu'') is often used to make verbs from nouns (''ryōri suru'' "to cook", ''benkyō suru'' "to study", etc.) and has been productive in creating modern slang words. Japanese also has a huge number of compound verbs to express concepts that are described in English using a verb and an adverbial particle (e.g. ''tobidasu'' "to fly out, to flee," from ''tobu'' "to fly, to jump" + ''dasu'' "to put out, to emit"). There are three types of adjectives (see
Japanese adjectives This article deals with Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
): # ''keiyōshi'', or ''i'' adjectives, which have a Japanese verb conjugations, conjugating ending ''i'' () (such as ''atsui'' "to be hot") which can become past ( ''atsukatta'' "it was hot"), or negative ( ''atsuku nai'' "it is not hot"). Note that ''nai'' is also an ''i'' adjective, which can become past ( ''atsuku nakatta'' "it was not hot"). #: ''atsui hi'' "a hot day". # ''keiyōdōshi'', or ''na'' adjectives, which are followed by a form of the Copula (linguistics), copula, usually ''na''. For example, ''hen'' (strange) #: ''hen na hito'' "a strange person". # ''rentaishi'', also called true adjectives, such as ''ano'' "that" #: ''ano yama'' "that mountain". Both ''keiyōshi'' and ''keiyōdōshi'' may predicate (grammar), predicate sentences. For example,
''Gohan ga atsui.'' "The rice is hot." ''Kare wa hen da.'' "He's strange."
Both inflect, though they do not show the full range of conjugation found in true verbs. The ''rentaishi'' in Modern Japanese are few in number, and unlike the other words, are limited to directly modifying nouns. They never predicate sentences. Examples include ''ookina'' "big", ''kono'' "this", ''iwayuru'' "so-called" and ''taishita'' "amazing". Both ''keiyōdōshi'' and ''keiyōshi'' form adverbs, by following with ''ni'' in the case of ''keiyōdōshi'':
''hen ni naru'' "become strange",
and by changing ''i'' to ''ku'' in the case of ''keiyōshi'':
''atsuku naru'' "become hot".
The grammatical function of nouns is indicated by postpositions, also called
particles In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can be ascribed several physical property, physical or chemical , chemical properties ...
. These include for example: * ''ga'' for the nominative case. : ''Kare ga yatta.'' "He did it." * ''ni'' for the dative case. : ''Tanaka-san ni agete kudasai'' "Please give it to Mr. Tanaka." It is also used for the lative case, indicating a motion to a location. : ''Nihon ni ikitai'' "I want to go to Japan." *However, へ ''e'' is more commonly used for the lative case. : ''pātī e ikanai ka?'' "Won't you go to the party?" * ''no'' for the genitive case, or nominalizing phrases. : watashi no kamera'' "my camera" : ''Sukī-ni iku no ga suki desu'' "(I) like going skiing." * ''o'' for the accusative case. : ''Nani o tabemasu ka?'' "What will (you) eat?" * ''wa'' for the topic. It can co-exist with the case markers listed above, and it overrides ''ga'' and (in most cases) ''o''. : ''Watashi wa sushi ga ii desu.'' (literally) "As for me, sushi is good." The nominative marker ''ga'' after ''watashi'' is hidden under ''wa''. Note: The subtle difference between ''wa'' and ''ga'' in Japanese cannot be derived from the English language as such, because the distinction between sentence topic and subject is not made there. While ''wa'' indicates the topic, which the rest of the sentence describes or acts upon, it carries the implication that the subject indicated by ''wa'' is not unique, or may be part of a larger group.
''Ikeda-san wa yonjū-ni sai da.'' "As for Mr. Ikeda, he is forty-two years old." Others in the group may also be of that age.
Absence of ''wa'' often means the subject is the focus (linguistics), focus of the sentence.
''Ikeda-san ga yonjū-ni sai da.'' "It is Mr. Ikeda who is forty-two years old." This is a reply to an implicit or explicit question, such as "who in this group is forty-two years old?"


Politeness

Japanese has an extensive grammatical system to express politeness and formality. This reflects the hierarchical nature of Japanese society. The Japanese language can express differing levels in social status. The differences in social position are determined by a variety of factors including job, age, experience, or even psychological state (e.g., a person asking a favour tends to do so politely). The person in the lower position is expected to use a polite form of speech, whereas the other person might use a plainer form. Strangers will also speak to each other politely. Japanese children rarely use polite speech until they are teens, at which point they are expected to begin speaking in a more adult manner. ''See uchi-soto''. Whereas ''teineigo'' () (polite language) is commonly an inflectional system, ''sonkeigo'' () (respectful language) and ''kenjōgo'' () (humble language) often employ many special honorific and humble alternate verbs: ''iku'' "go" becomes ''ikimasu'' in polite form, but is replaced by ''irassharu'' in honorific speech and ''ukagau'' or ''mairu'' in humble speech. The difference between honorific and humble speech is particularly pronounced in the Japanese language. Humble language is used to talk about oneself or one's own group (company, family) whilst honorific language is mostly used when describing the interlocutor and their group. For example, the ''-san'' suffix ("Mr" "Mrs." or "Miss") is an example of honorific language. It is not used to talk about oneself or when talking about someone from one's company to an external person, since the company is the speaker's in-group. When speaking directly to one's superior in one's company or when speaking with other employees within one's company about a superior, a Japanese person will use vocabulary and inflections of the honorific register to refer to the in-group superior and their speech and actions. When speaking to a person from another company (i.e., a member of an out-group), however, a Japanese person will use the plain or the humble register to refer to the speech and actions of their own in-group superiors. In short, the register used in Japanese to refer to the person, speech, or actions of any particular individual varies depending on the relationship (either in-group or out-group) between the speaker and listener, as well as depending on the relative status of the speaker, listener, and third-person referents. Most nouns in the Japanese language may be made polite by the addition of ''o-'' or ''go-'' as a prefix. ''o-'' is generally used for words of native Japanese origin, whereas ''go-'' is affixed to words of Chinese derivation. In some cases, the prefix has become a fixed part of the word, and is included even in regular speech, such as ''gohan'' 'cooked rice; meal.' Such a construction often indicates deference to either the item's owner or to the object itself. For example, the word ''tomodachi'' 'friend,' would become ''o-tomodachi'' when referring to the friend of someone of higher status (though mothers often use this form to refer to their children's friends). On the other hand, a polite speaker may sometimes refer to ''mizu'' 'water' as ''o-mizu'' in order to show politeness. Most Japanese people employ politeness to indicate a lack of familiarity. That is, they use polite forms for new acquaintances, but if a relationship becomes more intimate, they no longer use them. This occurs regardless of age, social class, or gender.


Vocabulary

There are three main sources of words in the Japanese language, the ''yamato kotoba'' () or ''wago'' (), ''kango'' (), and ''gairaigo'' (). The original language of Japan, or at least the original language of a certain population that was ancestral to a significant portion of the historical and present Japanese nation, was the so-called ''yamato kotoba'' ( or infrequently , i.e. "Yamato people, Yamato words"), which in scholarly contexts is sometimes referred to as ''wago'' ( or rarely , i.e. the "Wa (Japan), Wa language"). In addition to words from this original language, present-day Japanese includes a number of words that were either borrowed from
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
or constructed from Chinese roots following Chinese patterns. These words, known as ''Sino-Japanese vocabulary, kango'' (), entered the language from the 5th century onwards via contact with Chinese culture. According to the Japanese dictionary, ''kango'' comprise 49.1% of the total vocabulary, ''wago'' make up 33.8%, other foreign words or ''gairaigo'' () account for 8.8%, and the remaining 8.3% constitute hybridized words or ''konshugo'' () that draw elements from more than one language. There are also a great number of words of mimetic origin in Japanese, with Japanese having a rich collection of Japanese sound symbolism, sound symbolism, both onomatopoeia for physical sounds, and more abstract words. A small number of words have come into Japanese from the
Ainu language Ainu ( ''Ainu-itak'') or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people The Ainu or the Aynu ( ain, アィヌ, , ; ja, アイヌ, ; russian: Áйны, ), also known as the in historical Japan ...
. ''Tonakai'' (reindeer), ''rakko'' (sea otter) and ''shishamo'' (Smelts, smelt, a type of fish) are well-known examples of words of Ainu origin. Words of different origins occupy different Register (sociolinguistics), registers in Japanese. Like Latin-derived words in English, ''kango'' words are typically perceived as somewhat formal or academic compared to equivalent Yamato words. Indeed, it is generally fair to say that an English word derived from Latin/French roots typically corresponds to a Sino-Japanese word in Japanese, whereas a simpler Old English, Anglo-Saxon word would best be translated by a Yamato equivalent. Incorporating vocabulary from languages of Europe, European languages, ''gairaigo'', began with Japanese words of Portuguese origin, borrowings from Portuguese in the 16th century, followed by words from Dutch language, Dutch during Japan's sakoku, long isolation of the
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. With the Meiji Restoration and the reopening of Japan in the 19th century, borrowing occurred from German language, German, French language, French, and English language, English. Today most borrowings are from English. In the Meiji era, the Japanese also coined many neologisms using Chinese roots and morphology to translate European concepts; these are known as wasei kango (Japanese-made Chinese words). Many of these were then imported into Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese via their kanji in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, , and are words derived from Chinese roots that were first created and used by the Japanese, and only later borrowed into Chinese and other East Asian languages. As a result, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese share a large common corpus of vocabulary in the same way many Greek- and Latin-derived words – both inherited or borrowed into European languages, or modern coinages from Greek or Latin roots – are shared among modern European languages – see classical compound. In the past few decades, ''wasei-eigo'' ("made-in-Japan English") has become a prominent phenomenon. Words such as ''wanpatān'' (< ''one'' + ''pattern'', "to be in a rut", "to have a one-track mind") and ''sukinshippu'' (< ''skin'' + ''-ship'', "physical contact"), although coined by compounding English roots, are nonsensical in most non-Japanese contexts; exceptions exist in nearby languages such as Korean however, which often use words such as ''skinship'' and ''rimokon'' (remote control) in the same way as in Japanese. The popularity of many Japanese cultural exports has made some native Japanese words familiar in English, including ''futon, haiku, judo, kamikaze, karaoke, karate, ninja, origami, Pulled rickshaw, rickshaw'' (from ''jinrikisha''), ''samurai, Sayonara (disambiguation), sayonara, Sudoku, sumo, sushi, tsunami, tycoon''. See list of English words of Japanese origin for more.


Writing system


History

Literacy was introduced to Japan in the form of the Chinese writing system, by way of Baekje before the 5th century. Using this language, the Japanese king Five kings of Wa, Bu presented a petition to Emperor Shun of Liu Song in AD 478. After the ruin of Baekje, Japan invited scholars from China to learn more of the Chinese writing system. Japanese emperors gave an official rank to Chinese scholars (/ ) and spread the use of Chinese characters from the 7th century to the 8th century. At first, the Japanese wrote in
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; Written vernacular Chinese, modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the cla ...
, with Japanese names represented by characters used for their meanings and not their sounds. Later, during the 7th century AD, the Chinese-sounding phoneme principle was used to write pure Japanese poetry and prose, but some Japanese words were still written with characters for their meaning and not the original Chinese sound. This is when the history of Japanese as a written language begins in its own right. By this time, the Japanese language was already very distinct from the Ryukyuan languages. An example of this mixed style is the
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Kojiki
, which was written in AD 712. They then started to use Chinese characters to write Japanese in a style known as ''man'yōgana'', a syllabic script which used Chinese characters for their sounds in order to transcribe the words of Japanese speech syllable by syllable. Over time, a writing system evolved.
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
(kanji) were used to write either words borrowed from Chinese, or Japanese words with the same or similar meanings. Chinese characters were also used to write grammatical elements, were simplified, and eventually became two syllabic scripts:
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
and
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
which were developed based on Manyogana. Some scholars claim that Manyogana originated from Baekje, but this hypothesis is denied by mainstream Japanese scholars. Yoshinori Kobayashi and Alexander Vovin argued that Japan's Katakana originated from the Gugyeol writing system used during the Silla Dynasty. Hiragana and Katakana were first simplified from Kanji, and Hiragana, emerging somewhere around the 9th century, was mainly used by women. Hiragana was seen as an informal language, whereas Katakana and Kanji were considered more formal and was typically used by men and in official settings. However, because of hiragana's accessibility, more and more people began using it. Eventually, by the 10th century, hiragana was used by everyone. Modern Japanese is written in a mixture of three main systems: kanji, characters of Chinese origin used to represent both Chinese
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (lin ...
s into Japanese and a number of native Japanese morphemes; and two syllabary, syllabaries:
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
and
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
. The
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic writing system based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet, derived from a form of the Cumae alphabet, Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet used by the Etruscan civilizat ...

Latin script
(or romaji in Japanese) is used to a certain extent, such as for imported acronyms and to transcribe Japanese names and in other instances where non-Japanese speakers need to know how to pronounce a word (such as "ramen" at a restaurant). Arabic numerals are much more common than the kanji when used in counting, but kanji numerals are still used in compounds, such as ''tōitsu'' ("unification"). Historically, attempts to limit the number of kanji in use commenced in the mid-19th century, but did not become a matter of government intervention until after Japan's defeat in the Second World War. During the period of post-war occupation (and influenced by the views of some U.S. officials), various schemes including the complete abolition of kanji and exclusive use of rōmaji were considered. The ''jōyō kanji'' ("common use kanji", originally called ''tōyō kanji'' [kanji for general use]) scheme arose as a compromise solution. Japanese students begin to learn kanji from their first year at elementary school. A guideline created by the Japanese Ministry of Education, the list of ''kyōiku kanji'' ("education kanji", a subset of ''jōyō kanji''), specifies the 1,006 simple characters a child is to learn by the end of sixth grade. Children continue to study another 1,130 characters in junior high school, covering in total 2,136 ''jōyō kanji''. The official list of ''jōyō kanji'' was revised several times, but the total number of officially sanctioned characters remained largely unchanged. As for kanji for personal names, the circumstances are somewhat complicated. ''Jōyō kanji'' and ''jinmeiyō kanji'' (an appendix of additional characters for names) are approved for registering personal names. Names containing unapproved characters are denied registration. However, as with the list of ''jōyō kanji'', criteria for inclusion were often arbitrary and led to many common and popular characters being disapproved for use. Under popular pressure and following a court decision holding the exclusion of common characters unlawful, the list of ''jinmeiyō kanji'' was substantially extended from 92 in 1951 (the year it was first decreed) to 983 in 2004. Furthermore, families whose names are not on these lists were permitted to continue using the older forms.


Hiragana

''Hiragana'' are used for words without kanji representation, for words no longer written in kanji, and also following kanji to show conjugational endings. Because of the way verbs (and adjectives) in Japanese are Japanese verb conjugations, conjugated, kanji alone cannot fully convey Japanese tense and mood, as kanji cannot be subject to variation when written without losing their meaning. For this reason, hiragana are appended to kanji to show verb and adjective conjugations. Hiragana used in this way are called okurigana. Hiragana can also be written in a superscript called furigana above or beside a kanji to show the proper reading. This is done to facilitate learning, as well as to clarify particularly old or obscure (or sometimes invented) readings.


Katakana

''Katakana'', like hiragana, constitute a syllabary; katakana are primarily used to write foreign words, plant and animal names, and for emphasis. For example, "Australia" has been adapted as ''Ōsutoraria'' (), and "supermarket" has been adapted and shortened into ''sūpā'' (). Alexander Vovin argued that Japan's Katakana originated from the Gugyeol writing system used during the Silla Dynasty. Yoshinori Kobayashi of Hiroshima University asserted the hypothesis that Katakana originated from Gugyeol.


Non-native study

Many major universities throughout the world provide Japanese language courses, and a number of secondary and even primary schools worldwide offer courses in the language. This is a significant increase from before
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; in 1940, only 65 Americans not Japanese American, of Japanese descent were able to read, write and understand the language.Beate Sirota Gordon commencement address at Mills College, 14 May 2011
"Sotomayor, Denzel Washington, GE CEO Speak to Graduates,"
C-SPAN (US). 30 May 2011; retrieved 2011-05-30
International interest in the Japanese language dates from the 19th century but has become more prevalent following Japan's economic bubble of the 1980s and the global popularity of Japanese popular culture (such as anime and video games) since the 1990s. As of 2015, more than 3.6 million people studied the language worldwide, primarily in East and Southeast Asia. Nearly one million Chinese, 745,000 Indonesians, 556,000 South Koreans and 357,000 Australians studied Japanese in lower and higher educational institutions. Between 2012 and 2015, considerable growth of learners originated in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
(20.5%), Thailand (34.1%), Vietnam (38.7%) and the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
(54.4%). The Japanese government provides standardized tests to measure spoken and written comprehension of Japanese for second language learners; the most prominent is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which features five levels of exams. The JLPT is offered twice a year.


See also

* Aizuchi * Culture of Japan * Japanese dictionaries * Japanese exonyms * Japanese language and computers * Japanese literature * Japanese name * Japanese orthography issues * Japanese punctuation * Japanese profanity * Japanese Sign Language family * Wiktionary:Japanese language, Japanese words and Wiktionary:Japanese derivations, words derived from Japanese in other languages at Wiktionary, Wikipedia's sibling project * Classical Japanese language * Romanization of Japanese ** Hepburn romanization * ''Shogakukan Progressive Japanese-English Dictionary, Shogakukan Progressive Japanese–English Dictionary'' (book) * Rendaku * Yojijukugo *Other: **History of writing in Vietnam, History of Writing in Vietnam


Notes


References


Citations


Works cited

* Bloch, Bernard (1946). Studies in colloquial Japanese I: Inflection. ''Journal of the American Oriental Society'', ''66'', pp. 97–130. * Bloch, Bernard (1946). Studies in colloquial Japanese II: Syntax. ''Language'', ''22'', pp. 200–248. * Chafe, William L. (1976). Giveness, contrastiveness, definiteness, subjects, topics, and point of view. In C. Li (Ed.), ''Subject and topic'' (pp. 25–56). New York: Academic Press. . * Dalby, Andrew. (2004)
"Japanese,"
in ''Dictionary of Languages: the Definitive Reference to More than 400 Languages.'' New York: Columbia University Press. ; * * * Kuno, Susumu (1973). ''The structure of the Japanese language''. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. . * Kuno, Susumu. (1976). "Subject, theme, and the speaker's empathy: A re-examination of relativization phenomena," in Charles N. Li (Ed.), ''Subject and topic'' (pp. 417–444). New York: Academic Press. . * * McClain, Yoko Matsuoka. (1981). ''Handbook of modern Japanese grammar:'' [''Kōgo Nihon bumpō'']. Tokyo: Hokuseido Press. . * Miller, Roy (1967). ''The Japanese language''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. * Miller, Roy (1980). ''Origins of the Japanese language: Lectures in Japan during the academic year, 1977–78''. Seattle: University of Washington Press. . * Mizutani, Osamu; & Mizutani, Nobuko (1987). ''How to be polite in Japanese:'' [''Nihongo no keigo'']. Tokyo: The Japan Times. . * * * Shibamoto, Janet S. (1985). ''Japanese women's language''. New York: Academic Press. . Graduate Level * (pbk). * Tsujimura, Natsuko (1996). ''An introduction to Japanese linguistics''. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. (hbk); (pbk). Upper Level Textbooks * Tsujimura, Natsuko (Ed.) (1999). ''The handbook of Japanese linguistics''. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. . Readings/Anthologies * *


Further reading

* * * *


External links


National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics

Japanese Language Student's Handbook
* {{Authority control Japanese language, Agglutinative languages Languages attested from the 8th century Languages of Japan Languages of Palau Subject–object–verb languages