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are native
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 = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
words, meaning those words in
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 = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
that have been inherited from
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, ...
, rather than being borrowed at some stage. Together with kango () and
gairaigo is 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 = Imp ...
(), they form one of the three main sources of Japanese words (there is also elaborate
Japanese sound symbolism Japanese has a large inventory of sound symbolic or mimetic words, known in linguistics as ideophone Ideophones are words that evoke an idea in sound, often a vivid impression of certain sensations or sensory perceptions, e.g. sound (onomatop ...
, of mimetic origin). They are also known as . The word "yamato kotoba" itself is composed of native Japanese words, and hence is an
autological word An autological word (also called homological word) is a word that expresses a property that it also possesses (e.g., "word" is a word, "noun" is a noun, "English" is English, " pentasyllabic" has five syllables). The opposite is a heterological w ...
. The synonym ''wago'' is instead a kango, and hence a heterological word.


Lexical function

Yamato kotoba form a fundamental part of the Japanese lexicon, similar to native words (from
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
) in English – while borrowed words are used for many technical terms (particularly kango, as with Latin and Greek in English), or for modern or stylish purposes (mostly gairaigo, as with French in English), much of the core vocabulary and commonly used everyday words are of native origin. As exhibited in the synonyms yamato kotoba/wago, there are often many synonyms from different origins, usually with differences in usage. Very roughly, kango are generally more formal, often restricted to writing, while yamato kotoba are more casual and more often used in speech, but both types of words are commonly used in both speech and writing. In
Japanese name in modern times consist of a family name In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name 300px, First/given, middle and last/family/surname with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This s ...
s, the family name is generally formed from yamato kotoba, as in (yama-shita, mountain-bottom), (oo-oka, big-hill), and (ko-bayashi, small/little-forest), while given names are quite diverse.


Phonology

Yamato kotoba are generally polysyllabic (often three or more syllables), and more closely follow the CV (consonant-vowel, CVCVCV) pattern of Old Japanese. By contrast, kango are often one or two syllables, and more often have terminal consonants,
yōon The , also written as ''yōon'', is a feature of the Japanese language in which a mora is formed with an added sound, i.e., palatalized. ''Yōon'' are represented in hiragana using a kana ending in ''i'', such as き (''ki''), plus a smaller v ...
, and long vowels.


Grammatical function

Yamato kotoba function differently grammatically than borrowed words. While borrowed words can be nouns, which can function as verbs via adding the auxiliary verb , or function attributively via ''-na'' or ''-no,'' with rare exception (such as the verb , from the French word "sabotage," or , from "(to)
google Google LLC is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational stat ...
"), borrowed words cannot become true Japanese verbs (- or -verbs) or adjectives (-adjectives) – these are
closed class In traditional grammar A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer t ...
. Japanese adjectives and grammatical words (notably particles) are also Yamato kotoba. Japanese has a great many
compound verb 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 ...
s, such as (machi-awaseru, to rendezvous, from + ), which are formed from native verbs, not borrowings. However, in nouns, native Japanese roots and Chinese borrowings (and in some cases more modern European borrowings) can combine.


Numbers

For most purposes, Japanese uses Chinese numbers, rather than native numbers. However, native numbers are often used for counting numbers of items up to 10 – as in hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu (one item, two items, three items), notably days on the calendar, and with other
Japanese counter wordIn Japanese, counter words or counters (''josūshi'' 助数詞) are measure words used with Japanese numerals, numbers to count things, actions, and events. In Japanese, as in Chinese classifier, Chinese and Korean count word, Korean, numerals can ...
s – and for various exceptions (
fossils A fossil (from Classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the a ...
). These exceptions include , , , and .


Writing

Yamato kotoba are often written in a mixture of
kanji are a set 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 humans, including speech (spoken language), gest ...

kanji
and
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
. Grammatical words are written using hiragana (there is often a traditional kanji, which is today rarely used), as are the inflectional ends of verbs and adjectives, which are known as
okurigana are kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or diale ...

okurigana
. Content words (nouns, roots of verbs and adjectives) are generally written in kanji with
kun'yomi are a set 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 humans, including speech (spoken language), gest ...
, with the meanings of the kanji used corresponding to the meaning of the word. However, the word may be written in hiragana, particularly if the kanji are uncommon. Further, some yamato kotoba are written using unrelated kanji (used only for their sound value), which is known as
ateji In modern 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 ...
, or using kanji whose meaning is correct but whose sounds are not, which is known as
jukujikun are a set 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 humans, including speech (spoken language), gest ...
. Katakana is generally not used for yamato kotoba, but can be used for emphasis (especially for mimetic words), and for legibility when spelling out a word.


See also

*
Gairaigo is 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 = Imp ...
*
Sino-Japanese vocabulary Sino-Japanese vocabulary or refers to that portion of the Japanese vocabulary that originated in Chinese or has been created from elements borrowed from Chinese. Some grammatical structures and sentence patterns can also be identified as Sino-Jap ...
{{Japanese language Japanese language