Japonic language
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Japonic or Japanese–Ryukyuan, sometimes also Japanic, is a
language family A language family is a group of languages related through Genetic relationship (linguistics), descent from a common ''ancestral language'' or ''parental language'', called the proto-language of that family. The term "family" reflects the tree m ...
comprising
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
, spoken in the main islands of Japan, and the
Ryukyuan languages The , also Lewchewan or Luchuan (), are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands, the southernmost part of the Japanese archipelago. Along with the Japanese language and the Hachijō language, they make up the Japonic language family. Al ...
, spoken in the
Ryukyu Islands The , also known as the or the , are a chain of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea o ...
. The family is universally accepted by
linguist Linguistics is the science, scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure ...
s, and significant progress has been made in reconstructing the
proto-language In the tree model of historical linguistics, a proto-language is a postulated ancestral language from which a number of attested languages are believed to have descended by evolution, forming a language family. Proto-languages are usually unat ...
. The reconstruction implies a split between all dialects of Japanese and all Ryukyuan varieties, probably before the 7th century. The Hachijō language, spoken on the Izu Islands, is also included, but its position within the family is unclear. Most scholars believe that Japonic was brought to the
Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ''Nihon rettō'') is a archipelago, group of 6,852 islands that form the country of Japan, as well as the Russian island of Sakhalin. It extends over from the Sea of Okhotsk in the northeast to t ...
from the
Korean peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
with the Yayoi culture during the 1st millennium BC. There is some fragmentary evidence suggesting that Japonic languages may still have been spoken in central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula (see
Peninsular Japonic The Peninsular Japonic languages are now-extinct Japonic languages that most linguists believe, based on traces in ancient texts, were formerly spoken in the central and southern parts of the Korea, Korean Peninsula. The most-cited evidence com ...
) in the early centuries AD. Possible genetic relationships with many other language families have been proposed, most systematically with Koreanic, but none have been conclusively demonstrated.


Classification

The extant Japonic languages comprise two well-defined branches: Japanese and Ryukyuan. Most scholars believe that Japonic was brought to northern Kyushu from the
Korean peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
around 700 to 300 BC by wet-rice farmers of the Yayoi culture and spread throughout the
Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ''Nihon rettō'') is a archipelago, group of 6,852 islands that form the country of Japan, as well as the Russian island of Sakhalin. It extends over from the Sea of Okhotsk in the northeast to t ...
, replacing indigenous languages. The former wider distribution of
Ainu languages The Ainu languages ( ), sometimes known as Ainuic, are a small language family, often regarded as a language isolate, historically spoken by the Ainu people of northern Japan and neighboring islands. The primary varieties of Ainu are alternately ...
is confirmed by placenames in northern
Honshu , historically called , is the largest and most populous island of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the we ...
ending in < Ainu 'river' and < Ainu 'stream'. Somewhat later, Japonic languages also spread southward to the
Ryukyu Islands The , also known as the or the , are a chain of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea o ...
. There is fragmentary placename evidence that now-extinct Japonic languages were still spoken in central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula several centuries later.


Japanese

Japanese is the national language of
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...
, where it is spoken by about 126 million people. The oldest attestation is
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period (8th century). It became Early Middle Japanese in the succeeding Heian period, but the precise delimitation of the stages is controversial. Old Jap ...
, which was recorded using
Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system where they are known as ''kanji ...
in the 7th and 8th centuries. It differed from Modern Japanese in having a simple (C)V syllable structure and avoiding vowel sequences. The script also distinguished eight vowels (or diphthongs), with two each corresponding to modern ''i'', ''e'' and ''o''. Most of the texts reflect the speech of the area around
Nara The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is an "Independent agencies of the United States government, independent federal agency of the United States government within the executive branch", charged with the preservation and doc ...
, the eighth-century Japanese capital, but over 300 poems were written in eastern dialects of Old Japanese. The language experienced a massive influx of
Sino-Japanese vocabulary Sino-Japanese vocabulary, also known as refers to Japanese vocabulary that had originated in Chinese language, Chinese or were created from elements borrowed from Chinese. Some grammatical structures and sentence patterns can also be identified as ...
after the introduction of
Buddhism Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
in the 6th century and peaking with the wholesale importation of Chinese culture in the 8th and the 9th centuries. The loanwords now account for about half the lexicon. They also affected the sound system of the language by adding compound vowels, syllable-final nasals, and geminate consonants, which became separate morae. Modern mainland Japanese dialects, spoken on
Honshu , historically called , is the largest and most populous island of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the we ...
,
Kyushu is the third-largest island of Japan's Japanese archipelago, five main islands and the most southerly of the four largest islands (i.e. excluding Okinawa Island, Okinawa). In the past, it has been known as , and . The historical regional name ...
,
Shikoku is the smallest of the List of islands of Japan#Main islands, four main islands of Japan. It is long and between wide. It has a population of 3.8 million (, 3.1%). It is south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu. Shikoku's ancient names ...
, and
Hokkaido is Japan's second largest island and comprises the largest and northernmost prefecture, making up its own region. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaidō from Honshu; the two islands are connected by the undersea railway Seikan Tunnel. The l ...
, are generally grouped as follows: * Eastern Japanese, including most dialects from
Nagoya is the largest city in the Chūbu region, the List of Japanese cities by population, fourth-most populous city and third most populous urban area in Japan, with a population of 2.3million in 2020. Located on the Pacific Ocean, Pacific coast i ...
east, including the modern standard
Tokyo dialect The Tokyo dialect () is a variety of Japanese language is spoken natively by about 128 million people, primarily by Japanese people and primarily in Japan, the only country where it is the national language. Japanese belongs to the Japoni ...
. * Western Japanese, including most dialects west of Nagoya, including the Kyoto dialect. * Kyushu dialects, spoken on the island of Kyushu, including the
Kagoshima dialect The , often referred to as the , is a group of dialects or dialect continuum of the Japanese language spoken mainly within the area of the former Ōsumi Province, Ōsumi and Satsuma Province, Satsuma Provinces of Japan, provinces now incorporat ...
/Satsugū dialect, spoken in
Kagoshima Prefecture is a Prefectures of Japan, prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu and the Ryukyu Islands. Kagoshima Prefecture has a population of 1,599,779 (1 January 2020) and has a geographic area of 9,187 Square kilometre, km2 (3,547 Square mile ...
in southern Kyushu. The early capitals of Nara and
Kyoto Kyoto (; Japanese language, Japanese: , ''Kyōto'' ), officially , is the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture in Japan. Located in the Kansai region on the island of Honshu, Kyoto forms a part of the Keihanshin, Keihanshin metropolitan area along wi ...
lay within the western area, and their
Kansai dialect The is a group of Japanese dialects in the Kansai region (Kinki region) of Japan. In Japanese, is the common name and it is called in technical terms. The dialects of Kyoto and Osaka are known as , and were particularly referred to as suc ...
retained its prestige and influence long after the capital was moved to
Edo Edo ( ja, , , "bay-entrance" or "estuary An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between ...
(modern Tokyo) in 1603. Indeed, the Tokyo dialect has several western features not found in other eastern dialects. The Hachijō language, spoken on Hachijō-jima and the Daitō Islands, including Aogashima, is highly divergent and varied. It has a mix of conservative features inherited from Eastern Old Japanese and influences from modern Japanese, making it difficult to classify. Hachijō is an
endangered language An endangered language or moribund language is a language that is at risk of disappearing as its speakers Language death, die out or language shift, shift to speaking other languages. Language loss occurs when the language has no more native spea ...
, with a small population of elderly speakers.


Ryukyuan

The Ryukyuan languages were originally and traditionally spoken throughout the
Ryukyu Islands The , also known as the or the , are a chain of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea o ...
, an
island arc Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries. Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the lithosphere into the mantle alon ...
stretching between the southern Japanese island of Kyushu and the
island of Taiwan Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a Country, country in East Asia, at the junction of the East China Sea, East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) ...
. Most of them are considered "definitely" or "critically endangered" because of the spread of mainland Japanese. Since Old Japanese displayed several innovations that are not shared with Ryukyuan, the two branches must have separated before the 7th century. The move from Kyushu to the Ryukyus may have occurred later and possibly coincided with the rapid expansion of the agricultural Gusuku culture in the 10th and 11th centuries. Such a date would explain the presence in Proto-Ryukyuan of Sino-Japanese vocabulary borrowed from Early Middle Japanese. After the migration to the Ryukyus, there was limited influence from mainland Japan until the conquest of the
Ryukyu Kingdom The Ryukyu Kingdom, Middle Chinese: , , Classical Chinese: (), Historical English language, English names: ''Lew Chew'', ''Lewchew'', ''Luchu'', and ''Loochoo'', Historical French name: ''Liou-tchou'', Historical Dutch name: ''Lioe-kioe'' wa ...
by the
Satsuma Domain The , briefly known as the , was a Han system, domain (''han'') of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan during the Edo period from 1602 to 1871. The Satsuma Domain was based at Kagoshima Castle in Satsuma Province, the core of the modern city of ...
in 1609. Ryukyuan varieties are considered dialects of Japanese in Japan but have little intelligibility with Japanese or even among one another. They are divided into northern and southern groups, corresponding to the physical division of the chain by the 250 km-wide Miyako Strait.
Northern Ryukyuan languages The Northern Ryukyuan languages are a group of languages spoken in the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture and the Okinawa Islands, Okinawa Prefecture of southwestern Japan. It is one of two primary branches of the Ryukyuan languages, which are t ...
are spoken in the northern part of the chain, including the major
Amami The The name ''Amami-guntō'' was standardized on February 15, 2010. Prior to that, another name, ''Amami shotō'' (奄美諸島), was also used. is an archipelago in the Satsunan Islands, which is part of the Ryukyu Islands, and is southwest of ...
and Okinawa Islands. They form a single
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated vari ...
, with mutual unintelligibility between widely-separated varieties. The major varieties are, from northeast to southwest: * Kikai, on the island of Kikaijima. * Northern Amami Ōshima, spoken in most of Amami Ōshima * Southern Amami Ōshima, spoken in Setouchi on the southern end of Amami Ōshima. * Tokunoshima, on the island of Tokunoshima. * Okinoerabu, on the island of Okinoerabujima * Yoron, on the island of Yoronjima. * Northern Okinawan, spoken in the northern part of
Okinawa Island is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu Islands, Ryukyu (''Nansei'') Islands of Japan in the Kyushu region. It is the smallest and least populated of the five Japanese archipelago, main islands of Japan. The island is approximately ...
, including the cities of Nakijin and Nago. * (Central) Okinawan, spoken in the central and southern parts of Okinawa Island, and neighboring islands. The prestige dialect is spoken in
Naha is the Cities of Japan, capital city of Okinawa Prefecture, the southernmost prefecture of Japan. As of 1 June 2019, the city has an estimated population of 317,405 and a population density of 7,939 persons per km2 (20,562 persons per sq. mi.). ...
, and the former city of Shuri. The Shuri dialect was the lingua franca of the Ryukyuan Kingdom, and was first recorded in the 16th century, particularly in the '' Omoro Sōshi'' anthology. There is no agreement on the subgrouping of the varieties. One proposal, adopted by the UNESCO ''
Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger The UNESCO ''Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger'' is an online publication containing a comprehensive list of the world's endangered languages. It originally replaced the ''Red Book of Endangered Languages'' as a title in print after a ...
'', has three subgroups, with the central "Kunigami" branch comprising varieties from Southern Amami to Northern Okinawan, based on similar vowel systems and patterns of lenition of stops. Pellard suggests a binary division based on shared innovations, with an Amami group including the varieties from Kikai to Yoron, and an Okinawa group comprising the varieties of Okinawa and smaller islands to its west. Southern Ryukyuan languages are spoken in the southern part of the chain, the
Sakishima Islands The (or 先島群島, ''Sakishima-guntō'') (Okinawan language, Okinawan: ''Sachishima'', Miyakoan language, Miyako: ''Saksїzїma'', Yaeyama language, Yaeyama: ''Sakїzїma'', Yonaguni language, Yonaguni: ''Satichima'') are an archipelago loca ...
. They comprise three distinct dialect continua: * Miyako is spoken in the
Miyako Islands The (also Miyako Jima group) are a group of islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, belonging to the Ryukyu Islands. They are situated between the Okinawa Island and Yaeyama Islands. In the early 1870s, the population of the islands was estima ...
, with dialects on Irabu and Tarama. * Yaeyama is spoken in the
Yaeyama Islands The Yaeyama Islands (八重山列島 ''Yaeyama-rettō'', also 八重山諸島 ''Yaeyama-shotō'', Yaeyama language, Yaeyama: ''Yaima'', Yonaguni language, Yonaguni: ''Daama'', Okinawan language, Okinawan: ''Yeema'', Northern Ryukyuan languages ...
(except Yonaguni), with dialects on each island, but primarily
Ishigaki Island , also known as ''Ishigakijima'', is a Japanese island south-west of Okinawa Hontō and the second-largest island of the Yaeyama Islands, Yaeyama Island group, behind Iriomote Island. It is located approximately south-west of Okinawa Hontō. I ...
, Iriomote Island, and Taketomi Island. *
Yonaguni , one of the Yaeyama Islands, is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan, lying from the east coast of Taiwan, between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean proper. The island is administered as the Towns of Japan, town of Yonaguni, Okina ...
, spoken on Yonaguni Island, is phonologically distinct but lexically closer to other Yaeyama varieties. The southern Ryukyus were settled by Japonic-speakers from the northern Ryukyus in the 13th century, leaving no linguistic trace of the indigenous inhabitants of the islands.


Alternative classifications

An alternative classification, based mainly on the development of the
pitch accent A pitch-accent language, when spoken, has word Accentuation, 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 (music), pitch (tone (linguisti ...
, groups the highly divergent
Kagoshima dialect The , often referred to as the , is a group of dialects or dialect continuum of the Japanese language spoken mainly within the area of the former Ōsumi Province, Ōsumi and Satsuma Province, Satsuma Provinces of Japan, provinces now incorporat ...
s of southwestern
Kyushu is the third-largest island of Japan's Japanese archipelago, five main islands and the most southerly of the four largest islands (i.e. excluding Okinawa Island, Okinawa). In the past, it has been known as , and . The historical regional name ...
with Ryukyuan in a Southwestern branch. In the following revised internal classification by Elisabeth de Boer, Japanese is
paraphyletic In taxonomy, a group is paraphyletic if it consists of the group's last common ancestor and most of its descendants, excluding a few monophyletic subgroups. The group is said to be paraphyletic ''with respect to'' the excluded subgroups. In ...
within Japonic, with the Ryukyuan languages classified within one of the various branches of Japanese. *Japonic **Eastern
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period (8th century). It became Early Middle Japanese in the succeeding Heian period, but the precise delimitation of the stages is controversial. Old Jap ...
***Izu Islands **** Hachijō, South Izu Islands ****North Izu Islands ***Kantō-Echigo **** Kantō ****
Echigo was an old provinces of Japan, old province in north-central Japan, on the shores of the Sea of Japan. It bordered on Uzen Province, Uzen, Iwashiro Province, Iwashiro, Kōzuke Province, Kōzuke, Shinano Province, Shinano, and Etchū Province, ...
*** Nagano-Yamanashi-Shizuoka **Central
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period (8th century). It became Early Middle Japanese in the succeeding Heian period, but the precise delimitation of the stages is controversial. Old Jap ...
*** Ishikawa-Toyama *** Gifu-Aichi *** Kinki-Totsukawa ***
Shikoku is the smallest of the List of islands of Japan#Main islands, four main islands of Japan. It is long and between wide. It has a population of 3.8 million (, 3.1%). It is south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu. Shikoku's ancient names ...
*** Chūgoku ** Izumo- Tōhoku ***Conservative Izumo-Tōhoku ****Shimokita, East Iwate ****Peripheral Izumo ***Innovative Izumo-Tōhoku ****Tōhoku ****Central Izumo **Kyūshū-Ryūkyū *** Northeast Kyūshū *** Southeast Kyūshū ***West & South Kyūshū-Ryūkyū **** West Kyūshū ****South Kyūshū-Ryūkyū ***** South Kyūshū ***** Ryukyuan


Peninsular Japonic

There is fragmentary evidence suggesting that now-extinct Japonic languages were spoken in the central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula. Vovin calls these languages Peninsular Japonic and groups Japanese and Ryukyuan as . The most-cited evidence comes from chapter 37 of the (compiled in 1145), which contains a list of pronunciations and meanings of placenames in the former kingdom of
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
. As the pronunciations are given using
Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system where they are known as ''kanji ...
, they are difficult to interpret, but several of those from central Korea, in the area south of the Han River captured from
Baekje Baekje or Paekche (, ) was a Korean kingdom located in southwestern Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Kor ...
in the 5th century, seem to correspond to Japonic words. Scholars differ on whether they represent the language of Goguryeo or the people that it conquered. Traces from the south of the peninsula are very sparse: * The
Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Korean kingdom located on the southern and central parts of the Korea, Korean Peninsula. Silla, along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdom ...
placenames listed in Chapter 34 of the are not glossed, but many of them can be explained as Japonic words. * Alexander Vovin proposes Japonic etymologies for two of four Baekje words given in the '' Book of Liang'' (635). * A single word is explicitly attributed to the language of the southern
Gaya confederacy Gaya (, ) was a Korean confederacy of territorial polities in the Nakdong River basin of southern Korea, growing out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period. The traditional period used by historians for Gaya chronology is AD 42–532. ...
, in Chapter 44 of the . It is a word for 'gate' and appears in a similar form to the
Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period (8th century). It became Early Middle Japanese in the succeeding Heian period, but the precise delimitation of the stages is controversial. Old Jap ...
word , with the same meaning. * Vovin suggests that the ancient name for the kingdom of Tamna on Jeju Island, , may have a Japonic etymology 'valley settlement' or 'people's settlement'.


Proposed external relationships

According to Shirō Hattori, more attempts have been made to link Japanese with other language families than for any other language. None of the attempts has succeeded in demonstrating a common descent for Japonic and any other language family. The most systematic comparisons have involved
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 ** ...
, which has a very similar grammatical structure to Japonic languages. Samuel Elmo Martin, John Whitman, and others have proposed hundreds of possible cognates, with sound correspondences. However, Alexander Vovin points out that Old Japanese contains several pairs of words of similar meaning in which one word matches a Korean form, and the other is also found in Ryukyuan and Eastern Old Japanese, suggesting that the former is an early loan from Korean. He suggests that to eliminate such early loans, Old Japanese morphemes should not be assigned a Japonic origin unless they are also attested in Southern Ryukyuan or Eastern Old Japanese. That procedure leaves fewer than a dozen possible cognates, which may have been borrowed by Korean from Peninsular Japonic.


Typology

Most Japonic languages have voicing opposition for
obstruent An obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is manner of articulation, formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorants, which have no such obstruction and so resonate. All obstruents are consonants, but sonorants in ...
s, with exceptions such as the Miyako dialect of Ōgami. Glottalized consonants are common in North Ryukyuan languages but are rarer in South Ryukyuan. Proto-Japonic had only voiceless obstruents, like Ainu and proto-
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 ** ...
. Japonic languages also resemble Ainu and modern Korean in having a single
liquid consonant In phonetics, liquids are a class of consonants consisting of lateral approximant, voiced lateral approximants like together with rhotic consonant, rhotics like . Etymology The grammarian Dionysius Thrax used the Ancient Greek word (, ) to des ...
phoneme. A five-vowel system like Standard Japanese , , , and is common, but some Ryukyuan languages also have central vowels and , and Yonaguni has only , , and . In most Japonic languages, speech rhythm is based on a subsyllabic unit, the mora. Each syllable has a basic mora of the form (C)V but a nasal coda,
geminate consonant In phonetics and phonology, gemination (), or consonant lengthening (from Latin 'doubling', itself from ''Gemini (constellation), gemini'' 'twins'), is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a singleton consonan ...
, or lengthened vowel counts as an additional mora. However, some dialects in northern Honshu or southern Kyushu have syllable-based rhythm. Like Ainu,
Middle Korean Middle Korean is the period in the history of the Korean language succeeding Old Korean and yielding in 1600 to the Modern period. The boundary between the Old and Middle periods is traditionally identified with the establishment of Goryeo in 918 ...
, and some modern
Korean dialects A number of Korean dialects are spoken on the Korean Peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic ...
, most Japonic varieties have a lexical
pitch accent A pitch-accent language, when spoken, has word Accentuation, 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 (music), pitch (tone (linguisti ...
, which governs whether the moras of a word are pronounced high or low, but it follows widely-different patterns. In Tokyo-type systems, the basic pitch of a word is high, with an accent (if present) marking the position of a drop to low pitch. In Kyushu dialects, the basic pitch is low, with accented syllables given high pitch. In Kyoto-type systems, both types are used. Japonic languages, again like Ainu and Korean, are left-branching (or
head-final In linguistics, head directionality is a proposed Principles and parameters, parameter that classifies languages according to whether they are head-initial (the head (linguistics), head of a phrase precedes its Complement (linguistics), complem ...
), with a basic subject–object–verb word order, modifiers before nouns, and
postposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in traditional grammar, simply prepositions), are a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various ...
s. There is a clear distinction between verbs, which have extensive
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number A number is a mathemat ...
al morphology, and nominals, with agglutinative suffixing morphology. Mainland varieties have adjectives of both types, while Ryukyuan languages inflect all adjectives in the same way as verbs. Most Japonic languages mark singular and plural
number A number is a mathematical object used to count, measure, and label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More universally, individual numbers can ...
, but some Northern Ryukyuan languages also have the dual. Most Ryukyuan languages mark a
clusivity In linguistics, clusivity is a grammatical distinction between ''inclusive'' and ''exclusive'' Grammatical person, first-person pronouns and verbal morphology, also called ''inclusive "we"'' and ''exclusive "we"''. Inclusive "we" specifically incl ...
distinction in plural (or dual) first-person pronouns, but no Mainland varieties do so. The most common type of
morphosyntactic alignment In linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the grammatical relationship between Argument (linguistics), arguments—specifically, between the two arguments (in English, subject and object) of transitive verbs like ''the dog chased the cat'', an ...
is nominative–accusative, but neutral (or direct), active–stative and (very rarely) tripartite alignment are found in some Japonic languages.


Proto-Japonic

The
proto-language In the tree model of historical linguistics, a proto-language is a postulated ancestral language from which a number of attested languages are believed to have descended by evolution, forming a language family. Proto-languages are usually unat ...
of the family has been reconstructed by using a combination of
internal reconstruction Internal reconstruction is a method of reconstructing an earlier state in a language's history using only language-internal evidence of the language in question. The comparative method compares variations between languages, such as in sets of co ...
from Old Japanese and by applying the
comparative method In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with genetic relationship (linguistics), common descent from a shared ancesto ...
to Old Japanese (including eastern dialects) and Ryukyuan. The major reconstructions of the 20th century were produced by Samuel Elmo Martin and Shirō Hattori. Proto-Japonic words are generally polysyllabic, with syllables having the form (C)V. The following proto-Japonic consonant inventory is generally agreed upon, except that some scholars argue for voiced stops and instead of glides and : The Old Japanese voiced consonants ''b'', ''d'', ''z'' and ''g'', which never occurred word-initially, are derived from clusters of nasals and voiceless consonants after the loss of an intervening vowel. Most authors accept six Proto-Japonic vowels: Some authors also propose a high central vowel . The mid vowels and were raised to ''i'' and ''u'' respectively in Old Japanese, except word-finally. Other Old Japanese vowels arose from sequences of Proto-Japonic vowels. It is generally accepted that a lexical
pitch accent A pitch-accent language, when spoken, has word Accentuation, 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 (music), pitch (tone (linguisti ...
should be reconstructed for Proto-Japonic, but its precise form is controversial.


Notes


References


Works cited

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Further reading

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External links


Databases
of dialectical and historical linguistics at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics {{DEFAULTSORT:Japonic Languages Language families