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Chinese Mandarin
History of Japanese
Quick Reference
  ·  Official Language
  ·  Number of Speakers
120 million
  ·  Origin
A completely independent language unrelated to any other in history though they adopted Chinese pictographs in the 3rd Century. Grammatical structure is similar to Korean.
  ·  Alphabet & Scripts
Kanji characters for nouns, verbs, adjectives, supplemented by Kana characters for suffixes, particles, conjunctions and other grammatical forms
There is no absolute proof that Japanese is related to any other language of the world, living or dead, nor that it belongs to any language family, although theories abound. Some linguists have classified Japanese with languages of neighbouring areas such as Korean, while others have grouped it with Chinese, Burmese and Malay.

A few maintain that Japanese is related to Greek, but in all these cases, there is no conclusive evidence of a link or relationship. Surely then, the Japanese language, being isolated from all others, occupies a unique position among the languages of the modern world.

Linguistic Background
Formed centuries ago, its structure has remained unchanged for the language has been unaffected by any foreign influence. This was mainly as a result of the 'closure' of Japan in the early 17th Century; for 200 years, no foreigner was allowed to enter Japan and no native was allowed to leave.

However, it cannot be said that Japan has been entirely free from external influence; Chinese civilisation was introduced in approximately the 5th Century and exerted great influence on the Japanese language, in particular in its vocabulary. The Chinese language provided the Japanese with new words to express human senses, actions, medicine, astrology and today more than 40 per cent of all words used in Japanese newspapers are either adopted directly or derived indirectly from Chinese.

The Japanese have a rich vocabulary of words for expressing human emotion, sentiment, ethics and aesthetics. Japanese also contains a wide assortment of words for describing natural phenomena; rain for example is given several names, harusame - spring rain, samidare - summer rain and shigure - autumn rain.

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Did you know?
The Japanese language has 122 million native speakers.
Japanese History
Japanese Speaking
» Japan
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