Language schools » Japanese schools
Japanese is spoken by over 127 million people, mainly in Japan and by Japanese emigrant communities around the world. It is considered an agglutinative language and it has a complex system of honorifics through which reflects the hierarchical nature of its society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary for indicating the relative status of speaker and listener. The sound inventory of Japanese is relatively small, and it has a lexically distinct pitch-accent system.
The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of glyphs: Chinese characters (called kanji), and two syllabic scripts, hiragana and katakana. The Latin alphabet (called romaji) is also used in modern Japanese; it is especially for things such as company names, advertising, and Japanese writing into a computer. Western style and Arabic numerals are generally used for numbers, but traditional Chinese/Japanese numerals are also commonplace.
The Japanese vocabulary has been influenced by loans from other languages. Many words were borrowed from Chinese, or created on Chinese models. Since the late 19th century, Japanese has borrowed many words from Western languages and especially from English.
ClassificationHistorical linguists, who are specialized in Japanese, agree that it is one of the two members of the Japonic language family, the other member is Ryukyuan, but many non-specialists declare that Japanese is a language isolate, of which the Ryukyuan languages are dialects.
There is not a theory about the relation between the Japonic family and Japanese, but there are numerous theories which propose the relation among Japanese and a wide variety of other languages and families, including extinct languages spoken by historic cultures of the Korean peninsula; the Korean language; the Altaic languages; and the Austronesian languages, and others. It is also often suggested that it may be a creole language in which combines more than one of these languages. At this point, no one theory is generally accepted as correct, and the issue is likely to remain controversial.
Japanese is almost exclusively spoken in Japan, but it is spoken in other parts. When Japan occupied Korea, Taiwan, parts of the Chinese mainland, and various Pacific islands, locals in those countries were forced to learn Japanese in empire-building programs. As a result, there are still many people in these countries who speak Japanese instead of, or in addition to, the local languages. Japanese emigrant communities (the largest of which are to be found in Brazil) frequently employ Japanese as their primary language. Japanese emigrants can also be found in Peru, Australia (especially Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne), and the United States (notably California and Hawaii). There is also a small emigrant community in Davao, Philippines. Their descendants which are known as nikkei, they rarely speak Japanese fluently. There are estimated to be several million non-Japanese which study the language as well; in many schools, both primary and secondary, offer courses.
DialectsThe main distinction in Japanese dialects is between Tokyo-type (Tokyo-shiki) and Western-type (Keihan-shiki), though Kyushu-type dialects form a smaller third group. Each type has several subdivisions. The Western-type dialects are actually in the central region, with borders roughly formed by Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Mie Prefectures; most Shikoku dialects are also Western-type. Dialects further west are actually of the Tokyo type. The final category of those dialects are descended from the Eastern dialect of Old Japanese; these dialects are spoken in Hachijojima, Tosa, and a very few other locations.
Dialects from peripheral regions, such as Tohoku or Tsushima, they may be unintelligible to speakers from other parts of the country. The several dialects used in Kagoshima in southern Kyushu are famous for being unintelligible not only to speakers of standard Japanese but to speakers of nearby dialects elsewhere in Kyushu as well, probably due in part to the Kagoshima dialects' peculiarities of pronunciation, which include the existence of closed syllables (i.e., syllables that end in a consonant, such as /kob/ for Standard Japanese /kumo/ "spider"). The vocabulary of Kagoshima dialect is 84% cognate with standard Tokyo dialect. Kansai-ben, a group of dialects from west-central Japan, is spoken by many Japanese; the Osaka dialect in particular is associated with comedy.
The Ryukyuan languages, closely related to Japanese, are distinct enough to be considered a separate branch of the Japonic family, and these are not dialects of Japanese. They are spoken in the Ryukyu Islands and in some islands which are politically part of Kagoshima Prefecture.