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The Japanese Language

The Japanese Language

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The Japanese Language

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  1. The Japanese Language • Basic points about language in general • The basic form of language is spoken • Everyone speaks; not everyone writes • Language is always evolving • e.g. loan words • Japanese has simple phonetics but difficult grammar

  2. Japanese phonetics • 5 vowels, all short • A I U E O • But Japanese sounds come in syllables • ka sa ta na ha ma ra • ki shi chi ni hi mi ri • ku su tsu nu fu mu ru • ke se te ne he me re • ko so to no ho mo ro • also ya yu yo wa n o

  3. More Japanese phonetics • 5 vowels, all short • A I U E O • Also vocalized variants • ga gi gu ge go • za ji zu ze zo • Da ji zu de do (etc.) • And “ha” line has a “p” variant • pa pi pu pe po

  4. Pronouncing loan words • All those vowels make words longer • McDonald’s becomes • Makudonarudo, that is, Ma-ku-do-na-ru-do • Confusion can ensue from lack of phonetic variation • A building is a birudingu, shortened to biru • Beer is called biiru • No L-R distinction; what to call Bill?

  5. Phonetics: lengthened vowels • the long marks over o and u • There’s a difference between • shinto (believer), and • Shintō (one of Japan’s religions) • The long marks mean that the sound of the vowel is lengthened (not changed)

  6. Basic Japanese grammar • The basic order of a Japanese sentence is subject⇨object⇨verb, as in • Kinō watashi wa hon o kaimashita. • (Yesterday I bought a book.) • If you leave out “watashi” (I), no one is confused. Subjects are often omitted. • Particles mark the function of a word • “wa” marks a subject, “o” an object

  7. Particles • There are particles for possession, location, etc. • The particle for possession is “no” • Kore wa watashi no hon desu. • Mitsubishi jidōsha no Tanaka desu. • possessive, or “of”

  8. Polite speech • Japan’s social hierarchy is reflected in speech patterns • How you speak depends on who you are talking to • Indicates both relative status and familiarity • Polite forms are typically longer and more complicated

  9. The writing system • Japanese has characters representing both sound and meaning • Sounds are written with the “kana” syllabaries (they represent syllables) • Hiragana • Katakana • Follow the A I U E O pattern

  10. Hiragana • Used mostly for word inflections • Japanese is an inflected language • あ か さ た な は ま や ら • い き し ち に ひ み り • う く す つ ぬ ふ む ゆ る • え け せ て ね へ め れ • お こ そ と の ほ も よ ろ • Also wa わ o を n ん • Hiragana is “loopy” looking

  11. Katakana • Used mostly for foreign words • ア カ サ タ ナ ハ マ ヤ ラ • イ キ シ チ ニ ヒ ミ リ • ウ ク ス ツ ヌ フ ム ユ ル • エ ケ セ テ ネ ヘ メ レ • オ コ ソ ト ノ ホ モ ヨ ロ • Also wa ワ o ヲ n ン • Katagana is “squarish” looking

  12. Writing other sounds • Changing “ha” to “ba” for example • は becomesば • Paris パリand Bali バリ • What about a word like Kyōto? • How do we write the “Kyō” sound • Kyōto is written きょうと

  13. Ideographs • Ideographic or pictographic characters • another borrowing from China • called kanji • By the end of High school, a person is supposed to know about 1,970 characters • Writing words in kanji saves confusion • Many homophones

  14. Kanji • Some Kanji are simple • Mountain is 山 (yama) • one (1) is 一; two is 二; three is 三 • but four is 四 • some are complicated! • hibiki 響

  15. Twenty kanji for you • All from the “50 Chinese characters” in the reading • 一二三四五六七八九十 • 日月火水木金土山目人 • You will only be required to recognize them

  16. Summary • Japanese is phonetically simple • A I U E O and the other syllables • Sentence structure: • subject⇨object⇨verb • word functions marked by particles • kinō watashi wa hon o kaimashita • Three writing systems • hiragana, katakana, kanji; mixed together • 昨日私は本を買いました。