Origins of Japanese Language

The Origins of Japanese Language Has Been Widely Debated

Japanese Culture Japanese Language Origins

Origins of Japanese Language

While westerners feel that there are much harder languages to learn, namely Chinese, Japanese is still a fascinating language with challenges all it’s own. The origins of the Japanese language are widely debated, however the Western consensus seems to be that it is related to a language once spoken in northern Asia that split off into several other languages including Korean. Since the people of Japan likely emigrated from these areas, it is likely that they would have brought a variation of these dialects with them. Also, the language was influenced by the Pacific Island languages surrounding the islands of Japan. This theory is known as the Altaic language theory.

A second theory is that the Altaic languages combined with the Austronesian languages (the Pacific Island languages) to form a unique third language that eventually grew up into Japanese. This theory means that Japanese is an Altaic language with Austronesian influences, or an Austronesian language with Altaic influences. (Which has been undecided.)

The third distinct theory is that Japanese was related, originally, to Tibetan, and was introduced into Japan during the migrations of the Southeast Asians up to five thousand years ago. This language was tossed in a blender with Austronesian and Altaic languages to create modern Japanese.

No matter which theory you subscribe to, there seems to be a general consensus that Japanese is at least partly related to the northern Asian and Pacific Island languages, though to what extent is greatly argued. Linguists of Japanese and Western origin have been bickering over these very points for so long that official debates have devolved into name calling.

Japanese is a di-syllabic language, meaning that most of the words are composed of two syllables. The syllables are all consonant-vowel, which makes Japanese adaptations of Western words, like baseball (besaburo), incomprehensible to the average English speaker.

Japanese is also vastly different in structure based on the honorifics that are added to words to mark your own rank as well as the rank of the person to whom you are speaking or referring. This was not an original factor of the language, but rather began to solidify around the Tokugawa period from the early 1600’s to the 1860’s as the social classes became more structured. Social class is not the only factor that is named in this way; you can also not have a typical conversation without defining your sex as well. Female speech is traditionally filled with honorifics and “tentative” tenses to mark submission to the males.

The Japanese language is interesting to learn, and the history, though undefined in some ways, is none the less rich for it. It is a language of beauty and of many complexities.

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