Japan Language

According to sportsqna, the article does not exist, the name has no grammatical gender, and, strictly speaking, no number either. The verb does not know person or number, but only tenses: p. ex. okonau, it means as much I act, how you act, you act, etc. This imprecision, which makes the thought of writers, especially the ancient ones, very indecisive, is often a great embarrassment to the European.

All names, without exception, are declined by postponing a few particles, the same for the two numbers. Thus: nom. hana, “the flower”; gen. hana no ; dat. hana ni ; acc. hana wo ; abl. hana or yori. The pronouns of Western languages ​​correspond to nouns, which, up to a certain point, define the person of the verb. If the action, in fact, is performed by the speaker, the verb and nouns are simple, if by the listener or by others, the verb and nouns take on honorifics of various degrees in relation to the social position. Here the influence of the Chinese etiquette is visible, which imposes, in speaking, contempt for oneself and for one’s things and actions, and the ennobling and elevation of those of others. The adjective accompanied by the copula is conjugated like the verb. By adding given particles, negation, passivity, potentiality, causality are expressed. Verb and adjective have five basic forms, which are always modified by agglutination. Of these, three are the most important: 1. the conclusive (sh ū shi), reserved for the verb of the main clause; 2. the attributive (rentai) which, used in relative clauses, serves to translate the relative pronoun, which the language lacks; if, on the other hand, it is used as a noun, it translates our noun infinitive; 3. the adverbial (reny ō), which for adjectives constitutes the corresponding adverb, for verbs, on the other hand, represents a suspensive form, the use of which is limited to the verbs of the secondary clauses and stands in place of the conclusive, used in the main.

For example: eating does: tabu (conclud.), Taburu (attr.), Tabe (adv.). Hence: hito tabu “the man eats” but taburu hito “the man who eats”; and to the perfect: hito tabetari “the man ate” but tabetaru hito “the man who ate”. Similarly “high” is takashi (conclud.), Takaki (attr.) And tahaku (adv.); and therefore: yama takashi “the mountain is high”; takaki yama “the high mountain”, but yama wa takaku miyu “the mountain seems high”.

The syntax is dominated by the fundamental rule: everything that qualifies must precede the qualified. Consequently, the adjective goes before the noun, the adverb precedes the verb, the genitive the noun, the dependent prepositions precede the main one. The verb thus closes the sentence.

The influence of the study of Chinese produced a difference, which deepened over time, between the spoken language and the written one, a difference which has become so great today that the two languages ​​require separate and particular study. It mainly concerns grammar and, to a lesser extent, vocabulary. A separate style is that used in the letters, characterized by the use of the auxiliary verb (s ō r ō contracted for saburau or samurau, “to be in the service of …”) and a certain number of peculiar expressions. The spoken language is not infrequently simpler in grammar: the distinction between attributive and conclusive forms, for example, disappears, so that tabu and taburu becometaberu, takashi and takaki, takai..

Until the time of the Meiji, each of these forms had its exclusive domain: the written language in literature; speech in conversation and in children’s books; the epistolary style in correspondence. Later, under the influence of the great writers who used it successfully in the best works, the spoken language invaded more and more the field of writing, but it was fatally affected, although not to a great extent, the influence, so as to lead to the current literary language, which is a singular fusion of the two, with a predominance of the spoken one. The written language is generally used in scientific works or, in any case, of some pretense, and in bureaucracy. The epistolary style is disappearing, but still dominates in business correspondence.

Transcription. – The transcription used for the Japanese words in this Encyclopedia is the official one, originally devised by the Society for the adoption of Latin characters (R ō ma – ji Kwaisha): it can be summarized with some approximation in these two formulas: vowels as in Italian, consonants as in English. That is: ch and j are respectively a t and a d palatilized, which correspond approximately to c of supper and g of revolution ; sh is almost the sc of the scene,k and g are always velar (as in dog and in competition); h is always aspirated; f is bilabial. The sign of the length (-), placed above a vowel, doubles it.

This phonetic system of transcription has recently been opposed by a group of Japanese scholars led by M. Tanakadate, a system of transliteration (ie “transyllabation”) which has a certain following in Japan, but has not encountered much favor among European scholars.

Linguistic position. – The linguistic position of Japanese is not yet scientifically sure. Several scholars have tried to include Japanese in the Altaic branch of the great Uralo-Altaic family; among the staunchest supporters of this thesis we will remember A. Boller, H. Winkler, J. Grunzel and W. Pröhle; on the contrary, the latter has attempted a series of phonetic, morphological and lexical comparisons (eg. Japanese – na adverbial suff., cf. with Finnish locative suff., – na, nä, ungh. – n, etc.; Jpn. hito (ant. Jpn. pito) “man, people” see. with ungh. fi, FIU, sirieno-votiaco more, etc.). However, it must be said immediately that the scholars who in recent years have tried to lay the comparative grammar of the Altaic languages ​​(Gombocz, Ramstedt, Németh, Sauvageot) on serious scientific foundations do not admit that Japanese belongs to this group. Recently a young Japanese scholar, Nobuhiro Matsumoto, highlighted a hundred lexical correspondences between Japanese and the languages ​​that his father W. Schmidt calls “Austroasiatic” (see V, p. 530) without however reaching the conclusion of a genealogical relationship.

Japan Language