The Japanese Language

For part of my project I wanted to really immerse myself into everything Japan, I have always wanted to learn the Japanese language so thought to myself “Why not start now”. I started researching reading and writing Japanese, and started to learn the complexity and




Modern Japanese is written in a mixture of three main systems: kanji, characters of Chinese origin used to represent both Chinese loanwords into Japanese and a number of native Japanese morphemes; and two syllabaries: hiragana and katakana. The Latin script is also sometimes used, mostly in acronyms and other abbreviations. Arabic numerals are much more common than the kanji when used in counting, but kanji numerals are still used in compounds, such as 統一 tōitsu (“unification”).

Hiragana are used for words without kanji representation, for words no longer written in kanji, and also following kanji to show conjugational endings. Because of the way verbs (and adjectives) in Japanese are conjugated, kanji alone cannot fully convey Japanese tense and mood, as kanji cannot be subject to variation when written without losing its meaning. For this reason, hiragana are suffixed to the ends of kanji to show verb and adjective conjugations. Hiragana used in this way are called okurigana. Hiragana can also be written in a superscript called furigana above or beside a kanji to show the proper reading. This is done to facilitate learning, as well as to clarify particularly old or obscure (or sometimes invented) readings.

Katakana, like hiragana, are a syllabary; katakana are primarily used to write foreign words, plant and animal names, and for emphasis. For example “Australia” has been adapted as Ōsutoraria (オーストラリア), and “supermarket” has been adapted and shortened into sūpā (スーパー).

Hiragana and katakana are simpler than kanji, and have only 46 characters each. It is possible to write an entire Japanese sentence in hiragana. For example, many children’s books are written in hiragana only. Japanese children start to read and write in hiragana before making an attempt to learn some of the two thousand kanji commonly used.



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