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Deutsche Welle Offering brilliant language learning podcasts in German, Deutsche Welle is a little pocket of the internet packed full of resources for German learners. Topics Languages The case for language learning. The word da plain , desu polite is the copula verb. It corresponds approximately to the English be , but often takes on other roles, including a marker for tense, when the verb is conjugated into its past form datta plain , deshita polite. This comes into use because only i -adjectives and verbs can carry tense in Japanese.
Two additional common verbs are used to indicate existence "there is" or, in some contexts, property: aru negative nai and iru negative inai , for inanimate and animate things, respectively. For example, Neko ga iru "There's a cat", Ii kangae-ga nai "[I] haven't got a good idea". Japanese also has a huge number of compound verbs to express concepts that are described in English using a verb and an adverbial particle e. There are three types of adjectives see Japanese adjectives :. For example,. Both inflect, though they do not show the full range of conjugation found in true verbs. The rentaishi in Modern Japanese are few in number, and unlike the other words, are limited to directly modifying nouns.
They never predicate sentences. Examples include ookina "big", kono "this", iwayuru "so-called" and taishita "amazing". The grammatical function of nouns is indicated by postpositions , also called particles. These include for example:. It is also used for the lative case, indicating a motion to a location.
Note: The subtle difference between wa and ga in Japanese cannot be derived from the English language as such, because the distinction between sentence topic and subject is not made there.
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While wa indicates the topic, which the rest of the sentence describes or acts upon, it carries the implication that the subject indicated by wa is not unique, or may be part of a larger group. Absence of wa often means the subject is the focus of the sentence.
Japanese has an extensive grammatical system to express politeness and formality. This reflects the hierarchical nature of Japanese society. The Japanese language can express differing levels in social status. The differences in social position are determined by a variety of factors including job, age, experience, or even psychological state e. The person in the lower position is expected to use a polite form of speech, whereas the other person might use a plainer form. Strangers will also speak to each other politely. Japanese children rarely use polite speech until they are teens, at which point they are expected to begin speaking in a more adult manner.
See uchi-soto. The difference between honorific and humble speech is particularly pronounced in the Japanese language. Humble language is used to talk about oneself or one's own group company, family whilst honorific language is mostly used when describing the interlocutor and their group.
For example, the -san suffix "Mr" "Mrs. It is not used to talk about oneself or when talking about someone from one's company to an external person, since the company is the speaker's in-group. When speaking directly to one's superior in one's company or when speaking with other employees within one's company about a superior, a Japanese person will use vocabulary and inflections of the honorific register to refer to the in-group superior and their speech and actions.
When speaking to a person from another company i. In short, the register used in Japanese to refer to the person, speech, or actions of any particular individual varies depending on the relationship either in-group or out-group between the speaker and listener, as well as depending on the relative status of the speaker, listener, and third-person referents.
Most nouns in the Japanese language may be made polite by the addition of o- or go- as a prefix. In some cases, the prefix has become a fixed part of the word, and is included even in regular speech, such as gohan 'cooked rice; meal.
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For example, the word tomodachi 'friend,' would become o-tomodachi when referring to the friend of someone of higher status though mothers often use this form to refer to their children's friends. On the other hand, a polite speaker may sometimes refer to mizu 'water' as o-mizu in order to show politeness.
Most Japanese people employ politeness to indicate a lack of familiarity. That is, they use polite forms for new acquaintances, but if a relationship becomes more intimate, they no longer use them. This occurs regardless of age, social class, or gender. In addition to words from this original language, present-day Japanese includes a number of words that were either borrowed from Chinese or constructed from Chinese roots following Chinese patterns. There are also a great number of words of mimetic origin in Japanese, with Japanese having a rich collection of sound symbolism , both onomatopoeia for physical sounds, and more abstract words.
A small number of words have come into Japanese from the Ainu language.
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Tonakai reindeer , rakko sea otter and shishamo smelt , a type of fish are well-known examples of words of Ainu origin. Words of different origins occupy different registers in Japanese. Like Latin-derived words in English, kango words are typically perceived as somewhat formal or academic compared to equivalent Yamato words. Incorporating vocabulary from European languages , gairaigo , began with borrowings from Portuguese in the 16th century, followed by words from Dutch during Japan's long isolation of the Edo period.
With the Meiji Restoration and the reopening of Japan in the 19th century, borrowing occurred from German , French , and English. Today most borrowings are from English. In the Meiji era, the Japanese also coined many neologisms using Chinese roots and morphology to translate European concepts; [ citation needed ] these are known as wasei kango Japanese-made Chinese words. Many of these were then imported into Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese via their kanji in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese share a large common corpus of vocabulary in the same way many Greek- and Latin-derived words — both inherited or borrowed into European languages, or modern coinages from Greek or Latin roots — are shared among modern European languages — see classical compound.
In the past few decades, wasei-eigo "made-in-Japan English" has become a prominent phenomenon. See list of English words of Japanese origin for more. Literacy was introduced to Japan in the form of the Chinese writing system , by way of Baekje before the 5th century. At first, the Japanese wrote in Classical Chinese , with Japanese names represented by characters used for their meanings and not their sounds. Later, during the 7th century AD, the Chinese-sounding phoneme principle was used to write pure Japanese poetry and prose, but some Japanese words were still written with characters for their meaning and not the original Chinese sound.
This is when the history of Japanese as a written language begins in its own right. By this time, the Japanese language was already very distinct from the Ryukyuan languages. An example of this mixed style is the Kojiki , which was written in AD They [ who? Over time, a writing system evolved. Chinese characters kanji were used to write either words borrowed from Chinese, or Japanese words with the same or similar meanings. Chinese characters were also used to write grammatical elements, were simplified, and eventually became two syllabic scripts: hiragana and katakana which were developed based on Manyogana from Baekje.
Hiragana and Katakana were first simplified from Kanji, and Hiragana, emerging somewhere around the 9th century,  was mainly used by women. Hiragana was seen as an informal language, whereas Katakana and Kanji were considered more formal and was typically used by men and in official settings.
However, because of hiragana's accessibility, more and more people began using it. Eventually, by the 10th century, hiragana was used by everyone. 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.