The great history of the Japanese language

The great history of the Japanese language


Geisha are part of the history of Japan
The Geishas are part of Japanese tradition

About 120 million people speak Japanese ( Yamato ), making it the 11th most widely spoken language in the world. According to some sources, the birth of the Japanese language dates back to 40,000 BC, when Japanese-speaking peoples inhabited the archipelago of Japan . Like other languages, it was transmitted orally until the 4th century AD , at which time Chinese Buddhist monks developed the Japanese script , inspired by Chinese characters. In the Nara Period (8th century), the Japanese found a new way to use Chinese characters: they took their sound and erased their meaning, creating the man’yōgana, which allows you to write the text in the order of the spoken Japanese words and ensure correct pronunciation. The origin of the katakana and the hiragana In the Heain Period, upper-class men wrote texts in Chinese and Japanese, using Chinese characters, a very useful method for making Chinese texts easier to read, adding notes in  man’yōgana . In this way, the characters of this man’yōgana system   were shortened to give rise to the Japanese syllabaries: katakana and  hiragana .


History and Origin of the Japanese writing system

As we have seen, there are several writing systems in the Japanese language, but it is not the only aspect to highlight. For example, there is the same number of Japanese and Chinese characters. What should you keep in mind?

  1. The Japanese government has registered 2000 kanji , which are taught in school, with which, for example, 99% of newspaper articles can be read.
  2. The hiragana has 50 characters.
  3. The 50 characters of  katakana  are a kind of phonetic alphabet (a, i, ou, è, o, ka, ki, kou …).
  4. The rōmajis represent the Japanese language written in Roman letters.

Do we dig a little deeper? Kanji Etymologically, the term comes from classical Chinese and means “character of the Han dynasty.” From the first of Primary, the Japanese learn them, since they are used to write the root of words. They are characterized by a set of pronunciation and meaning and by a shape, called “skeleton” in Japanese. Kanji study requires a lot of work, as you have to memorize:

  • The design of your lines : the order and the way of drawing them are important;
  • the number of strokes ;
  • how to use and combine with other  kanji .

Yes, at first glance, it may seem complicated. Hiragana

Superprof will help you familiarize yourself with Japanese writing systems
Superprof easily explains Japanese writing systems to you

The hiragana ( “smooth Kanas’) are a Japanese syllabary and one of the three types of writing systems, along with katakana and kanji . They allow to write:


  • Japanese words that do not correspond to any kanji ;
  • the grammatical particles ;
  • the furigana , that is, the pronunciation of the kanji .

The hiragana are simplified forms of Chinese characters and are easier to learn and draw. Katakana These characters mean “fragments of  kana ” and constitute the other Japanese syllabary, along with hiragana . These are characters that correspond to syllables ( ka, ki, ku, ke, ko … ) and are used in the writing system to transcribe words and proper names from other languages, the scientific names of plants and animals , etc. They are simplified forms of Chinese characters, just like the hiragana . They have been created to facilitate the writing of Japanese for those who do not know Chinese writing. Rōmaji They  designate characters from the Roman alphabet used in Japanese writing. Its objective is:

  • Correct technical incompatibilities , especially when traditional characters are not available (web addresses).
  • Write texts from a Latin keyboard .
  • Transliterate Japanese names for Westerners : road signs, names of train or subway stations, etc.

The first Japanese book written in rōmaji dates from 1591, of a religious nature and written by the Portuguese Jesuit Alessandro Valignano. The great history of the Japanese language

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