Teach Yourself Japanese
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Subject: Re: language families
From: goddard
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 05:10:28 GMT
References: 1, 2

> In addition, linguists don't count loanwords, which help us study foreign languages. Korean and Vietnamese have more Chinese-origin words than Japanese because of thier proximity to China, but all of them have lots of Japanese-made Chinese words such as 経済 (けいざい), 科学 (かがく), and 民主主義 (みんしゅしゅぎ).

So all of those words were Japanese made? I was under the impression that most of the compounds were taken from Chinese. It seems these words were just recently coined. Hmmm.

Doesn't Japanese basically use all Chinese words, especially in any kind of formal media like newspapers or television news or letters? And every word for modern things was made with Chinese characters?

Japanese doesn't even use Japanese numbers anymore. In Korean at least the Korean number system is fully alive and is useable alongside the system borrowed from Chinese. How is it justified to say Vietnamese/Korean use more Chinese than Japanese? In anything I've read in Japanese that was a fantasy work, or a record of daily conversation I've seen nothing but onyomi kanji compounds which are all Chinese. And Japanese even prefer to use Chinese words, they view Japanese words as primitive, and chinese words as sophisticated, from what I've heard from a Japanese professor. And then Japanese words are usually too many syllables so they prefer Chinese words over Japanese words is my general impression. I think Japanese is dominated by Chinese language and culture.

By the way, from what I hear, most Western linguists consider Japanese to have been originally a distant relative of either the Altaic family or the Austronesian family. In either case, they say the old Yamato language developed as a kind of combination of an Altaic language and a Austronesian language inheriting some vocabulary and the CV syllable structure from its Austronesian relative and miscellaneous features from its Altaic relative many of which are extinct in modern Japanese.

They say the Altaic roots of Japanese are obscured first because of an early influence of a Polynesian language (because the islands were connected with Polynesian islands in ages past) and then further obscured by the Chinese influence, effectively buried.

But there is some vowel harmony present in modern Japanese, to a lesser extent. Many scholars think old Japanese had this property on a much larger scale, and had 8 vowels like Altaic languages. The main thing that's difficult to establish is a link between wago and the vocabulary of modern Altaic or Polynesian languages.

I know Manchu is similar to Altaic languages because it's spoken by Mongolians who were absorbed into China but I've never heard that Mandarin Chinese has any connection with Altaic languages. Might you know where I might find more information on this?

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