Teach Yourself Japanese
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Subject: Chinese and Japanese
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 16:55:51 GMT
References: 1, 2, 3

> > 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?

Yes. There are about ten thousand Japanese-made words in Chinese.

> Japanese doesn't even use Japanese numbers anymore.

It was good to throw away the ancient Japanese number system and adopt the Chinese number system because it is one of the best in the world. Why don't you English speakers stop using irregular words such as eleven and twenty and use ten-one and two-ten instead?

> In Korean at least the Korean number system is fully alive and is useable alongside the system borrowed from Chinese.

They can count only up to 99 with native Korean words, and they know the Chinese number system is much better as well as Japanese do.

> How is it justified to say Vietnamese/Korean use more Chinese than Japanese?

About 45% of words in Japanese are Chinese words, both Chinese-made and Japanese-made. I don't mean the number of words in a dictionary, I mean the word counts in a Japanese text. I've read this ratio is 60% or so in Korean. This percentage is decreasing, though, because Koreans are de-Sinicizing their language.

> 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.

As I have written, there are many Japanese-made Chinese words in Japanese and in Chinese, and it's not very easy to spot them. Some words are very clear because they are based on kun-readings, such as 取消 and 手続. A funny example is 中華人民共和国 (People's Republic of China). 中華 is a native Chinese word, but 人民 and 共和国 are Japanese-made words. It's true, however, that Japanese has imported many Chinese words - but so what? I'm sure no one can write a thesis in English without Latin- or French-origin words.

> I think Japanese is dominated by Chinese language and culture.

I don't blame you. Not many Westerners can distinguish China and Japan. ;-) Having lots of Japanese-made Chinese words, Japanese is not dominated by Chinese as you think. It's no wonder Japan is culturally close to China because they are geographically close, but the difference between China and Japan is bigger than that between, say, Italy and England.

There are many differences in religion, foods, family system, social system, etc. For instance, Chinese are atheists/Confucianists/Taoists, and Japanese are animists/Buddhists/Shintoists. I'd like to focus on art here.

The biggest impact Japan made before World War II was on paintings. Japonism appeared in the mid-19th century when Japan opened its ports and began exporting artistic products to the West, and you should never underrate this movement, which has completely changed the history of art. This has nothing to do with Chinese art. Japonism broke the limitations of Western art that few Western painters could notice - realism, symmetry, orthogonality, and Christianity - and produced Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Secessionism, and so on. Japan is still good at visual art, such as manga and anime. They have nothing to do with China, either.

You might be interested in comparing Western crests and Japanese crests. It's clearly the latter that are cool and modern. Have a look at Louis Vuitton for example.

> I know Manchu is similar to Altaic languages because it's spoken by Mongolians who were absorbed into China

Manchus are not Mongolians, but both of them are Altaic people. China didn't absorb Altaic people actually; Ancient Chinese were wiped out and Altaic people just conquered northern China. In other words, northern Chinese people are Sinicized Altaic people.

> but I've never heard that Mandarin Chinese has any connection with Altaic languages?

The Mandarin word order is strongly influenced by Altaic languages. Daic languages and ancient Chinese are head-first, while Altaic languages are head-last. Southern Chinese languages are head-first with some head-last rules, and Mandarin is a mixture of head-first and head-last. Read HASHIMOTO Mantarô's works if available.

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