Article published by : cqchennai on Thursday, April 13, 2017 - Viewed 49 times

Category : Language

History of Japanese Language



History of Japanese Language

Prehistory

A common ancestor of Japanese and Ryukyuan languages or dialects is thought to have been brought to Japan by settlers coming from either continental Asia or nearby Pacific islands (or both) sometime in the early- to mid-2nd century BC (the Yayoi period), replacing the languages of the original Jomon inhabitants, including the ancestor of the modern Ainu language. Very little is known about the Japanese of this period. Because writing had yet to be introduced from China, there is no direct evidence, and anything that can be discerned about this period of Japanese must be based on the reconstructions of Old Japanese.

Old Japanese

Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language. Through the spread of Buddhism, the Chinese writing system was imported to Japan. The earliest texts found in Japan are written in Classical Chinese, but they may have been meant to be read as Japanese by the kanbun method. Some of these Chinese texts show the influences of Japanese grammar, such as the word order . In these hybrid texts, Chinese characters are also occasionally used phonetically to represent Japanese particles. The earliest text, the Kojiki, dates to the early 8th century, and was written entirely in Chinese characters. The end of Old Japanese coincides with the end of the Nara period in 794. Old Japanese uses the Man'yogana system of writing, which uses kanji for their phonetic as well as semantic values. Based on the Man'yogana system, Old Japanese can be reconstructed as having 88 distinct syllables.

Due to these extra syllables, it has been hypothesized that Old Japanese's vowel system was larger than that of Modern Japanese – it perhaps contained up to eight vowels. According to Shinkichi Hashimoto, the extra syllables in Man'yogana derive from differences between the vowels of the syllables in question. These differences would indicate that Old Japanese had an eight-vowel system, in contrast to the five vowels of later Japanese. The vowel system would have to have shrunk some time between these texts and the invention of the kana (hiragana and katakana) in the early 9th century. According to this view, the eight-vowel system of ancient Japanese would resemble that of the Uralic and Altaic language families. Learn japanese classes in chennai by our experienced trainers at Communiqua language training institute. However, it is not fully certain that the alternation between syllables necessarily reflects a difference in the vowels rather than the consonants – at the moment, the only undisputed fact is that they are different syllables.

Early Middle Japanese

Early Middle Japanese is the Japanese of the Heian period, from 794 to 1185. Early Middle Japanese sees a significant amount of Chinese influence on the language's phonology – length distinctions become phonemic for both consonants and vowels, and series of both labialised (e.g. kwa) and palatalised (kya) consonants are added.

Late Middle Japanese

Late Middle Japanese covers the years from 1185 to 1600, and is normally divided into two sections, roughly equivalent to the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period, respectively. The later forms of Late Middle Japanese are the first to be described by non-native sources, in this case the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries; and thus there is better documentation of Late Middle Japanese phonology than for previous forms.

Late Middle Japanese has the first loanwords from European languages – now-common words borrowed into Japanese in this period include pan ("bread") and tabako ("tobacco", now "cigarette"), both from Portuguese.

Modern Japanese

Modern Japanese is considered to begin with the Edo period in 1600. Since Old Japanese, the de facto standard Japanese had been the Kansai dialect, especially that of Kyoto. However, during the Edo period, Edo (now Tokyo) developed into the largest city in Japan, and the Edo-area dialect became standard Japanese. Since the end of Japan's self-imposed isolation in 1853, the flow of loanwords from European languages has increased significantly. The period since 1945 has seen a large number of words borrowed from English, especially relating to technology.

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