Japanese language

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Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language.


  • Japanese culture is often characterized as a culture of translation. In fact, the Japanese language of today is the result of centuries of effort by translators struggling to match Chinese characters and Japanese words, affixing native pronunciation in some cases, adopting approximations of Chinese pronunciation in others, and developing two different syllabaries: one—katakana—initially used by men; the other—hiragana—by women (the eleventh-century Tale of Genji was written in the latter).
  • Mark Twain has never attempted Japanese, else he would never have written his essay on "The Awful German Language." The sturdy speech of the Teutons, complicated as it is in its constructions, cumbersome in its verbal forms, and perplexing in its genders, is simple by the side of Nihon-Go. While it is almost true, as Mr. Clemens asserts, that there are more exceptions to some German rules of grammar than correspondents, it is certainly true that the German language is a system, with a well-articulated skeleton and a logical growth of compact flesh; but colloquial Japanese is a dislocated heap of bones waiting for an anatomist to set them in place. The anatomist has not yet been found. Consequently the language sadly lacks system. It is dislocated and often illogical. Many of its growths, and even elements, are as yet quite unexplained. It is hard.

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