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Old 2022-07-15, 20:06   #1
Nick's Avatar
Dec 2012
The Netherlands

5×353 Posts
Default 日本語

This thread is for anyone interested in learning Japanese from scratch (with English as the metalanguage).
To decode the title: 日本 (say "Nihon") means Japan, and 語 (say "go") means word.
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Old 2022-07-15, 21:44   #2
Batalov's Avatar
Mar 2008

24·33·23 Posts

Will we also learn to play go? Neat!

EDIT: I would be very interested. I can tell those who haven't experienced it - it is very useful if you travel to Japan. While at a conference you can converse with colleagues in English, but on the streets? Not really, you would be on your own. Train stations in 2000-04 (ticket machines etc) were not dubbed in other languages; I heard that this is changing, but still strongly depending on the region.

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Old 2022-07-31, 09:49   #3
Nick's Avatar
Dec 2012
The Netherlands

6E516 Posts

Let's take a first look at the Japanese writing system.
In English, we just have 2 versions of a 26-character alphabet, lowercase and uppercase
(along with spaces and various punctuation marks).
In Japanese, we have 2 versions of a 46-character syllbary, called hiragana and katakana
(together referred to as kana) and also the kanji characters, each representing an entire noun,
verb or adjective, of which 2136 are officially recognized.

Batalov's respectful version of "thank you" above is an example of hiragana.
His joke about Go shows an advantage of using kanji: the board game Go sounds the same
as the Japanese for "word", but is written in kanji as 碁 instead of 語.
In practice, kanji, hiragana and katakana are all used together. As a first approximation,
hiragana is used for grammar (e.g. endings in verb conjugation) and katakana used for
loan/foreign words or for emphasis.

Japanese can be written vertically, in which case we read each column from top to bottom
starting on the right, or it can be written horizontally, in which case we read each
row from left to right starting at the top (as in English). Words are not separated by spaces.
In horizontal writing, our Arabic numerals may be used instead of the corresponding kanji.

Calligraphy is an old Japanese art and, even today, when writing with a pen instead of on a keyboard,
there is a correct way to form each character, giving the order of drawing the strokes and, for each one,
which end to start at. For hiragana, for example, these are given here:
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Old 2022-07-31, 13:11   #4
Dr Sardonicus
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Feb 2017

2·29·103 Posts

I'm not sure how well I'll be able to catch on, but I heartily approve of this thread. I will mention one Japanese word which has found its way into the English language, which seems peculiarly amenable to absorbing vocabulary from other languages.

A particular instance of this is the word "tycoon." And thereby hangs a tale...

On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry, under orders from President Millard Fillmore, sailed into Edo (now Tokyo) Harbor with four warships. His mission was to deliver a letter to the Japanese leadership, requesting establishment of trade relations. Practically a defining instance of "gunboat diplomacy." The first expedition did not succeed in establishing trade relations, but Perry returned on 13 February 1854 with more ships and more men, and secured a treaty (Treaty of Kanagawa, signed on March 31, 1854). Fillmore had been Zachary Taylor's Vice-President, and succeeded him when Taylor died in office (July 9, 1850).

Japan, under the Tokugawa Shogunate, had isolated itself from the rest of the world for well over 200 years, with the exceptions of a small Dutch trade concession on an artificial island off Nagasaki, and trade with China.

The Shogunate was a hereditary military dictatorship. Japan had an Emperor, and a hereditary caste system which had been imposed by the ruler who had ended a seemingly unending series of battles between the local warlords (Daimyo), and unified Japan into a single nation - Hideyoshi, the Taikō or "peasant king." In this system, peasants were the caste below the Samurai, who were the warriors. No more "peasant kings."

The Taikō had also forbad the lower castes from possessing weapons, which engendered a type of martial arts among the peasants, based on the use of farm implements as weapons.

After he died, there was a power struggle which Tokugawa Ieyasu won after a decisive military victory, and the Tokugawa Shogunate was established.

Anyway, when the Americans came knocking on the door, the Japanese were not about to explain their internal politics to the barbarians, so in talking to the Americans, they referred to the Shogun as their "Great Lord/Prince," which is pronounced like tai kun.

Last fiddled with by Dr Sardonicus on 2022-07-31 at 13:12 Reason: xignif posty
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