Classification of the Japonic languages
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The classification of the Japonic languages (Japanese and the Ryukyuan languages) is unclear. Linguists traditionally consider the Japonic languages to belong to an independent family; indeed, until the classification of Ryukyuan as separate languages within a Japonic family rather than as dialects of Japanese, Japanese was considered a language isolate. Among more distant connections, the possibility of a genetic relationship to the Goguryeo (Koguryŏ) languages, or perhaps to Kara (Gaya), has the most currency. Goguryeo itself may be related to Korean, and a Japonic–Korean grouping is widely considered plausible. Independent of the question of a Japonic–Korean connection, both the Japonic languages and Korean were sometimes included in the largely discredited Altaic family. A 2015 analysis using the Automated Similarity Judgment Program resulted in the Japonic languages being grouped with the Ainu and then with the Austroasiatic languages. However, similarities between Ainu and Japonic are also due to extensive past contact. Analytic grammatical constructions acquired or transformed in Ainu were likely due to contact with Japanese and the Japonic languages, which had heavy influence on the Ainu languages with a large number of loanwords borrowed into the Ainu languages, and to a smaller extent, vice versa.
- 1 Ainu hypothesis
- 2 Yayoi hypothesis
- 2.1 Japonic migration from Korea hypothesis
- 2.2 Korean, Altaic and/or Dravido-Korean hypotheses
- 2.3 Sino-Tibetan hypothesis
- 2.4 Austronesian theory
- 2.5 Tai-Kadai and Austroasiatic hypotheses
- 3 Other
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
The Japanese linguist Ryumine Katayama found many similar basic words between Ainu and Japanese. Because of a great amount of similar vocabulary, phonology, similar grammar, and geographical and cultural connections, he and Takeshi Umehara suggested that Japanese was closely related to the Ainu languages, and was influenced by other languages, especially Chinese and Korean.
The Endangered Languages Project surmises a relationship between Ainu, isolate languages from the Indian subcontinent (such as Kusunda and Nihali) and the Andamanese languages, as part of Joseph Greenberg's Indo-Pacific hypothesis.
Japonic migration from Korea hypothesis
In ancient times, Koreanic languages, then established in southern Manchuria and northern Korean peninsula, expanded southward to central and southern Korean peninsula, displacing the Japonic languages spoken there and possibly causing the Yayoi migrations. There is disagreement over the protohistorical or historical period during which this expansion occurs, ranging from the Korean Bronze Age period to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period. As there is disagreement among experts when the expansion of Koreanic languages started, there is room for interpretation on the proto-historical and historical extent of the Japonic language presence in the central and southern Korean peninsula. John Whitman and Miyamoto Kazuo believe Japonic speakers migrated from Manchuria to Korea and lasted there until Mumun pottery period in the Korean peninsula. After the Mumun pottery period and beginning with Korean Bronze Age, Koreanic speakers started expanding from Manchuria southward towards the Korean peninsula, displacing the Japonic speakers and causing the Yayoi migrations. On the other hand, Alexander Vovin believes southern Korea was Japonic until the southward migration of Koreanic speakers from Goguryeo during Three Kingdoms of Korea, thus establishing Baekje, Silla and Gaya.
Korean, Altaic and/or Dravido-Korean hypotheses
Similarities with Koguryoic and Korean languages
The Japanese–Koguryoic proposal dates back to Shinmura Izuru's (1916) observation that the attested Goguryeo numerals—3, 5, 7, and 10—are very similar to Japanese. The hypothesis proposes that Japanese is a relative of the extinct languages spoken by the Buyeo-Goguryeo cultures of Korea, southern Manchuria, and Liaodong. The best attested of these is the language of Goguryeo, with the more poorly attested Buyeo languages of Baekje and Buyeo believed to also be related.
A monograph by Christopher Beckwith (2004) has established about 140 lexical items in the Goguryeo corpus. They mostly occur in place-name collocations, many of which may include grammatical morphemes (including cognates of the Japanese genitive marker no and the Japanese adjective-attributive morpheme -sa) and a few of which may show syntactical relationships. He postulates that the majority of the identified Goguryeo corpus, which includes all of the grammatical morphemes, is related to Japanese.
This work has been criticized for serious methodological flaws, such as rejecting mainstream reconstruction of Chinese and Japanese and using his own instead. Other critics like Alexander Vovin and Too Soo Hee argued that the connections to Japanese are due to earlier languages of southern Korea and that Goguryeo language was closer to Sillan and Korean.
But Japanese and Korean languages share also some typological similarities, such as an agglutinative morphology, a subject–object–verb (SOV) normal word order, important systems of honorifics (however, the two languages' systems of honorifics are different in form and usage; see Japanese honorifics and Korean honorifics), besides a few lexical resemblances. Factors like these led some historical linguists to suggest a genetic relationship between the two languages.
William George Aston suggested in 1879 in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society that Japanese is related to Korean. A relationship between Japanese and Korean was endorsed by the Japanese scholar Shōsaburō Kanazawa in 1910. Other scholars took this position in the twentieth century (Poppe 1965:137). Substantial arguments in favor of a Japanese–Korean relationship were presented by Samuel Martin, a leading specialist in Japanese and Korean, in 1966 and in subsequent publications (e.g. Martin 1990). Linguists who advocate this position include John Whitman (1985) and Barbara E. Riley (2004), and Sergei Starostin with his lexicostatistical research, The Altaic Problem and the Origins of the Japanese Language (Moscow, 1991). A Japanese–Korean connection does not necessarily exclude a Japanese–Koguryo or an Altaic relationship.
The possible lexical relationship between Korean and Japanese can be briefly exemplified by such basic vocabulary items as are found in the tables below.
|not||ani, an||-na-, -nu|
|sun||hae||hi, -bi||IPA approximates /hɛ/ and /hi/, respectively. The Korean word may also mean "year." The Japanese word may also mean "day" or "fire."|
|to be hard||gud-||kata-|
The same possible cognates are often observed in other members of the potential Altaic family, especially among the Tungusic languages. Compare, for instance, Nanai muke "water"; giagda- "to walk on foot"; anaa, anna "not" (from Starostin's database).
Some critics of this hypothesis (such as Alexander Vovin) claim that there are difficulties in establishing exact phonological laws and that Japanese and Korean have few shared innovations. There are also drastic differences between the native Korean and Japanese number systems.
The idea of a Japanese–Korean relationship overlaps the extended form of the Altaic hypothesis (see below), but not all scholars who argue for one also argue for the other. For example, Samuel Martin, who was a major advocate of a Japanese–Korean relationship, only provided cautious support to the inclusion of these languages in Altaic, and Talat Tekin, an Altaicist, includes Korean, but not Japanese, in Altaic (Georg et al. 1999:72, 74).
Similarities with Altaic languages
The Altaic language family was a hypothesized group composed of, at its core, languages categorized as Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic. G.J. Ramstedt's Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft ('Introduction to Altaic Linguistics') in 1952–1957 included Korean in Altaic. Roy Andrew Miller's Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages (1971) included Japanese in Altaic as well. The most important recent work that favored the expanded Altaic family (i.e. that Korean and Japanese could both be included under the Altaic language family) is An Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages (3 volumes) by Sergei Starostin, Anna V. Dybo, and Oleg A. Mudrak (2003).
The Altaic proposal has largely been rejected (in both its core form of Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic as well as its expanded form that includes Korean and/or Japanese). The best-known critiques are those by Gerard Clauson (1956) and Gerhard Doerfer (1963, 1988). Current critics include Stefan Georg and Alexander Vovin. Critics[who?] attribute the similarities in the putative Altaic languages to pre-historic areal contact having occurred between the languages of the expanded group (e.g. between Turkic and Japonic), contact which critics and proponents agree took place to some degree.
Evidence for this grouping was mostly based upon claimed correspondences in vocabulary, as shown in the following table, although attempts have been made to reconstruct a number of suffixes.
|take 岳 (*taka)||dağ (*dāg)||"mountain"|
|i-, yo- 良い (*yə)||yeğ (*yęg)||"good"|
|ishi 石 (*isi)||taş (*diāĺ)||"stone"|
|yo 四 (*yə)||dört (*dȫrt)||"four"|
|kura 鞍 (*kura)||kürtün (*kürtün)||"saddle"|
|yak- 焼く (*yak-)||yak- (*yak-)||"to burn"||Turkish yak- is exclusively transitive ("to burn (it)", "to light (it) on fire"); intransitive counterpart is yan-|
|kir- 切る (*kir-)||kır- (*Kır-)||"to cut"||Turkish kır- actually means "to break; to split, to chop (wood); to fold; to destroy, to break (resistance, pride, desire, etc.); to reduce (price); to offend, to hurt": cf. Turkish kırma, the deverbal noun derived from the verb kır-: "a pleat, a fold; folding, collapsible; groats; hybrid, mongrel". Turkish kes- is more specifically "to cut".|
|inu 犬 (*inu)||it (*ıt ~ it)||"dog"||cf. Manchu indahŭn, Nanai ida, Ainu seta, Chinese "zodiacal dog" 戌 *zyüt, Jeju gaŋsæŋi "puppy"|
|kuro 黒 (*kurua)||kara (*Kara)||"black"||cf. Ainu kur "shadow", *kur-ne > kunne "black; dark"|
|so-re それ (*sə)||şu (*-sı)||"that"||Turkish is 3rd-person possessive suffix|
|nani 何 (*nV)||ne, neme (*nē-)||"what"||The only Turkic root beginning with *n-. Compare Ainu ne (interrogative stem) as in nep "what" and nen "who(m)," Korean nugu "who(m)"|
But linguists agree today that typological resemblances between Japanese, Korean and Altaic languages cannot be used to prove genetic relatedness of languages, as these features are typologically connected and easily borrowed from one language to the other (e.g. due to geographical proximity with Manchuria). Such factors of typological divergence as Middle Mongolian's exhibition of gender agreement can be used to argue that a genetic relationship with Altaic is unlikely.
A more rarely encountered hypothesis is that Japanese (and Korean) are related to the Dravidian languages. The possibility that Japanese might be related to Dravidian was raised by Robert Caldwell (cf. Caldwell 1875:413) and more recently by Susumu Shiba, Akira Fujiwara, and Susumu Ōno (n.d., 2000). The Japanese professor Tsutomu Kambe found in 2011 more than 500 similar cognates between Tamil and Japanese.
Another famous theory is the Dravido-Korean languages theory which suggests a southern relation. It has been proposed that Korean is also related to Dravidian and Japanese.
Some common features are:
- The two languages are agglutinative,
- they follow SOV word order,
- nouns and adjectives follow the same syntax,
- particles are post-positional,
- modifiers always precede modified words.
The comparative linguist Kang Gil-un proposes 1300 Dravidian Tamil cognates in Korean, which would significantly outnumber the number of Dravidian cognates he claims are found in Tungusic, Turkic or Ainu. Nevertheless, he suggests that among currently researchable languages, the Nivkh language is probably most closely related to Korean. According to his theory, the proto-Korean supposedly related to the proto-Nivkh was influenced by Dravidian, Ainu, Tungusic and maybe Turkic vocabulary.
Another theory was raised by the Japanese linguist Īno Mutsumi. He suggested after his analysis of proto-Sino-Tibetan that Japanese is related to the proto-form of Sino-Tibetan, especially to the Burmese language. Because of similar grammar rules (SOV, syntax), similar non-loan basic-vocabulary and the fact that early Sino-Tibetan was non-tonal like still today some small languages, he proposed the Sinitic origin theory.
The linguist Juha Janhunen found during his analysis of Asian languages strong similarities between proto-Japanese and Sino-Tibetan languages. He says, similar to Vovin, that proto-Japanese originated somewhere in southeast China but was a Sino-Tibetan (possibly Burmese) language and got later under Austronesian influence. After political or economical problems the proto-Japanese people started to migrate into Japan over the Korean Peninsula. There they possibly were under the influence of Altaic peoples.
This table shows some similarities between proto-Japanese and proto-Chinese:
|Kanji||Heian-Period Kun-reading/Romaji||Proto-Chinese||Modern Chinese (Pinyin)||Cantonese||Heian-Period/Romaji||reconstruction of the Heian-Period/Romaji|
|Uma||muma, nma||xan||ma3||ma5||me||ba, ma|
|Ume||mume, nme||mə||mei2||mui4||mai, me||bai|
|Ga||a, aga, ware, waga||ŋai||wo3||ngo2||ga||ga|
Several linguists have proposed that Japanese may be a relative of the Austronesian family. Some linguists think it is more plausible that Japanese might have instead been influenced by Austronesian languages, perhaps by an Austronesian substratum. Those who propose this scenario suggest that the Austronesian family once covered the islands to the north as well as to the south. Alexander Vovin calls Proto-Japanese suggestive of an Southeast-Asian origin. The phonological similarities of Japanese to the Austronesian languages, and the geographical proximity of Japan to Formosa and the Malay Archipelago have led to the theory that Japanese may be a kind of very early creole language, with a Korean superstratum and an Austronesian substratum. Alexander Vovin reconstructed the morphology of Proto-Japanese, and found many similarities between Proto-Japanese and several Southeast-Asian languages.
Tai-Kadai and Austroasiatic hypotheses
Alexander Vovin suggests that the Yayoi may have spoken an Austroasiatic language or Tai-Kadai language, based on the reconstructed Japonic terms *(z/h)ina-Ci 'rice (plant)', *koma-Ci '(hulled) rice', and *pwo 'ear of grain' which Vovin assumes to be agricultural terms of Yayoi origin. Vovin suggests that Japonic was in contact with Austronesian, before the migration from Southern China to Japan, pointing to an ultimate origin of Japonic in southern China. Although Vovin (2014) does not consider Japonic to be genetically related to Tai-Kadai, he suggests that Japonic was later in contact with Tai-Kadai, pointing to an ultimate origin of Japonic in southern China with possible genetic relation to Austroasiatic.
A 2015 analysis using the Automated Similarity Judgment Program resulted in the Japonic languages being grouped with the Austroasiatic languages. The same analysis also showed a connection to Ainu languages, but this is possibly because of heavy influence from Japonic to Ainu.
Vovin (2014) proposed that the location of the Japonic Urheimat (linguistic homeland) is in Southern China. Vovin argues that Proto-Japanese may have been a monosyllabic, SVO syntax and isolating language, which are also characteristic of Tai-Kadai languages. The following lexical comparisons between Proto-Japonic and Proto-Tai are cited from Vovin (2014).
|Proto-Tai||Tone in proto-Tai|
|Side||*pia||H||*Ɂbaïŋ ?< OC *bʕâŋ||C1|
|Aunt||*-pa in *wo-n-pa||H||*paa 'elder sister of a parent'||C1|
|Wife, woman||*mia||L||*mia 'wife'||A2|
secondary voicing in Tai
(space & time)
|Edge||*pa, cf. also *pasi||H, HH||*faŋ
|Insert||*pak- 'wear shoes, trousers'||H||*pak||D1S|
|Mountain||*wo 'peak'||L||*buo||A2, A1 in NT|
|Split||*sak-||H||*čaak 'be separated'||D1L, š- in NT|
|Suck||*sup-||H||*ču[u]p onomatopoetic?||D1S/L, š- in NT|
|Get soaked||*sim-||H||*čim 'dip into' ?< Chin.||B1, C1, š- in NT|
|Slander||*sə/o-sir- cf. nono-sir-||H/L?, but
|*sɔɔ 'slander, indicate'||A1|
|Cold||*sam-pu- cf. sam-as- 'cool it',
samë- 'get cool'
|L||NT *ǯam > šam||C2|
but proto-Kam-Sui *to,
pace Thurgood's *tu (1988:211)
|Wing||*pa > Old Japanese pa 'wing, feather'||H||proto-Kam-Sui *pwa||C1|
|Inside||*naka < *na-ka 'inside-place'||LH||proto-Tai *ʔd-naï||SW, Sukhothai A2,|
CT, NT A1
- Proto-Tai items are taken from Li, Fang Kuei 1977. A Handbook of Comparative Tai. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
- Li Fang-Kuei ï is equivalent to ɯ.
- NT = Northern Tai, CT = Central Tai, SW = Southwestern Tai.
Joseph Greenberg (2000–2002) argued for the inclusion of Japanese in his proposed Eurasiatic language family. In contrast to Sergei Starostin, he rejected the inclusion of Korean in Altaic. According to Greenberg, Japanese–Ryukyuan, Korean, and Ainu form a separate subgroup within Eurasiatic.
In contrast to Greenberg, many historical linguists remain convinced that systematic phonological reconstruction is necessary to establish genetic relationships among languages and reject his "mass comparison" methodology and, consequently, the Eurasiatic hypothesis.
Suggestions of connections among Japanese, Altaic, and Dravidian were made by Hermann Jacobi in 1897 (Compositum und Nebensatz, pp. 106–131), who further noted structural similarities to Proto-Indo-European.
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