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.[citation needed] Goguryeo itself may be related to Korean, and a Japonic–Korean grouping is widely considered plausible.[citation needed] Independent of the question of a Japonic–Korean connection, both the Japonic languages and Korean were sometimes included in the largely discredited[1][2][3][4] 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.[5] However the similarity of Japonic languages and Ainu languages was also due to the fact that analytic grammatical constructions acquired or transformed in Ainu were properly due to contact with the Japanese and the languages of Japonic had heavy influence on the Ainu language, with large number of loanwords borrowed.[6][7]

Jomon substratum[edit]

Ainu hypothesis[edit]

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.[8]

A linguistic analysis in the year 2015 resulted in the Japonic languages being closely related with the Ainu languages and broadly related to the Austroasiatic languages.[5]

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.

Austronesian theory[edit]

Several linguists have proposed that Japanese may be a relative of the Austronesian family.[9] 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.[10] 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.[9] Alexander Vovin reconstructed the morphology of Proto-Japanese, and found many similarities between Proto-Japanese and several Southeast-Asian languages.[11]

It is also possible that the similarities between Japanese and Austronesian are due to an ancient Ainu substratum dating from the Jomon period. The eminent Japanese linguist Shichirō Murayama tried to link Ainu to the Austronesian languages, which include the languages of the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia, through both vocabulary and cultural comparisons. Newer theories are the Austro-Tai languages, where Ainu is grouped together with Japanese as para-Austronesian. Several Japanese linguists classify Japanese as Para-Austronesian.[citation needed] Others classify Japanese as member of the bigger Austric languages.

Yayoi superstratum[edit]

Korean and/or Altaic theory[edit]

Japonic migration from Korea hypothesis[edit]

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.[12][13][14][15][16] 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 Janponic 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.[15][17] 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.[13]

Koguryoic hypothesis[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[18] 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.[19]

Japanese–Korean hypothesis[edit]

Japanese and Korean languages share 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.[20] 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.

word/term Korean
(RR)
Japanese
(Hepburn)
Notes
we uri wareware, warera
not ani, an -na-, -nu
to scratch geulg- kak-
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."
water mul mizu
lake mos mizuumi
cloud gureum kumo
island seom shima
bear gom kuma
to be hard gud- kata-
crane durumi tsuru


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).

Altaic hypothesis[edit]

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).[1][2][3][4] The best-known critiques are those by Gerard Clauson (1956) and Gerhard Doerfer (1963, 1988). Current critics include Stefan Georg and Alexander Vovin. However, even critics[who?] agree to some degree of pre-historic areal contact having occurred between even the languages of the expanded group (e.g. between Turkic and Japonic), as similarities of common origin appear to exist in the languages.[citation needed]

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.

Japanese Turkish English gloss notes
take (*taka) dağ (*dāg) "mountain"
i-, yo- 良い (*yə) yeğ (*yęg) "good"
ishi (*isi) taş (*diāĺ) "stone"
yo (*yə) dört (*dȫrt) "four"
kura (*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 (*inu) it (*ıt ~ it) "dog" cf. Manchu indahŭn, Nanai ida, Ainu seta, Chinese "zodiacal dog" *zyüt, Jeju gaŋsæŋi "puppy"
kuro (*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 (*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)"

These examples come from Starostin's database, which contains a comprehensive list of comparisons and hypothetical Altaic etymologies.

Sino-Tibetan theory[edit]

In 1994, a theory was raised by the Japanese linguist Īno Mutsumi Takeshi. He suggested that Japanese is related to the proto-form of Sino-Tibetan. Because of some similar non-loan vocabulary and the fact that early Sino-Tibetan was non-tonal and had SOV grammar order, like still today Tibetan language, he proposed the Sinitic origin theory.[citation needed]

Other[edit]

Dravidian hypothesis[edit]

A more rarely encountered hypothesis is that Japanese is 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 the year 2011 more than 500 similar cognates between Tamil and Japanese.[21]

It has been proposed that Korean is also related to Dravidian and Japanese. According to Homer B. Hulbert, many ancient cities of southern Korea, the Ryukyuan islands and Kyushu were the exact counterparts of Dravidian words.

Some common features are:[22]

  • The two languages are agglutinative,
  • follow the SOV grammar order,
  • nominal and adjectives follow the same syntax,
  • particles are post-positional,
  • modifiers always precede modified words.

Creole theory[edit]

The Creole theory suggests that the Japanese language is an early mix of Austronesian languages/Ainu languages and proto-Dravidian.[23]

Eurasiatic[edit]

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.

Nostratic[edit]

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.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "While 'Altaic' is repeated in encyclopedias and handbooks most specialists in these languages no longer believe that the three traditional supposed Altaic groups, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic, are related." Lyle Campbell & Mauricio J. Mixco, A Glossary of Historical Linguistics (2007, University of Utah Press), pg. 7.
  2. ^ a b "When cognates proved not to be valid, Altaic was abandoned, and the received view now is that Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic are unrelated." Johanna Nichols, Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time (1992, Chicago), pg. 4.
  3. ^ a b "Careful examination indicates that the established families, Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic, form a linguistic area (called Altaic)...Sufficient criteria have not been given that would justify talking of a genetic relationship here." R.M.W. Dixon, The Rise and Fall of Languages (1997, Cambridge), pg. 32.
  4. ^ a b "...[T]his selection of features does not provide good evidence for common descent....we can observe convergence rather than divergence between Turkic and Mongolic languages--a pattern than is easily explainable by borrowing and diffusion rather than common descent," Asya Pereltsvaig, Languages of the World, An Introduction (2012, Cambridge). This source has a good discussion of the Altaic hypothesis on pp. 211-216.
  5. ^ a b Gerhard Jäger, "Support for linguistic macrofamilies from weighted sequence alignment." PNAS vol. 112 no. 41, 12752–12757, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1500331112. Published online before print September 24, 2015.
  6. ^ The Languages of Japan and Korea edited by Nicolas Tranter [1]
  7. ^ AILA'99 Waseda University Press, 2000 - Applied linguistics - 521 pages [2]
  8. ^ Ryumine Katayama (2004) "Japanese and Ainu (new version)" Tokyo: Suzusawa library
  9. ^ a b Benedict (1990), Lewin (1976), Matsumoto (1975), Miller (1967), Murayama (1976), Shibatani (1990).
  10. ^ Alexander, Vovin,. "Proto-Japanese beyond the accent system". Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. 
  11. ^ https://www.academia.edu/19253123/Proto-Japanese_beyond_the_accent_system
  12. ^ Bellwood, Peter (2013). The Global Prehistory of Human Migration. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 9781118970591. 
  13. ^ a b Vovin, Alexander (2013). "From Koguryo to Tamna: Slowly riding to the South with speakers of Proto-Korean". Korean Linguistics. 15 (2): 222–240. 
  14. ^ Lee, Ki-Moon; Ramsey, S. Robert (2011). A History of the Korean language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66189-8. 
  15. ^ a b Whitman, John (2011). "Northeast Asian Linguistic Ecology and the Advent of Rice Agriculture in Korea and Japan". Rice. 4 (3-4): 149–158. 
  16. ^ Unger, J. Marshall (2009). The role of contact in the origins of the Japanese and Korean languages. Honolulu: University of Hawai?i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3279-7. 
  17. ^ Miyamoto, Kazuo (2016). "Archaeological Explanation for the Diffusion Theory of the Japonic and Koreanic Languages". Japanese Journal of Archaeology. 4: 53–75. 
  18. ^ Pellard, Thomas (2005). "Koguryo, the Language of Japan's Continental Relatives: An Introduction to the Historical-Comparative Study of the Japanese-Kgouryoic Languages with a Preliminary Description of Archaic Northeastern Middle Chinese (review)". Korean Studies. 29: 167–170. 
  19. ^ Toh Soo Hee, About Early Paekche Language Mistaken as Being Koguryo Language, Ch'ungnam University
  20. ^ [3] Archived May 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "Researchers find Tamil connection in Japanese - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  22. ^ Min-Sohn Ho (2001). The Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. P. 29.
  23. ^ Shin Ōno (1987) "Nihongo izen" and (2000) "Nihongo no keisei"
  24. ^ Winfred P. Lehmann. "Proto-Indo-European Syntax". Utexas.edu. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 

Bibliography[edit]

Works cited[edit]

  • Aston, William George. 1879. "A comparative study of the Japanese and Korean languages." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Britain and Ireland, New Series 11, 317-364.
  • Beckwith, Christopher I. 2004. Koguryo: The Language of Japan's Continental Relatives: An Introduction to the Historical-Comparative Study of the Japanese-Koguryoic Languages. Leiden: Brill.
  • Beckwith, Christopher I. 2006a. "Methodological observations on some recent studies of the early ethnolinguistic history of Korea and vicinity." Altai Hakpo 16, 199-234.
  • Beckwith, Christopher I. 2006b. "The ethnolinguistic history of the early Korean peninsula region: Japanese-Koguryoic and other languages in the Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla kingdoms." (page 33 ff.) Journal of Inner and East Asian Studies 2.2, 34-64.
  • Benedict, Paul K. 1990. Japanese/Austro-Tai. Ann Arbor: Karoma.
  • Caldwell, Robert. 1875. A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, second edition. London: Trübner.
  • Georg, Stefan, Peter A. Michalove, Alexis Manaster Ramer, and Paul J. Sidwell. 1999. "Telling general linguists about Altaic." Journal of Linguistics 35, 65-98. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 2000–2002. Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, 2 volumes. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 2005. Genetic Linguistics: Essays on Theory and Method, edited by William Croft. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kanazawa, Shōsaburō. 1910. The Common Origin of the Japanese and Korean Languages. Tokyo: Sanseidō.
  • Lewin, Bruno. 1976. "Japanese and Korean: The Problems and History of a Linguistic Comparison". Journal of Japanese Studies 2:2.389–412
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1966. "Lexical evidence relating Korean to Japanese." Language 12.2, 185-251.
  • Matsumoto, Katsumi. 1975. "Kodai nihongoboin soshikikõ: naiteki saiken no kokoromi". Bulletin of the Faculty of Law and Letters (Kanazawa University) 22.83–152.
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1990. "Morphological clues to the relationships of Japanese and Korean." In Linguistic Change and Reconstruction Methodology, edited by Philip Baldi. Berlin:de Gruyter.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. 1971. Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. 1967. The Japanese language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Murayama, Shichiro. 1976. "The Malayo-Polynesian Component in the Japanese Language". Journal of Japanese Studies 2:2.413–436
  • Ōno, Susumu. n.d. "The genealogy of the Japanese language: Tamil and Japanese."
  • Ōno, Susumu. 2000. 日本語の形成. 岩波書店. ISBN 4-00-001758-6.
  • Poppe, Nicholas. 1965. Introduction to Altaic Linguistics. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Riley, Barbara E. 2003. Aspects of the Genetic Relationship of the Korean and Japanese Languages. PhD thesis, University of Hawaii.
  • Shibatani, Masayoshi. 1990. The languages of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • Starostin, Sergei A. 1991. Altajskaja problema i proisxoždenie japonskogo jazyka, 'The Altaic Problem and the Origin of the Japanese Language'. Moscow: Nauka.
  • Starostin, Sergei A., Anna V. Dybo, and Oleg A. Mudrak. 2003. Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, 3 volumes. Leiden: Brill. (Also: database version.)
  • Trombetti, Alfredo. 1922–1923. Elementi di glottologia, 2 volumes. Bologna: Nicola Zanichelli.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2003. 日本語系統論の現在:これからどこへ 'The genetic relationship of the Japanese language: Where do we go from here?'. In 日本語系統論の現在 'Perspectives on the Origins of the Japanese Language', edited by Alexander Vovin and Toshiki Osada. Kyoto: International Center for Japanese Studies. ISSN 1346-6585.
  • Whitman, John Bradford. 1985. The Phonological Basis for the Comparison of Japanese and Korean. PhD thesis, Harvard University.

Further reading[edit]

  • Katsumi, Matsumoto. 2007. 世界言語のなかの日本語 Sekaigengo no nakano Nihongo, 'Japanese in the World's Languages'. Tokyo: 三省堂 Sanseido.
  • Lewin, Bruno. 1976. "Japanese and Korean: The problems and history of a linguistic comparison." Journal of Japanese Studies 2.2, 389-412.
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1968. "Grammatical elements relating Korean to Japanese." In Proceedings of the Eighth Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences B.9, 405-407.
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1975. "Problems in establishing the prehistoric relationships of Korean and Japanese." In Proceedings, International Symposium Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Korean Liberation. Seoul: National Academy of Sciences.
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1991. "Recent research on the relationships of Japanese and Korean." In Sprung from Some Common Source: Investigations into the Prehistory of Languages, edited by Sydney M. Lamb and E. Douglas Mitchell. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1996. Consonant Lenition in Korean and the Macro-Altaic Question. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. 1980. Origins of the Japanese Language: Lectures in Japan during the Academic Year 1977-78. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. 1996. Languages and History: Japanese, Korean and Altaic. Oslo: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2004a. "Belief or argument? The classification of the Japanese language." Eurasia Newsletter 8. Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2004b. "Swadesh 100 on Japanese, Korean and Altaic." Tokyo University Linguistic Papers, TULIP 23, 99–118.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2005. Is Japanese related to Korean, Tungusic, Mongolic and Turkic? Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2007. "How the actional suffix chain connects Japanese to Altaic." Turkic Languages 11.1, 3-58.
  • Schmidt, Wilhelm. 1930. "Die Beziehungen der austrischen Sprachen zum Japanischen", 'The connections of the Austric languages to Japanese'. Wiener Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik 1, 239-51.
  • Unger, J. Marshall. 2014. "No Rush to Judgment: The Case against Japanese as an Isolate." NINJAL Project Review, vol. 4. no. 3 pp. 211–30.