Languages of Japan
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In addition to the Japanese language, Ryūkyūan languages are spoken in Okinawa and parts of Kagoshima in the Ryūkyū Islands. Along with Japanese, these languages are part of the Japonic language family, but they are separate languages, and are not mutually intelligible with Japanese, or with each other. All of the spoken Ryukyuan languages are classified by UNESCO as endangered.
In Hokkaidō, there is the Ainu language, which is spoken by the Ainu people, who are the indigenous people of the island. The Ainu languages, of which Hokkaidō Ainu is the only extant variety, are isolated and do not fall under any language family. Ever since the Meiji period, Japanese has become widely used among the Ainu people and consequently Ainu languages have been classified critically endangered by UNESCO.
In addition, languages such as Orok, Evenki and Nivkh spoken in formerly Japanese controlled southern Sakhalin are becoming more and more endangered. After the Soviet Union took control of the region, speakers of these languages and their descendants migrated to mainland Japan and still exist in small numbers.
Shortly after the turn of the second century did indications of language appear in Chinese texts. Chinese characters were adopted and records of spoken language were made in Japan. Hiragana and Katakana characters were incorporated as a relatively accurate way to represent the sounds of Chinese characters.
Chinese characters were first introduced to Ryūkyūan languages shortly into the 13th-century. Details concerning the language before then are not well known. 14th-century records indicate that gifts from Ryūkyū Islands to China used Hiragana, which indicates that these languages were tied to Mainland Japanese at the time.
History records that people in Hokkaidō, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands spoke Ainu languages, but there are also places in and around Tōhoku whose names derive from Ainu languages. According to 16th-century records, Ainu languages had no written form. Only from the 19th-century did the Ainu languages begin to use Katakana.
Record show that the Orok language was spoken during the latter part of the Edo period in Hokkaidō,[dubious ] Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands;[dubious ] however, there are only a few speakers still in existence.
Like Orok, the Nivkh language was spoken in Sakhalin and later in Hokkaidō, and the Kuril Islands.[dubious ] It is unknown whether speakers of Nivkh still remain in Japan.
Since the Middle Ages, owing to visits from Europeans, Japanese has adopted a number of foreign words.
Post-1543 Portuguese was the initial contact language with Europeans, but this was later replaced by Dutch after the Japanese removed Portuguese people from the country. The Japanese government conducted negotiations with Western authorities in Dutch until around 1870. Since then English became the primary language of interaction with Western countries.
- Japonic languages
- Ainu languages
In addition to these two indigenous language families, there is Japanese Sign Language, as well as significant minorities of ethnic Koreans and Chinese, who make up respectively about 0.5% and 0.4% of the country's population and many of whom continue to speak their ethnic language in private (see Zainichi Korean). There is also a notable history of use of Kanbun (Classical Chinese) as a language of literature and diplomacy in Japan, similar to the status of the Latin language in medieval Europe, which has left an indelible mark on the vocabulary of the Japanese language. Kanbun is a mandatory subject in the curricula of most Japanese secondary schools.
- Demographics of Japan
- Japanese people
- Koreans in Japan
- Chinese in Japan
- Brazilians in Japan
- Classical Chinese as a literary language of Japan
- East Asian languages
- Ertl, John, ed. (2008). Multiculturalism in the new Japan : crossing the boundaries within. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 57. ISBN 9780857450258.
- "Dutch-Japanese relations". Netherlands and You. Government of the Netherlands. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
- Vos, Fritz (2014). "Dutch Influences on the Japanese Language: With an Appendix on Dutch Words in Korean". East Asian History. 39. (PDF) - Originally in Lingua 12 (1963): pp. 341–88.
- About the role of Dutch in Japan
- Groot, Henk de (2016-10-03). "Dutch as the language of science and technology in Japan: the Bangosen lexical works". Histoire Épistémologie Langage. 38 (1): 63–82. doi:10.1051/hel/2016380104. (PDF) - Abstract available in French
- Joby, Christopher (2016). "Recording the History of Dutch in Japan". Dutch Crossing. 40 (3): 219–238. doi:10.1080/03096564.2016.1139779. S2CID 147488289. - Posted online on 24 February 2016
- Joby, Christopher Richard (2018). "Dutch in Seventeenth-Century Japan: A Social History". Dutch Crossing. 42 (2): 175–196. doi:10.1080/03096564.2017.1279449. S2CID 151974109. - Posted online on 26 February 2017
- Joby, Christopher Richard (2017). "Dutch in Eighteenth-Century Japan". Dutch Crossing: 1–29. doi:10.1080/03096564.2017.1383643. - Posted online on 7 October 2017