Learning Japanese would never be essential without knowing the history of Japanese language itself. What about you? If you are learning a language at which it is one of the popular language on the globe, you must be wondering how the language was originated and developed from the very old times up to these modern years.
Japanese language is one of the world’s most difficult language due to the character-based writing system. However, its wide usage places the third rank after English and Mandarin. This means that more and more people start learning and speaking Japanese nowadays and predictably years later. In fact, there are over 128 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where the language is being a national language.
To provide you with the sufficient basic knowledge of learning a language, here we come with the history of Japanese language review so that you can completely understand the language you are going to learn. In relation to the Japanese language, the history is divided into six periods. Those are the prehistory, old Japanese, early middle Japanese, late middle Japanese, early modern Japanese and modern Japanese. Check them all out in the following sections.
In the early-to-mid 2nd century BC, the settlers from continental Asia and nearby Pacific Islands brought Proto-Japonic which was known as the common Japanese ancestors and Ryukyuan languages. This language replaced the Jomon-Inhabitant’s original languages. There was only a little information about this language. There was no written language introduced yet even by China. Thus, there is an exact evidence about Japanese language in this period, making us search for the language reconstructions based on old Japanese period.
Old Japanese is best described as the oldest period of Japanese history. In this period, Buddhism spread to Japan, introducing the Chinese writing system. Japanese earlier texts were noticed as Classical Chinese but later read as Japanese through Kabun method. Old Japanese is a part of history of Japanese language introducing the early Japanese grammar including the word order.
The end of old Japanese period was signified by the end of Nara period in 794 and the use of Man’yogana writing system at which Kanji was used for Japanese phonetic and semantic values. Based on Man’yogana writing system, old Japanese language had 88 different syllables, causing the old Japanese’s vowel system bigger and wider than that of modern Japanese.
Early Middle Japanese
The second period noted in the Japanese language history is the early middle Japanese. Early middle Japanese is well-known as the Heian period which was 794 to 1185. This time significantly showed the Chinese influences on the Japanese language phonology.
The end of this period was signified by the attributive form of Japanese began to replace the uninflected form in term of verb classes which were distinctive.
Late Middle Japanese
The next history of Japanese language after the early middle Japanese is the late middle Japanese. Continuing the Japanese language period, this late middle Japanese comes from the years 1185 to 1600 which were divided into two sections of period. Those were Kamakura period and Muromachi period. This way, the Japanese language in Muromachi period was spoken by non-native speakers. There was noticeably a better phonology of Japanese language in Muromachi period than that of Kamakura period, the former one.
In this late middle period, the Japanese language forms were more familiar to modern Japanese at which the speakers began to reduce –te onto the verbs.
One thing to remember about the late middle period is the fact the language at present has the first loanwords from European languages, for example, “tabako” which is borrowed from “tobacco”.
Early Modern Japanese
Continuing the late middle period is the early modern period which is started from 18th century. There is nothing confused about the Japanese language in this period since it is nearly similar to modern Japanese. Early modern Japanese and modern Japanese are almost similar. Just after the World War II in 1945 the modern Japanese language became the standard language which is now mostly used in formal communications.
In this period, Japanese language introduced the character-based writing systems that are Hiragana and Katakana at which the traditional Chinese characters called “Han” was used and later known as Kanji, the third character-based writing system in Japanese language.In fact, Kanji has been developing into the form of language to express ideas both in the Japanese language and Chinese language.
Hiragana are the Japanese language writing system without Kanji representation. Similar to Hiragana, Katakana are basically used to write foreign words or loanwords including the words to call animals and plants. For example, “osutoraria” was adapted from “Australia” and “Supa” was adapted and shortened form “Supermarket”.
Simply, if you have mastered English well before learning Japanese language, it would be easier for you to learn the language particularly with Katakana. It can also enrich your Japanese vocabularies.
And the end of history of Japanese language is the modern language which is known to start with Edo period. This period is signified by the significant increasing loanwords from European languages used in Japanese language. 1945 was the year of many loanwords brought to Japanese language. The loanwords are commonly form Portuguese, German and English. The borrowed English words commonly relate to technology such as “pasokon” which stands for “personal computer”, “intanetto” for “internet”, “kamera” for “camera” and so on.
The fact that there are significantly a large number of English loanwords has made Japanese language developing in vocabulary and phonology.
Now what would you have in mind about Japanese language? Whether or not you are going to continue learning the language after knowing the history of Japanese language, it is your personal choice. In short, Japanese language was firstly originated from the Japan’s ancestor from the nearby pacific island and continental area. Chinese influences were not neglected for the development of Japanese language in the old times while foreign words begin to enrich the Japanese words in modern Japanese language. Nowadays, Japanese is classified into modern Japanese language with a countless number of words and loanwords.