Japanese Language

Japanese (日本語 / にほんご , Nihongo (help·info)?) is a language spoken by over 140 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities around the world. It is an agglutinative language and is distinguished by a complex system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary to indicate the relative status of speaker and listener. The sound inventory of Japanese is relatively small, and has a lexically distinct pitch-accent system.

The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of scripts: Chinese characters called kanji (漢字 / かんじ), and two syllabic scripts made up of modified Chinese characters, hiragana (平仮名 / ひらがな) and katakana (片仮名 / カタカナ). The Latin alphabet, rōmaji (ローマ字), is also often used in modern Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when inputting Japanese into a computer. Western style Arabic numerals are generally used for numbers, but traditional Sino-Japanese numerals are also commonplace.

Japanese vocabulary has been heavily influenced by loanwords from other languages. A vast number of words were borrowed from Chinese, or created from Chinese models, over a period of at least 1,500 years. Since the late 19th century, Japanese has borrowed a considerable number of words from Indo-European languages, primarily English. Because of the special trade relationship between Japan and first Portugal in the 16th century, and then mainly Holland in the 17th century, Portuguese and Dutch have also been influential.

Official Language of: Japan

Total number of speakers: 130 million

For additional information about the Japanese Language, please click here.

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