Negatives and More Particles – も and か

In the previous article on basic grammar, I covered how to make simple statements that follow the pattern of “X is Y.” In it, two concepts were covered, the topic particle は and the copula です. Here we will be covering two more particles that will allow you to ask simple yes/no questions, and ask if X is also Y. Additionally, I will cover how to negate sentences and also take a brief look into the differences between informal and polite Japanese.

There are quite a few grammar points covered in this section so I would definitely recommend taking your time going through each of them and coming up with as many of your own example sentences as possible.

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Pronunciation – おう And Morphemic Boundaries

In another article on how to read HiraganaI discussed how to pronounce certain vowel combinations such as おう、えい、and いい. Most often, textbooks and other Japanese language learning resources will tell students that おう and おお are pronounced exactly the same, and the difference is merely due to historical orthography. In most cases, this is true. However, this simplification is not entirely accurate and ignores a crucial distinction that all native Japanese speakers intuitively make.

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Basic Sentence Structure – X is Y

Now that we’ve covered some basic phrases it’s time to learn how to make a simple sentence. The simplest type of sentence there is in English follows the pattern of X is Y. In this kind of sentence, X is the subject, <is> is the conjugated verb <to be>, and Y is the predicate. Here, the verb <to be> is known as a copula, which is a linguistic term for a word that connects two things. That is, it is a word that states that two things are equal. Thus, in English, a copula (to be) links a subject (X) to its predicate (Y) and shows that they are equal (X = Y). In Japanese, there is also a copula, but it works quite a bit differently than in English. In this lesson we will explore these differences.

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Basic Greetings

There are competing ideologies when it comes to the subject of how to best teach a language. Some people think it’s best to start with useful phrases to get you “out the door” right away. Others think it’s best to start with a solid grammatical foundation and work your way up, even if it’s not immediately useful.

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I think a good place to start for a complete beginner is to learn a few basic greetings to give you some confidence in interacting with Japanese people, even if they are the only things you can say. In later lessons, it will become apparent exactly why these phrases mean what they do and why they have some of their characteristic quirks.

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An Introduction To Basic Grammar

Japanese is a unique language. Despite decades of research and investigation, Japanese has not been demonstrably proven beyond a doubt to be related to any other language on Earth, with the sole exception of the minority Ryukyuan languages spoken in Japan. Other than that, the language that comes closest to Japanese grammatically is probably Korean, which some linguists believe might be a distant relative of Japanese.

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Pronunciation – Plosive Consonants

Plosive consonants, what are they? Plosives, also known as stops, are consonants that when articulated, block your vocal tract and constrict airflow.

In Japanese, these are the sounds <k>, <g>, <t>, <d>, <b> and <p>. Although these phonemes sound similar to their English counterparts, there are a few key differences to keep in mind in order to improve your pronunciation.

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Writing System – Kanji

The third and final script used in Japanese is Kanji. The word Kanji itself means Chinese Characters. Kanji are a system of logograms that were originally borrowed from China and retrofitted to meet the needs of the Japanese language. Logograms are characters that are used to represent words and morphemes directly. For example, the words ひと (person) and みず (water) can be written in kanji as 人 and 水。

At first glance this seems pretty straight forward. However, Japanese is a language that is fundamentally different from all varieties of Chinese, and this has severely complicated the way kanji have been adopted into Japanese.

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