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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 at one point believed might possibly be a distant relative of Japanese, as part of the Altaic Language Family Hypothesis, which has since been discredited. No genetic relationship between the two languages has ever been conclusively proven.
Pronunciation – The Kana し
In the previous pronunciation lesson, we covered the plosive consonants such as <k>, <t>, <p> and their voiced counterparts <g>, <d> and <b>. In this lesson, we will be covering the exception sound し(shi) and its derivative sounds しゃ、しゅ、and しょ.
The Different Types of Rōmaji
When first starting out in Japanese, the best thing one can do is to learn Kana as soon as possible. Despite missing some key features of pronunciation such as pitch accent, kana serve as a very accurate guide to Japanese pronunciation.
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.
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.
Writing System – Katakana
The second Japanese script is Katakana, a syllabary that functions almost identically to Hiragana. There are 46 basic characters used in modern writing, as well as 2 archaic characters ヰ(wi) and ヱ (we) for a total of 48 characters.
Writing System – Hiragana
As mentioned in the introduction, the first of the three Japanese scripts is Hiragana, a phonetic script called a syllabary where each character represents a whole syllable. Here is a basic hiragana chart showing the modern 46 characters plus the 2 archaic characters ゐ (wi) and ゑ(we) for a total of 48 characters.
Writing System – Introduction
The Japanese writing system is unique in that it is composed of 3 distinct scripts that are mixed together. These three scripts are called Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
Pronunciation – Vowels
Vowels are the backbone of Japanese pronunciation. In order to master Japanese pronunciation you have to master the vowels. Luckily for non-native learners, there are only 5 of them. However, these vowels are quite different in quality to the vowels found in English and will take practice to get perfect.