Why Japanese people?

For anyone that is familiar with Japanese culture, “Why Japanese people” is a throwback to Atsugiri Jason who initially featured on the TV programme  ‘Sokuhou! Ariyoshi no o-warai daitouryousenkyo 2014,’ and is still being referenced today.

But when considering Japanese its self, why Japanese people is a good starting point.

Japanese is a mix of Chinese characters, naturally developed script (hiragana and katakana) and loanwords. Which makes it seem like a bit of a mess and it can be at times.

Kanji, the famous symbols from China and used by the Japanese for about 2000 years- which is nothing considering that Japanese far predates this date. The symbols use was changed to fit the Japanese language more effectively. So while Chinese is more like a western language in its construction (subject-verb-object language), Japanese is not. Japanese is a subject-object-verb language and traditional use of Kanji is remarkably hard to understand. Additionally, in early times, Kanji would often not fit with Japanese mora ( a sound used to denote a ‘letter’ in Japanese), so something had to change.

Japanese, therefore, had a need and hiragana (developed by women in the Hei-an period as they were not allowed to learn Kanji- or be allowed the same level of education as men) filled that gap. Hiragana is used to write okurigana, kana which allows various grammatical forms to be expressed- from particles to adjectival endings.

Next, the language of men- katakana and strangely the language of cultural divide. Katakana has to be split into pre- and postwar katakana. Modern katakana is used for transcription of load words into Japanese and also used to allow words to look more non-Japanese (used quite often in advertisements)- this is where modern Katakana’s use mostly ends.

Historical Katakana is slightly more interesting. In more recent times, it was used interchangeable with hiragana for okurigana, creating at times strange looking sentences and texts. But historically is more interesting still.

The change from a kanji-based system to a kana based, was more defied by the reduction in China’s influence on Japanese culture. One positive of this was the increase in literacy rates in Japan. The literacy rate further increased with the popularity of famous poems, one of them being “The Tosa Diary” (土佐日記) by Ki no Tsurayuki (紀貫之).

Lastly why not mention the origin of Katakana? Well there are 2 main theoires of its delelopment. One is by Buddhist scholars in the 9th centry as they helped transccribe texts from China- this theory is accepted by most. But some research does suggest that it may have orginiated from 8th centry Buddhist texts from Korea instead.

There is a lot more about the history of written Japanese, but this should give you an insight into the world of written Japanese.

As always, enjoy discovering more

%d bloggers like this: