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Japanese language

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日本語 Nihongo
日本語 (Japanese language)
Pronunciation nihoŋɡo
Native to Majority: Japan
Native speakers 130 million[1]/  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Hiragana, Katakana, Chinese characters, romaji, Siddham script (occasionally in Buddhist temples.)
Official status
Official language in  Japan[2][3]
Regulated by None
Japanese government plays major role
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ja
ISO 639-2 jpn
ISO 639-3 jpn
Japanese language extension.PNG
     The primary official language is Japanese.      Japanese is a minority language.

Japanese (日本語) "Nihon-go" or "Nippon-go" in Japanese) is the language spoken in Japan, in East Asia. A theory about its origin is that Japanese, Mongolian, and Turkish come from the same family of Altaic languages.

In English, the order of the words is very important. For example, the sentences "Is it?" and "It is." mean different things. In Japanese a lot of these differences are made by adding or changing the endings of words. So a Japanese word has a stem called a "body", and additional parts (called suffixes). By changing the suffix you can change the meaning of the word.

Japanese has five vowel sounds that can have two different lengths. They are ah, ee, oo, eh, and o. Lengthening a vowel changes the meaning of the word: ojisan (おじさん, uncle) and ojiisan (おじいさん, grandfather). Japanese has a sound which is like the English "L" sound, but it is also like the English "R" sound. (That is why it can be difficult for many Japanese to learn to make both "L" and "R" sounds when they speak English.) Japanese has a sound which is not common in English which is usually written Tsu (つ). This sound appears in "tsunami" (つなみ), the Japanese word for large ocean waves caused by earthquakes or extreme weather.

In Japanese, the verb is at the end of the sentence, and the subject is at the beginning. In many sentences there is no subject. The listener can guess what the subject is by thinking about the context and the form of the verb.

In Japanese, Japan is called Nihon (日本), and the Japanese language is called Nihongo (日本語) (-go means language). Sometimes, the words Nippon and Nippongo are also used, but today these words are thought of as more nationalist, while Nihon is a more neutral word. The kanji characters of the word mean "sun-origin." This is because Japan is at the eastern edge of Asia, and to observers in China, the sun rose from the direction of Japan. For this reason Japan is called "The Land of Rising Sun."

Japanese is an agglutinative language, especially in the verb system. In agglutinative languages a word has a short "body" and prefixes or suffixes are added to change or to redefine the meaning. Making new words in Japanese is very easy.


  1. "Japanese". Languages of the World. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  2. "CIA - The World Factbook -- Field Listing :: Languages". Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on February 17, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  3. Lewis, Paul M. (ed) (2009). "Languages of Palau". SIL International. Archived from the original on February 17, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2010.