The JAPANESE Language:
Japanese is a language of uncertain origin. Japanese is spoken by more than 125 million people, most of whom live in Japan. There are also many speakers of Japanese in the Ryukyu Islands, Korea, Taiwan, parts of the United States, and Brazil. Japanese appears to be unrelated to any other language; however, some scholars see a kinship with the Korean tongue because the grammars of the two are very similar. Japanese exhibits a degree of agglutination. In an agglutinative language, different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are often joined to form one word. Japanese lacks tones, but has a musical accent and usually stresses all syllables equally. In the 3rd and 4th cent. AD, the Japanese borrowed the Chinese writing system of ideographic characters. Since Chinese is not inflected and since Chinese writing is ideographic rather than phonetic, the Chinese characters do not completely fill the needs of the inflected Japanese language in the sphere of writing. In the 8th cent. AD, two phonetic syllabaries, or kana, were therefore devised for the recording of the Japanese language. They are used along with the ideographic characters (or kanji characters) to indicate the syllables that form suffixes and particles. The direction of writing is usually from top to bottom in vertical columns and from right to left. The Roman alphabet has also been used increasingly to transcribe Japanese. The large number of speakers and the high level of cultural, economic, and political development of the Japanese people make Japanese one of the leading languages of the world.