Japanese  
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  • spoken by virtually all of Japan's approximately 125 million inhabitants.
  • influenced by the Chinese language.
  • written vertically, with lines starting at the right side of the page.
  • The Japanese name for the language is Nihongo 日本語.
  • Japanese is the only official language of Japan, and Japan is the only country to have Japanese as an official language. There are two forms of the language considered standard: hyōjungo 標準語 or standard Japanese, and kyōtsūgo 共通語 or the common language. As government policy has modernized Japan many of the distinctions between the two have blurred. Hyōjungo is taught in schools and used on television and in official communications.
  • There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan. Among them are Kansai-ben, Tsugaru-ben, and Kanto-ben (Tokyo and surrounding areas). Dialects are generally mutually intelligible, although extremely geographically separated dialects such as the Tōhoku and Kyūshū variants are not. Dialects typically differ in terms of pitch accent, morphology of the verb and adjectives, particle usage, vocabulary and in some cases pronunciation.
  • The Ryukyuan languages used in and around Okinawa are related to Japanese, but the two are mutually unintelligible. Due to the close relationship they are still sometimes considered only dialects of Japanese.
  • The Japanese sound system is relatively simple, compared to most languages. For the most part, syllables consist of at most one consonant and one vowel. There are 5 vowel and 17 consonant phonemes (compared to 15 vowels and 22 consonants in English).
  • Japanese has no diphthongs, but there is a contrast between long and short vowels.
  • Historically, Japanese has a large number of words that are borrowed from Chinese. It borrowed many words from European languages starting in the 19th century, including Portuguese, German, French, and most recently English. In the past few decades, waseieigo (made-in-Japan English) has become a prominent phenomenon, particularly in the speech of the young and trendy. Words such as wanpatan (one-pattern) and sukinshippu (skinship), although coined from English, are nonsensical in a non-Japanese context.






 

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