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The Japanese Language Landscape
Population of Japan: 127,288,416 (July 2008 est.)
Internet country code: .jp
Internet users: 88.11 million (2007)
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Japanese is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is related to the Ryukyuan languages. There may exist relationships with other languages, but they have still remained undemonstrated. It is an agglutinative language and is distinguished by a complex system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary to indicate the relative status of speaker, listener and the third person mentioned in conversation whether he is there or not. The sound inventory of Japanese is relatively small, and it has a lexically distinct pitch-accent system. It is a mora-timed language.
The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of scripts: modified Chinese characters called kanji (i.e. Japanese symbols), and two syllabic scripts made up of modified Chinese characters, hiragana and katakana.
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The Latin alphabet, rōmaji, is also often used in modern Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when entering Japanese text into a computer. Western style Arabic numerals are generally used for numbers, but traditional Sino-Japanese numerals are also commonplace.
Japanese vocabulary has been heavily influenced by loanwords from other languages. A vast number of words were borrowed from Chinese, or created from Chinese models, over a period of at least 1,500 years. Since the late 19th century, Japanese has borrowed a considerable number of words from Indo-European languages, primarily English. Because of the special trade relationship between Japan and first Portugal in the 16th century, and then mainly the Netherlands in the 17th century, Portuguese, German and Dutch have also been influential.
Sources: CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia – Content available under GNU Free Documentation License Related Article: The Global Language Landscape – Languages in Use on the Internet
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