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How Similar Are Chinese and Japanese?


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Check out the link in the description below. Quiz time: Are the following words
Chinese or Japanese? First. Yes it’s Japanese. Next. It’s Chinese. Next. Actually, this is both Chinese and Japanese. And finally. Actually this is neither, this is Thai. What, you thought all Asian languages are the same? Racist. Hello everyone. Welcome to the LangFocus channel,
my name is Paul. Today’s topic is: the question how similar are Chinese and Japanese. A lot of people look at a map of Asia and see how close Japan and China are or they might look at a sample of Chinese and Japanese
writing and think that something looks similar and they might conclude that the
two languages are similar, but are they really similar? Well, the short answer is
no they are completely different languages but Japanese has been highly
influenced by Chinese in its vocabulary and its writing system Chinese and Japanese do not share any
common origin and they don’t belong to the same language family Chinese languages belong to the
Sino-Tibetan language family and Japanese as far as we know belongs
to the Japonic language family. Phonology: First off, the phonology of
the languages is very different With the most basic difference being that Chinese is a tonal language while Japanese is not. A tonal language is one in which there are tones or pitches that help determine the meaning of the words you use; if you used the
wrong tone then the meaning of the word changes. Here’s an example: the word for teacher, “lao3shi1” and the word for naive, “lao3shi2” and the word for old-fashioned, “lao3shi4”. So I’m sure that Chinese teachers get
called naive and old-fashioned all the time by mistake or maybe not by mistake. In Japanese there are basically no tones like this that determine the meaning of words. In Japanese there is something called pitch accent which means that the syllables of a word have either a higher pitch or a lower pitch
but they’re not like the tones in Chinese because they typically don’t
determine the meaning of the word they’re more like stress in English. Structure: the structure and grammar of the two languages is completely different at the most basic level Chinese is an
SVO language while Japanese is an SOV language Here’s an example in Chinese: “ta1shuo1zhong1wen2” This means he speaks Chinese and you can see SVO: subject verb object. And here’s that sentence translated into Japanese: “kare wa chūgokugo wo hanashimasu”. Here we can see SOV: subject object verb. And you can see there are some extra little words in Japanese that don’t exist in the Chinese sentence for example Japanese has the
topic marker “wa” which doesn’t exist in Chinese and Japanese also has the
object marker “wo” which doesn’t exist in Chinese. Chinese is an analytic language
which basically means that you create a sentence by placing independent elements
side-by-side. Analytic languages like Chinese do not use inflection: inflection
means modifying words to indicate some kind of grammatical meaning like plural,
gender, tense or case You don’t change any part of a
word in order to change its meaning Instead you can add to the meaning of that word by adding an extra word next to it Japanese on the other hand is an agglutinative language that uses inflection. Agglutinative languages use a lot of affixes: Rather than just placing independent words side-by-side
you attach additional pieces to words to add or modify meaning: this kind of
inflection in Japanese means that Japanese words are often longer than
Chinese words and that it may take a few words in Chinese to translate one Japanese word. In these Chinese sentences we
can see that there’s no inflection “wo3qu4xue2xiao4” this sentence means I go to school “wo3qu4xue2xiao4” this sentence means I went to school so no part of the verb is changed indicate the past tense We can show the past tense by
just adding a time expression. Now these similar sentences in
Japanese show inflection This sentence means I go to school
“watashi wa gakkou e iku” I went to school
“watashi wa gakkou e itta” And the polite form of “I go to school”:
“watashi wa gakkou e ikimasu” I want to go to school:
“watashi wa gakkou e ikitai”. In this Japanese example we use inflection
changing the word “iku” to the “iki” form and then we use agglutination to attach
a form that shows intention: “tai”. In Chinese though there’s no inflection or
agglutination: you just add an extra word like this. That’s just a brief sample of how different
the grammar is in Japanese and Chinese basically they’re completely different languages when it comes to their grammatical structure The one area which there is some similarity between
Chinese and Japanese is in vocabulary and in the use of Chinese characters.
During a period of great Chinese influence between the 5th and 9th centuries CE
there was a huge amount of borrowing from early Middle Chinese
into Japanese. Japanese originally had no written form
so Chinese began to be used as the literary language and as the language of science and of religion. Chinese vocabulary began to be borrowed into Japanese and the Chinese writing system
was gradually adapted to fit the Japanese language so not only
were vocabulary borrowed But the Chinese characters that represent them were also adopted. 60% of the words used in Japanese are of Chinese origin but that includes all of the words in the dictionary and that
includes a lot of very specialized, academic and formal vocabulary that’s mainly used in writing. In spoken Japanese the number of Chinese loan words used as much lower, At about 18%. The borrowed words were almost all Chinese nouns; even though in Japanese they might be used as verbs or as adjectives that’s just one way in which the
vocabulary is used differently but also the pronunciation of those
Chinese words that were borrowed into Japanese changed to match the Japanese
phonological system and that included the loss of the tones of those words.
And also these words were borrowed a long time ago, which means that the words have
also changed in pronunciation in Chinese so the pronunciation has diverged quite a bit, meaning that modern Japanese pronunciation and modern Chinese pronunciation of similar characters or words is quite different. And it’s also important to point out that Mandarin was not the standard form of Chinese back in those days when those vocabulary words were
borrowed into Japanese, so Even at the time they were borrowed the pronunciation was different from standard Chinese today And from what I understand the modern Japanese pronunciation of those loanwords Is often more similar to modern Cantonese
than it is to Mandarin These examples show how the same words are pronounced very differently in Japanese and Mandarin The word for family: In Japanese it’s “katei” and actually in Japanese the meaning is more like household or home And in Mandarin: “jia1ting2”. Next, the word for death:
In Japanese: “shibou” And in Mandarin: “si3wang2” Next, the word for season:
In Japanese, “kisetsu” And in Mandarin: “ji4jie2” And the word for home country:
“In Japanese: bokoku” And in Mandarin: “mu3guo2” So you can see that these words
look the same and they have basically the same meaning but they sound very different So Chinese vocabulary represented by Chinese characters were borrowed into Japanese but those Chinese characters were also then applied to native Japanese vocabulary that had a related meaning to those Chinese loan words That means that a Chinese speaker can often look at a native Japanese word and understand its core meaning without knowing that Japanese word because the Chinese character is used to represent it So Chinese people can often read a
text in Japanese and they can make sense of the basic meaning of it based on the Chinese characters but they won’t understand all the details And the same is true in reverse: Japanese people can look at a Chinese text and kind of make sense of the meaning of it based on the Chinese characters that they know. But it is easy to misunderstand the
details of what’s written especially if they have zero knowledge
of the other language Here are some Japanese example sentences that have the same Chinese characters but the meaning is very different because of the inflection that’s used “Neko wa sakana wo taberu”. That means,
The cat eats fish. “Neko wa sakana wo tabenai”. That means,
The cat doesn’t eat fish. “Neko wa sakana wo tabeta”. That means,
The cat ate fish, in the past tense. “Neko wa sakana wo taberutsumori”
the cat plans to eat fish “Neko wa sakana ni teberareta”, that means
The cat was eaten by a fish So a Chinese character reading these sentences would get the core meaning of the Chinese characters But they would miss something in the inflection For example the negative, or the past tense,
or intention or the passive form especially the last example could be
highly misunderstood So imagine you’re an English speaker
reading something with English loanwords it might look something like this Cat bla fish blah food blah blah Of course even after just a little bit of studying Japanese a Chinese speaker could probably learn enough to understand basic
Japanese sentences like that For me, as someone who studied Japanese to a relatively advanced level the same is true in reverse: when I was in Taiwan last year on the subway for example I could read a lot of the advertisements and I would get most of the meaning; I wouldn’t understand all of the Chinese characters but I would get usually 3 out of 4 of them
and the fourth one would be new to me because in Chinese there are a lot of characters that actually aren’t used in Japanese at all But just getting 3 out of 4 of them was often
enough to understand the basic meaning of that advertising but of course I had
no idea how to pronounce those Chinese characters and if I tried to read them
out loud like the Japanese I would hear laughter from both my girlfriend and
from local bystanders. It might seem strange that I can look at a Chinese
character in Chinese and understand what it means without knowing how to say it
but think of it as a symbol like a number the number seven right here is
pronounced differently in different languages but when you see it you know
what it means no matter how you pronounce it Chinese characters are kind of like that except that they represent a much wider range of meanings The Chinese characters
used in any particular sentence can be very different from those used in the
other language for a sentence of similar meaning and in Japanese there are a lot
of compound words that were created from Chinese characters but those compound
words don’t actually exist in Chinese these are called “wasei kango” which means
something like Chinese vocabulary created in Japan Here are some examples of “wasei kango”: some were created to represent things unique to Japan like “ninja” “geisha” and others were created during the Meiji period to represent Western concepts like democracy, “minshu”. So even though you might recognize
a lot of characters when you look at some text in the other language they
might be used in a very different way so the meeting will be unclear A Chinese speaker might be confused by “wasei kango” when they try to read some Japanese and Japanese people might be confused
when they read Chinese because there are a lot of Chinese characters that were never borrowed into Japanese in the first place or they’re not used in modern Japanese But in either case, even basic knowledge
of the other language would help in reading comprehension quite a bit Japanese “returned loan words” in
Chinese so as we’ve discussed already lots of Chinese vocabulary was
borrowed into Japanese but some Japanese vocabulary has also
been borrowed into Chinese. A moment ago I mentioned “wasei kango”
Japanese vocabulary created from Chinese roots vocabulary that didn’t exist in Chinese
but some of those “wasei kango” have actually been borrowed from
Japanese into Chinese Some sources say that such vocabulary accounts for around 30% of modern Chinese vocabulary. Of course the way those returned loan words are pronounced is based on the modern Chinese pronunciation of the Chinese characters Here are some examples: The word for history in Japanese, “rekishi” and
Mandarin, “li4shi3” The word for industry, in Japanese, “kōgyō”
In Mandarin, “gong1ye4” The word for electron or electronic in Japanese “denshi”
In Mandarin “dian4zi3” The word for injection, in Japanese “chūsha”
In Mandarin “zhu4she4” The word for philosophy in Japanese “tetsugaku”
In Mandarin “zhe2xue2” The word for system in Japanese “keitō”
And in Mandarin “xi4tong2” And most Chinese people these days
are probably not even aware that those words were borrowed from Japanese It’s also important to point out that in mainland China, Simplified Chinese characters are now used as
opposed to the traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan and in Hong Kong That means that someone from mainland China may have some more trouble recognizing Japanese kanji than someone from Taiwan for example So in short, Chinese and Japanese are
very different languages especially the spoken languages
even though there was a lot of vocabulary borrowed from Chinese into Japanese And a little bit from Japanese into Chinese Only in writing are those two languages
somewhat intelligible because of the Chinese characters that are used So the question of the day for Japanese speakers: “What’s your experience when you
look at a Chinese text?” “Are you able to understand the basic meaning
based on the Chinese characters?” And similarly for Chinese speakers: “What happens when you look at a Japanese text?” “Can you understand the basic meaning or did you get confused because of the different way that the Chinese characters are used?” Thanks again to all my Pateron supporters and I
want to say thanks to all the New subscribers who joined this month;
there are a lot of you And you are very welcome and very appreciated Thank you for watching, have a nice day

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