Linguistic Purism of Japanese

FunkPhile

New Member
English - Norway
We often hear Japanese is a rich language. But how rich is its vocabulary? About half of its words are Chinese loanwords and many words since the colonial age has come from Portuguese and English. But would Japanese be able to produce its own native words? Maybe like how the Icelanders do?

I guess everything is possible with morphemes to create a new word to mean that which we don't have a native word for. Am I right?

Let us look at a word like "Manifesto." The Japanese word for it is "Mani-festo" which is obviously a loanword. Some native-sounding words would be "Gekibun" and "Sengen" but both words are rooted in Chinese and technically translates slightly differently. Safe to assume the word does not exist in Japanese, how would a Japanese purist solve that troublesome problem? Create a morpheme from Japanese roots? How would that work and what would such a word, for "manifesto", be like?
 
  • ktdd

    Senior Member
    Mandarin - Beijing
    "Manifesto" is Italian. How would English express the concept "natively" I wonder? Declaration? But that's French. Public statement? Both words are rooted in Latin. How would an Anglo-Saxon purist solve this problem, I have no idea. But why would someone want to be a purist??
     
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    FunkPhile

    New Member
    English - Norway
    That is for another discussion. Linguistic purism of English, AKA Anglish. You may ask an Anglish-speaker, they may know. But this particular thread is about Japanese purism, so let us keep it on that topic.
    But why would someone want to be a purist??
    I have no idea, but it exist and some people take it very seriously. It is a linguistic form of nationalism. Again, I really do not seek an answer to why a purist is a purist. I frankly do not care. I only need to work inside that framework or line of thinking.
     

    ktdd

    Senior Member
    Mandarin - Beijing
    OK, let me put it this way. Chinese is to Japanese as Latin is to English. I can't locate the source but here's some ballpark figures. About 60% Japanese words in dictionary are of Chinese origin. About 10+% are loanwords from other languages, of which English accounts for about 90%. The rest are native Japanese words. English words of Latin origins are about the same proportion. Followed by Greek, Nordic, and other languages. Just because the most active word-building components are Latin and Greek roots and affixes, that doesn't make English a less rich language. Latin/Greek morphemes have become a part of the English language. The same situation with Chinese roots in the Japanese language.
    I'm not an etymologist. But as far as "manifesto" is concerned, sure 檄文 is an ancient Chinese word, but 宣言 feels quite modern. I wouldn't be surprised if it's one of those words Chinese borrowed from Japanese at the beginning of the 20th century. A lot of Japan-made "Chinese" words made their way into modern Chinese during that time, words about new technologies and words in both natural and social science, for example, 社会、主義.
    Japanese people has been using kanji in their own creative ways. I'm pretty sure 倶楽部 is a Japanese word borrowed back by Chinese. Because only in Japanese, "kurabu" sounds similar to "club".
    I recently read a post on a Chinese forum. The poster wanted a translation of a tattoo "生残者". I told her it's not Chinese. It's Japanese, meaning "survivor". Because first the glyph is slightly different and second the word does not exist in Chinese. If one has to assign a meaning to it, it probably would be "maimed/disabled at birth". But the primary meaning of 残 in Japanese is "to leave behind, to remain", and 生き残る is a native word "to survive". So 生き残った者 (ikinokottamono) means "survivor". But that's a mouthful. 生残者 (seizansha) sounds much better. A new word is created. Now let's take a brief look at the English word "survivor". It has three morphemes, sur-, -viv-, -or, none of them is Anglo-Saxon, but put together it means "one who outlives" and no one would deny it's an English word.
    Not only the Sino-Japanese words, the loanwords 外来語 is also an integral part of the Japanese language, アルバイト does not mean the same as Arbeit. パソコン definitely does not exist in other languages.
    Yeah I understand that's not what you're asking for, you just want to know how a "Japanese purist" would create a "native" word for "manifesto". But let me ask you this. Have you met a "Japanese purist"? Why don't you ask him? It seems you are the only person here who is questioning the richness of the Japanese language and insisting on a purist way of creating words. Back to the original question. Like I said, chances are that 宣言 is the word created by Japanese people to translate "manifesto". Too bad they are not purists. Do you have another example or do you just wait for a purist to pop up?
     

    FunkPhile

    New Member
    English - Norway
    I fully understood you the first time. Sigh... there is a reason to why it is called "purism." The Icelandic language is well-known for this sort of thing as well. You definitely seem to be a proponent of descriptivism. I am not against that. Prescriptively, both Japanese and English are rich languages due to how big of word-stealers they are. In terms of purism is what I'm asking.
     

    DaylightDelight

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Tokyo
    Language purism wouldn't hold up very well in today's society, I'm afraid.
    During the WWII, Japanese government tried to ban every loanwords originated from English as "language of the enemy". Even then (cicra 1940) it was kind of ridiculous. Today it's almost impossible.
    If Japanese is a rich language, then that's due to its ability to absorb vocabularies (or to steal words, as you say) from foreign languages.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I think it works similarly in almost all languages.
    If you don't have a word for something, you can form a new word by compounding two existing words.
    Let's make an example: train.
    The word derives from the French train (drawing) from trainer (to draw), from the Latin verb traginare from trahere.
    In Italian we have treno and trainare (from French train and trainer, the Italian verb for traginare is trascinare).
    In English the word was borrowed. Then, it is train.

    In Icelandic, the word for train is járnbrautarlest which is a compound. It is composed by járn (iron) + brautar (path, genitive singular of braut) + lest (caravan). So it is a caravan whose path is made of iron.

    In Japanese, the word for train is densha (電車), which is a compound. It is composed by 電 (lightning, electricity) and 車 (vehicle), so it is an electric vehicle. The Japanese have native nouns for lightning and vehicle, and are inazuma and kuruma, but when they form compound words they prefer the on (den and sha) to the kun pronunciation, probably because the word is shorter. So one could think that the word is of Chinese origin (due to the on pronunciation) but this is a new Japanese coniage that was borrowed by the Chinese.

    Compared with the word járnbrautarlest, densha is shorter and easier to pronounce while inazuma no kuruma would be too long.

    If the word just exists as noun or verb, you can add some suffix or modify the word in order to derivate a new noun or verb.

    google (noun) = ググル > to google (verb) = ググる
    to drink (verb) = nomu > drink (noun) = dorinku (loanword) or nomi(mono) (nomi is the nominal form of nomu, to drink, while mono means thing)
     

    frequency

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I think it works similarly in almost all languages.
    I think so, too. We have many words originated or borrowed from Arabic such as "alcohol". (What an irony. lol)
    And as you can see the case of "manifesto", nobody can stop somebody from borrowing a word.

    google (noun) = ググル > to google (verb) = ググる
    As far as I remember, in Russian you can do this way much more, and people are doing.

    To tell the truth, I consider that Japanese is poor in varieties of adjectives and adverbs.
    But as we have recently seen some threads that deal with "four-kanji-word" such as
    作品世界的には
    今までの予定調和の世界が崩壊したからでしょうか

    ,we can comparatively freely make four-kanji-word almost on an unlimited basis: 汚物消毒、変態仮面、野獣先輩・・
    Guess why? I think we have many combinations of two kanji. (two kanji + two kanji)
    If you say Japanese is a rich language, I see this nature.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    As far as I remember, in Russian you can do this way much more, and people are doing.
    This happens in Romance languages too.
    google (noun) > googlare (verb)
    link > linkare
    To tell the truth, I consider that Japanese is poor in varieties of adjectives and adverbs.
    Compared to the Romance languages, this could be true. We simply add some derivational suffix and the new word is created.
    Frequency > frequenziano/a (adjective) > frequenzianamente (adverb).
    But if you include "no" adjectives, probably the Japanese language is productive as well.
    Frequency > frequency no (adjective) > frequency ni (adverb)?

    Is that right?
     
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    ktdd

    Senior Member
    Mandarin - Beijing
    Modern Japanese is quite weird in that its verbs and adjectives are more or less closed class. I mean the "true" i-adjectives that can conjugate like a verb. And the "real" godan/ichidan verbs.
    Of course you can still do the compounding. And you have ググる and サボる etc. But they are the exception that proves the rule. There is no longer a productive way to create verbs and adjectives or even convert between them (I can only think of a suffix っぽい but it's too colloquial). New words are essentially nouns. Or na-adjectives which are just adjectival nouns that conjugate like a noun, i.e, with the help of copula. Or suru-verbs which is really a clever backdoor that allows you to use any noun as verb. Hmm, come to think of it, that's how Japanese absorbed so many Chinese words in the first place lol.
    As for adverbs, I don't know if 擬声・擬態語 are still productive? There are just too many of them. Major annoyance for every language learner...
    Nino's last example is not very good. If you want to say "as frequency would do", there's a suffix, frequency-rashii (adj) > frequency-rashiku (adv) :)
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    "as frequency would do", there's a suffix, frequency-rashii (adj) > frequency-rashiku (adv)
    Thanks.
    Or frequency no yōna, is it right?
    Modern Japanese is quite weird in that its verbs and adjectives are more or less closed class.
    Is it due to the fact that East and Southeast Asian languages use compounding and reduplication but they lack derivational affixation (on the contrary Indo-European, Uralic, Turkic and Austronesian languages have a lot of derivational affixes)?
     
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    frequency

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    We simply add some derivational suffix and the new word is created.
    Quite good mention. You're right. IF I use the noun 周波数, frequency, I'd do 周波数的な (adj) and 周波数的に (adv). I think both are, not that commonly though, valid in books for engineering. This is exactly the way for us to make both as you said. But you know, they are somewhat like coined words.

    This (XX)的 is an interesting word. Again, this is a borrowed word:
    that's how Japanese absorbed so many Chinese words in the first place lol.
    Frequency > frequency no (adjective) > frequency ni (adverb)?
    Hmm..are they adjective and adverb in Japanese grammar? Sorry that I'm not sure very much. Or they might be considered a possessive case and dative case respectively.
     

    frequency

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    What is "midori" in Japanese grammar?
    Hmm..it should be "midori iro", maybe. But it is often called "midori". Is this an adjective or noun? We don't say midori hon, so it should be a noun.

    You know we have 楽しい・暗い・はるかな, etc. They're purely adjectives, making up one word.
    When you say 私の・緑の, I think they're phrases: 私+の、緑+の. So they won't be one word. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
    Lol!
    I'm asking you that, because you all (Japanese) surely know your language much better than me (I'm only a beginner who makes a lot of mistakes). :D

    For example (from wikipedia):
    スズキ株式会社(英: SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION)は、日本の大手四輪車および二輪車のメーカーである。
    Suzuki Motor Corporation is a leading Japanese maker of four-wheel and two-wheel vehicles.

    Some Japanese nouns are translated as adjectives in English and other languages but they are substantially nouns. Some (foreigners) call these nouns "-の adjectives", but I don't know how these words are defined by Japanese grammarians.

    Other examples:
    紫(むらさき)の葉=the purple leaf
    緑(みどり)の家=the green house
     
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    DaylightDelight

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Tokyo
    They are also sometimes called ノ形容詞 by Japanese grammarians.
    Some categorise them as 第三の形容詞 (イ形容詞 and ナ形容詞 being the first two).

    There's a class of adjectives sometimes called 名詞的形容詞 (noun-adjective/noun-derived adjective?),
    which includes ナ形容詞 (or 形容動詞: 元気な, 快適な) and ノ形容詞 (本当の, 一般の).
    "日本の", "紫の" and "緑の" in your examples all fall in this latter category.

    Many nouns can create both ナ形容詞 and ノ形容詞 (最高な/最高の, 独特な/独特の, etc) and some call them ナノ形容詞.

    Apparently these are relatively new concepts and not part of traditional grammar,
    but I think they are beginning to be widely acknowledged and accepted these days.
     
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    frequency

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I know~ lol. By the way, I checked 「日本の」 on goo辞書(kokugo jiten), but it didn't hit 日本の. So at least this online dictionary doesn't regard 日本の as a one word adjective. But this is just the way of categorising the adjectives employed by the dictionary.

    "-の adjectives", but I don't know how these words are defined by Japanese grammarians.
    Other examples:
    紫(むらさき)の葉=the purple leaf
    緑(みどり)の家=the green house
    Neither do I. But if it is called as の adjective, then that's fine. I think noun + の can comprise the の adjective.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Many nouns can create both ナ形容詞 and ノ形容詞 (最高な/最高の, 独特な/独特の, etc)
    It would be interesting to know which of these two "suffixes" is the more productive today.
    Do they work also with garaigo or only with kango?
    So at least this online dictionary doesn't regard 日本の as a one word adjective.
    Yes, it seems so.
    It would be relevant because if one 1) includes these words into the category of the adjectives and if 2) the formation of new adjectives from nouns with this particle is productive, one could say that the Japanese language has some productive derivational suffixe for adjectives.
     
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    DaylightDelight

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Tokyo
    It would be interesting to know which of these two "suffixes" is the more productive today.
    Both are used with slightly different nuances. An academic paper I've recently read indicates that ナ suffix is likely to be used for distinctly positive or negative adjectives (comfortable, boring, etc.) while ノ suffix is likely for more or less neutral adjectives (general, common etc.). The paper shows that there are significant, though not definitive, differences of usages between them.
    Do they work also with garaigo or only with kango?
    They work with both. クリエイティブな (creative), ベストな/ベストの (best), デジタルの (digital), etc.
    But with gairaigo, I think な suffix is more likely to create adjectives. Because, as we've discussed above, not everyone accepts +の form as real adjectives.
     

    DaylightDelight

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Tokyo
    And what about verbs?
    Which is the most used suffix/verb with gairaigo? -ru (like in guguru, hamoru, saboru) or suru?
    -する is more formal and tend to be more acceptable.
    Althoug some relatively older -る verbs are now more or less accepted as they are (サボる, ハモる) and -する forms are seldom used (サボタージュする, ハーモナイズする), -する forms generally sound more formal than -る forms: パニクる = パニックする(do panic), メモる = メモする(do memo), ミスる = ミスする (do miss).
    These days everybody uses ググる, but in somewhat formal circumstances it's still グーグルする (or even more formally 検索する).

    On the other hand -する seems to follow more strict rules than -る, so it's possible that -る is more adaptable of the two.
    While we say ダブる(=double+る, to duplicate), トラブる(=trouble+る, to get in trouble) or ディスる (=dis+る, to disrespect), we don't say ダブルする, トラブルする or
    ディスする).
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thanks!
    So, one could say that new nouns in Japanese are borrowed or created by compounding two nouns.
    Adjectives are created using the -na (sometimes -no) suffix and verbs using the -ru suffix.

    Getting back to the original question, if one wanted less borrowings, there would be more compounds, like in other languages (for example, modern Mandarin Chinese is no longer considered a monosyllabic language, mostly due to the introductions of new words which are compounds).
     

    frequency

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I've roughly got it.
    楽しい is an adjective.
    Weblio says きれいな is a rentai kei of きれいだ, keiyou-doushi.
    Therefore, 楽しい and きれいな are different in their starting points. Once I'll stop this topic here.

    2) the formation of new adjectives from nouns with this particle is productive, one could say that the Japanese language has some productive derivational suffixe for adjectives.
    You know we have きれいな・きれいに. They're not きれい+な or きれい+に, not a combination of keiyou-doushi + particle.

    Next,
    日本のXX is, however, noun + particle. You can say:
    Japanese cat. Either 日本の猫 or 日本猫 is okay.
    Guess what winter in Japan? 日本の冬.
    Wikipedia says Japan's modernization. This is the possessive: 日本の近代化.
    Well, particle の works in various ways. When you say 日本の, this is not always "Japanese". In my opinion, this is the reason why 日本の is not categorised as one-word adjective.

    We have the adjective 最後の. This one works more narrowly than 日本の, but Weblio doesn't hit it as a one-word adjective, either.

    1) includes these words into the category of the adjectives.
    It seems that traditional? adjective and adverbs are defined well and more strictly than I thought lol. And adding a particle isn't the way that allows you to make an adjective adverb.

    About 的な・的に: I don't know how long they have been used by us. This is the case that you can add suffix-like parts. We casually use both as we can see in the recent threads started by Kenshiro and YeatsK.
     

    Thanderbolten

    Banned
    Persian, Arabic - Iran
    We often hear Japanese is a rich language. But how rich is its vocabulary? About half of its words are Chinese loanwords and many words since the colonial age has come from Portuguese and English. But would Japanese be able to produce its own native words? Maybe like how the Icelanders do?

    I guess everything is possible with morphemes to create a new word to mean that which we don't have a native word for. Am I right?

    Let us look at a word like "Manifesto." The Japanese word for it is "Mani-festo" which is obviously a loanword. Some native-sounding words would be "Gekibun" and "Sengen" but both words are rooted in Chinese and technically translates slightly differently. Safe to assume the word does not exist in Japanese, how would a Japanese purist solve that troublesome problem? Create a morpheme from Japanese roots? How would that work and what would such a word, for "manifesto", be like?
    To answer your question, the closest to linguistic purism is to search for "Yamato kotoba" which means "native words" and words entirely native to the Japanese language. Then you can make your own compounds drawn from the native vocabulary (again, called Yamato kotoba). Are there any websites to search for yamato kotoba readable to non-Japanese (maybe with some romanisation)? Good luck. This kind of linguistic purism is interesting!
     
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