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78424.  Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:42 pm Reply with quote

I think I know the answers to the following questions, but I'm probably Quite Ignorant, so here goes:
Why is Japan called Japan, when it is really called Nipon?
What do the people of Japan call it?

Here is the name of the country in Japanese:

78425.  Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:54 pm Reply with quote

The name "Japan" comes from either of the names that had been used for that country in China. In Northern China, Japan was known as 'Zipangu' or 'Jipangu' whilst in Southern China it was known as 'Yatpun'. The name came back to Europe via Protuguese and Dutch sailors and merchants.

78534.  Fri Jul 07, 2006 3:31 pm Reply with quote

That's boringly accurate, dj. I think I'll stick to my fantasy one....

78539.  Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:29 pm Reply with quote

The people of Japan actually have two names for their land. They call it either Nihon or Nippon. The "original" form was Nippon, which was derived from old Chinese words meaning - you guessed it - "Land of the Rising Sun".

Since the name was adopted the Japanese language has had a sound shift, tentatively placed around the 7th century. Under that sound shift, "Nippon" became "Nihon".

Both forms are still used. "Nippon" is considered conservative, and is the form generally used by those close to the Emperor and in military circles. "Nihon" is considered slightly less formal, so which one uses is influenced at least in part by the complexities of Japanese society. The Japanese language however is always called Nihongo.

As djg has explained, the word Japan comes to us via a borrowing back into Chinese and thence into Malay, whence it was picked up by Europeans. The first English citation dates to 1577, when it was spelled "Giapan".

All Japanese would understand "Japan", and would also understand "Riben" - which is the modern Standard Chinese for "Land of the Rising Sun".

But the word they actually use among themselves is either Nippon or Nihon.

78555.  Sat Jul 08, 2006 2:49 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:

All Japanese would understand "Japan", and would also understand "Riben" - which is the modern Standard Chinese for "Land of the Rising Sun".

But the word they actually use among themselves is either Nippon or Nihon.

Most Japanese that we would meet would understand most things anglacised. I had quite a dealings with Japanese businessmen back in the 80's and 90's so much so I was tempted to learn a little "just to get by". I was advised against this because when Japanese speak to English people they like to hone their skills, and take offence if you try the other way. Possibley because they see it that you think their English isn't very good. Or that Japanese has so many words for things dependant on who you were talking to and what about that you may seem to be either too familiar or short for them. So we continued in English.

78631.  Sat Jul 08, 2006 3:50 pm Reply with quote

When I was working in Japan, I had always believed "hai" was "yes" but it was later explained to me that it more specifically means "I hear and understand what you are saying" but there is no implicit agreement merely a comprehension.

I think English has the same word for several meanings but the inflexion is what conveys the different subtleties - even for a word as simple as "yes"...

"yes" - I agree
"yes?" - oh really?
"YES" - just blinkin' well do it!
"yup" - ok dear, I'll do it after the football's finished.

Japanese is an incredibly difficult language to pick up. I can say hello, goodbye and order a Sake which was about enough to keep me out of too much trouble.

80399.  Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:15 am Reply with quote

I find Japanese quite easy to learn - it's very logical. The accent and pronunciation i find much harder.

A bit of a QI fact: the kanji posted by the OP (ie the Japanese characters) literally mean 'sun root', the top symbol being 'sun' and the bottom being 'root', hence Land of the Sun's Root/Land of the Rising Sun.

80440.  Wed Jul 19, 2006 6:32 am Reply with quote

I'm learning Japanese, and once you've got a hang of the basics (and the 56 characters in the alphabet) it becomes pretty easy. no conjugating verbs, no bizarre exceptions, nearly all words are pronounced as they are written.

And to support Southpaw, Nihon does translate literally as Root/source of the Sun.

80447.  Wed Jul 19, 2006 6:54 am Reply with quote

Google Kana Tutor - an electronic flash card program for Katakana and Hiragana...very useful.

80453.  Wed Jul 19, 2006 7:07 am Reply with quote

Good luck with your study of Japanese. But I would have to say that most of the studies on the subject consider it to be one of the more difficult languages for an English speaker to learn.

The main complexities of Japanese are i) the writing system - two sets of kana (the syllabic script which does not strictly form an alphabet, although that term is fine if using it loosely) to learn, quite apart from the 1,475 officially approved kanji (ideograpic characters mostly borrowed from Chinese in one of two ways) and ii) the "politeness" system.

The "politeness" system is a concept that is totally alien to speakers of English. Just one example - in informal speech, the word for "I" is boku if a male is speaking and atashi if a female is speaking. Some trendy urban females use boku - but not in front of their mothers (it's considered to be a bit like swearing). But in a formal situation, one must use either watashi or watakushi, and the rules on which is appropriate when do not come naturally to non-Japanese.

The noun and verb must be inflected depending as which of these forms of the pronoun (approximately, although formal grammars will tell you that Japanese has no pronouns) is used. If informal spoken Japanese is all that you wish to learn, you won't need to worry too much about these things though, and there certainly are some "easy bits" in the grammar - e.g. there are no plurals in Japanese.

Any language using a non-Roman alphabet is going to be perceived as more difficult for precisely this reason - just an extra thing to learn. But of languages which do use the Roman alphabet, Hungarian is often stated as the hardest - not least because of the 18 cases for nouns. Dutch ought to be the easiest for English speakers, but the pronunciation and spelling work against it. Many studies go for Indonesian / Malay - they are essentally the same language - which has a very straightforward grammar and is slowly turning into English anyways. (Younger Malays use about 20% English vocabulary when speaking Malay, and the figure was practically nil fifty years ago.)

80650.  Thu Jul 20, 2006 3:54 am Reply with quote

I found German and French quite easy to learn. My grandmother is Dutch and she produces some very odd sounds when talking to her relations, which I don't think I could replicate. In any case, I don't want to walk around with a pint of phlegm in my throat all the time.

My mother is Hungarian but hasn't spoken it for 35 years, and she has found it impossible to relearn, even with a native teacher.

The Japanese Kana systems are actually quite easy to learn with a bit of practice. The use of each set is also quite clearly defined (hiragana for Japanese words, Katakana for words of foreign origin), which makes it simpler. The kanji are much harder, especially as they are written in so many different styles. The 'Teach Yourself' book of Japanese Script is a good introduction to all the systems.

I would also recommend Oxford University Press' 'Take Off In Japanese', which is a book/cd combo, for those teaching themselves, though you really can't beat a native tutor (I am lucky enough to have one nearby).

80653.  Thu Jul 20, 2006 4:01 am Reply with quote

Southpaw wrote:
In any case, I don't want to walk around with a pint of phlegm in my throat all the time.

But at least you could then learn to speak Phlegmish.

80658.  Thu Jul 20, 2006 4:12 am Reply with quote

Hang your head in shame, sir. In shame!

80662.  Thu Jul 20, 2006 4:17 am Reply with quote

I thought that was moderately witty. Well done, djg!

On my hols in Morocco, half the holiday-makers were French, or French-speaking, and after about a week of beating them at Plantarde (Boules) I was speaking passable French (well, actually a bit more like Franglais, to be honest) and all the school lessons came back to me. Even the French bods there commented that it was pretty good...which was nice.



80665.  Thu Jul 20, 2006 4:32 am Reply with quote

(adopts Samivel's persona)




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