On Similarities Between Japanese and Other Languages


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Are the long-noted similarities between Japanese and other languages mere coincidences and created by chance? This presentation suggests a different view of these language resemblances based on global genetic history of homo sapiens and brain dynamics.

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On Similarities Between Japanese and Other Languages

  1. 1. On SimilaritiesBetweenJapanese and OtherLanguagesVietanh Nguyen
  2. 2. Table of Contents3. Introduction4-8 Samples of language similarities Languages having noun similarities with Japanese Languages having noun and verb similarities with Japanese9. Observations from linguists10. A linguistic model of syntax11. A dynamical system model of syntax12. Implications13. Approximate timeline of interactions14-15. Map of migrations and hypothetical interactions16. Conclusion17. Appendix Languages making no distinction between noun and verb Being and becoming18-20. References
  3. 3. IntroductionAn observation from linguistics and dynamicalsystems that over time nouns tend to be more stablethan verbs can be used to establish the order in timeof the similarities noted between Japanese andother languages such as Igbo, Finnish, Lithuanianand Tupinamba.
  4. 4. Samples of Language SimilaritiesLanguages sharing mostly noun similarities:- Igbo and JapaneseLanguages sharing noun and verb similarities:- Finnish and Japanese- Lithuanian and Japanese- Tupinamba and Japanese
  5. 5. Japanese and IgboAdachi = adachi (name)Aki (opening) = aki (palm kernel)Atami = atani (town name)Hi = ehihie (day)Iru (be) = iru (face)Ishi (mind) = ishi (head)Madoka = madoka (name)Nanami = nnamani (name)Obi (sash) = obi (heart)Obuchi = obuchi (surname)Osaka = osaka (name)Ube (town name) = ube (pear fruit)Uke (attack) = uke (evil attack)Yutaka = utaka (name)
  6. 6. Japanese and FinnishAtaeru = antaa (give)Ha = hammas (tooth)Hana (flower) = hana (water tap)Himo (string) = himo (desire)Kasa (umbrella) = kasa (a heap)Kutsu (shoe) = kutsu (invitation)Maku (curtain) = maku (taste)Namae = nimi (name)Risu (squirrel) = risu (a stick)Sora (sky) = sora (gravel)Suru = seista (stand)
  7. 7. Japanese and LithuanianKawa (hide of animal) = kavoja, slepia (hiding)Oppai = papai (tits, breasts)Kande = kanda (bite, bites)Mushi = muse (bug, fly)Oshiri = uzhpakalis (butt, behind) (Lit. often pron, as "oshpakalis")Kochi kochi = kuti kuti (tickling, tickle-tickle)Katai = kietai, kieta, kietas (hard)Konki = kantri (patience) (not very similar)Tairaka = taikinga, taika (peaceful, peace)Tooi = toli (far) (very similar because our "o" is pronounced long as Japanese "oo")Wakai = vaikai (kids, young) (wakaa - in West Lithuanian dialect)Ikimas(u) = ejimas (going)Ikimasho = eikime (lets go)Ate = ate (end, bye)Aishiteru = aistra (JP: I love you; LT: passion)Te = te (JP: hand; LT: take it (command))Mizu = mizu (myzhu) JP: water; LT: I pee, I take a leak)Tikyu = tikyu (JP: Earth; LT: I believe)
  8. 8. Japanese and TupinambaKabe = acapê (wall)Âme = amã, mana (rain)Arashi = arassy (storm)Hanasu = nheenga (talk)Ikiru = ikobe (live)Iki so suru (breathe) = iko (to be)Kashi = caxi (oak)Kuri = curi (chestnut)Semaru = sema (approach)Sumire = sumare (violet plant)Suru (do) = so (walk)Tataku = tataca (beat, hit, hammer)Tsuku = syka (arrive)
  9. 9. Observations from Linguists“Concrete objects and entities are easier toindividuate in the world (and therefore easier tolabel) than are the relational constellations thatform the referents of verbs or prepositions.”–Dedre Gentner (1981)“Verbs change faster than nouns.”–Mark Pagel (2007)“Nouns are more stable than verbs.”–Eyal Sagi (2010)
  10. 10. A Linguistic Model of Syntax Example: A bear catches a salmon.According to the linguist Lucien Tesnière, nouns can be seen asactors or actants (semantic roles) in a real small drama and verbsas interactions between actants.
  11. 11. A Dynamical System Model of SyntaxAccording to the mathematician Rene Thom, actants are point attractorsof a gradient system. The dynamic capture process can be described inordinary language as one minimum capturing the other.
  12. 12. ImplicationsThe apparent long-term stability of nouns over verbsimplies that the interactions between people whoselanguages having mainly noun similarities must bemore ancient than those of people whose languageshaving both noun and verb similarities.
  13. 13. Approximate Timeline of Interactions
  14. 14. Map of Migrations and Hypothetical Interactions The interaction times among people speaking Japanese and other languages appear to follow and approximate the journey out of Africa into Central Asia and the later expansions from Central Asia into the Baltic States area and East Asia and eventually into the Americas. 1. The migration out of Africa into Arabian Peninsula – estimated 70,000 – 50,000 years ago  Interaction between Igbo and Japanese 2. The migration from Arabian Peninsula into the Baltic States area and into Central Asia and East Asia – estimated 40,000 – 30,000 years ago  Interactions between Finnish, Lithuanian and Japanese 3. The migration from the East Asia into the Americas – estimated 20,000 – 15,000 years ago  Interaction between Tupinamba and Japanese
  15. 15. (1) occurred after the interaction between Igbo and Japanese(2) occurred after the interactions between Finnish, Lithuanian andJapanese(3) occurred after the interaction between Tupinamba and Japanese
  16. 16. ConclusionThe long-observed similarities between Japaneseand other languages likeIgbo, Finnish, Lithuanian, Tupinamba... can beseen as remnants of their earlier interactions. Thetimes of the interactions appear to follow andapproximate the timeline of the journey out of Africainto Central Asia and then of the migrations west tothe Baltic States area and east to Japan andeventually into the Americas.
  17. 17. AppendixThere are certain Amerindian languages like KalispelSalish which do not make a clear distinctionbetween noun and verb.A translation of A-bear-captured-a-salmon in thislanguage would appear to mean A bear captured it.It was a salmon.If noun can be seen as representing being and verbas becoming, then this language – and to an extentthe world view of people who speak it – appears tofocus more on the act of becoming.
  18. 18. ReferencesSimilarities between Japanese and African languageshttp://www.stewartsynopsis.com/links_to_japanese_and_african_la.htmhttp://www.igbodefender.com/blog/2012/07/25/interesting-similarities-of-the-spellings-of-igbo-and-anglicized-japanese-words/Similarities between Japanese and Finnish, Lithuanianhttp://www.jref.com/forum/learning-japanese-64/japanese-finnish-5840/Similarities between Japanese and Amerindian languageshttp://www.unilang.org/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=30487
  19. 19. ReferencesGentner, Dedre, Some interesting differencesbetween Verbs and Nouns, Cognition and BrainTheory, 1981, 4(2)Pagel, Mark et al., Frequency of word-use predictsrates of lexical evolution throughout Indo-Europeanhistory Nature 449, 717-720 (11 October 2007)Sagi, Eyal, Nouns are more stable than Verbs:Patterns of semantic change in 19th century English,Cognitive Science 2010
  20. 20. ReferencesRene Thom, Structural Stability and MorphogenesisMarten Scheffer, Critical Transitions in Nature andSocietyEugene M. Izhikevich, Dynamical Systems inNeuroscienceJames Shreeve, The Greatest Journey Ever Told:The Trail of Our DNA, National Geographic, March2006, 60-73Spencer Well et al., Global Journey, NationalGeographic, January 2013, 48-49.