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Thread: Understanding Japanese languange structure

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    Talking Understanding Japanese languange structure

    I've been learning kanji for 4 years now and while i understand most of the many things written in the various visual novels and raw manga I've read till this day I still haven't had the time to study the Japanese languange structure (noun, verb, tense, rules and such) so everytime i read Japanese even though i know what those kanji meant, I more or less understand a sentence by context or instinct. can anyone can give me a good, easy to understand yet comprehensive reference for learning Japanese word structure? preferrably in book form not app. thank you and sorry for the bad English

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    Re: Understanding Japanese languange structure

    Hi @V1zi3r;

    I don’t know any books but this diagram might help.

    Let’s compare English with Japanese. For English, word roles are determined by their positions in the sentence. For example:

    He ate a cat.

    English is a subject-verb-object language. By looking at the order, we know the role of each word. In this case:

    “He” is subject.
    “ate” is verb.
    “a cat” is object.

    Now we can write this in Japanese as:


    彼 (he) is subject
    猫 (cat) is object
    食べた (ate) is verb

    Japanese sentences are usually written using this subject-object-verb order. But this is not absolutely strict like English. We can switch around like this and still get the same meaning.


    So we can’t look at the word order in every case. Instead, we look at particles.

    In this sentence (彼が猫を食べた。) there are particle が and を. が indicates that 彼 (he) is the one that does the verb 食べた (ate) and を indicates that 猫 (cat) is the object.

    In short, verbs are almost always at the end of the sentences and we can switch other words around and just have to look at the words in front of those particles to find their roles.

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    Re: Understanding Japanese languange structure

    Thank you! this diagram really explains the difference really well though unfortunately it seems that even the languange structure is as complicated as the various meanings and implementation of the kanji system. it seems i have to invest quite some time to understand how this works

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    Re: Understanding Japanese languange structure

    I suggest you the book Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You.

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    Re: Understanding Japanese languange structure

    Quote Originally Posted by Takato View Post
    I suggest you the book Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You.
    Cool. I'll go and check

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    Re: Understanding Japanese languange structure

    The personal guide for Japanese language

    There are various grammatical words below. But they are not always formal words/terms. They are sometimes my expression of grammatical concepts, or my coined words/terms (here temporary).


    At first, Japanese words are divided into two kinds/ types.

    1] 実体詞 jittaishi = substance word
    2] 補助詞 hojoshi = auxiliary word

    Jittaishi has some meaning, concept. | examples (EN) noun, verb, adjective, adverb
    Hojoshi hasn't meaning, concept | examples (EN) preposition

    Hojoshi shows the relation between words (concepts), etc.

    For instance:
    花が咲く Hana ga saku. Flower blooms
    hana = flower (Jittaishi)
    saku = bloom (Jittaishi)
    ga = Hojoshi, indicating ["hana" is subject of sentence]

    In more complicated sentence:
    Hana ga utsukushiku saku toki, watashi wa anata ni kuchiduke wo shi ta
    When flowers bloomed beautifully, I kissed you.

    the analysis of this sentence (J=jittaishi, H=hojoshi)
    Hana(J) ga(H) utsukushiku(J) saku(J) toki(J), watashi(J) wa(H) anata(J) ni(H) kuchiduke(J) wo(H) shi(J) ta(H)

    Hana(J) = flower (noun)
    ga(H) = particle indicating "subject"
    utsukushiku(J) = beautifully (adverb usage of "SHI adjective")
    saku(J) = bloom (verb)
    toki(J) = time, season, tide (noun)
    watashi(J) = I (personal pronoun)
    wa(H) = particle indicating "topic subject"
    anata(J) = you (personal pronoun)
    ni(H) = to, [dative] particle indicating "dative"
    kuchiduke(J) = kiss (noun)
    wo(H) = [accusative] particle indicating "accusative"
    shi(J) = do (verb)
    ta(H) = particle indicating "past tense"

    Hana-ga utsukushiku saku-toki = Flower(s) beautifully bloom-time
    watashi-wa anata-ni kuchizuke-wo shi-ta = I /to you/ kiss /did/

    that is: (In) time - flowers beautifully bloom, I did(made) kiss to you

    And this example shows that Japanese sentences are composed of "Jittaishi+Hojoshi+Jittaishi+Hojoshi+Jittaishi+....". That is, mixture of Jittaishi and Hojoshi.


    In Latin, there are six cases: (These cases are roughly):
    1] Nominative [ /ga/ or /wa/ in Japanese]
    2] Genitive [ /no/ in Japanese]
    3] Dative [ /ni/ in Japanese]
    4] Accusative [ /wo/ in Japanese]
    5] Ablative [ /de/ in Japanese]
    6] Vocative [ /yo/ in Japanese]

    Most or all Indo-European languages has/had these cases. Old English had these cases. They partially remain in pronouns.

    The certain Japanese joshi (particle) have similar functions like Latin case suffix. These particles are called "kaku-joshi" (格助詞, case-particle).
    Kaku-joshi (case-particle) have similar functions like "preposition". Some people call Japanese kaku-joshi as "post-position" because it is placed after a noun. (In the case of preposition, it is placed in front of a noun).

    Japanese joshi (particle) is usually placed after a noun or "substance word", so they are "postposition".

    kaku-joshi (格助詞, case-particle) Ga, Wa, No, Ni, Wo, De are important. Understanding these particles, you will be more familiar with Japanese sentence structure.

    Ga が = substance subject, [Nominative]
    Wa わ = topic subject, [Nominative]
    No の = /of/ in English, [Genitive]
    Ni に = /at, in,, for, etc./ in English, [Dative]
    Wo を = object, [Accusative]
    De で = /with, through. by, in, on, at, etc./ in English, [Ablative]
    Yo よ = [Vocative]

    Other postpositions and conjunctions:

    から kara (from), へ e (to, toward), と to (with, and), も mo (too), まで made (till, until), そして soshite (and), または matawa (or), しかし shikashi (but), keredo (but), もし moshi (if) etc.


    And second, there are two types of substance words (実体詞, Jittaishi):

    1] Non-changeable word (不変詞)
    2] Changeable word (変化詞)

    Noun and adverbs (and various particles) are type 1 (non-changeable word)
    Verbs, adjectives, etc. are type 2 (changeable word)

    Japanese noun and pronoun do not change. Adding various particle at the end, noun has its case.

    On the other hand, verbs and adjectives are changeable. But its changes are different from the European languages.

    Here are typical "Verb Changes": Verb /Yuku 行く/ (go) changes:

    1] Yuk-a nai -- not Go
    2] Yuk-i masu -- (yes) Go [polite a bit]
    3] yuk-u -- Go (I go, you go, he/she goes, they go. etc.)
    4] yuk-u toki -- time of Go
    5] yuk-e ba -- if Go
    6] yuk-e! -- Go! (Imperative)
    6] yuk-o u -- Let's Go (Imperative)

    Japanese verb Yuku is basically /yuk-/
    +a, +i, +u, +e, +o create particular meaning or usage of verb.
    This type of verb is called 五段活用 (Godan katsuyou, five steps change)

    There are verbs: 一段活用 (one step change)、変格活用 (irregular change)

    In Ichidan-katsuyou (1 step) verbs, there are 2 types:
    1] Upper 1 step change (上一段活用, Kami Ichidan katsuyou)
    2] Lower 1 step change (下一段活用, Shimo Ichidan katsuyou)

    Verb "Oki-ru"(起きる, wake) is upper 1 step verb

    1] Oki-nai, 2] Oki-masu, 3] Oki-ru, 4] Oki-ru-toki,
    5] Oki-re-ba, 6] Oki-re! 6] Oki-yo! 6] Oki-yo-u

    Oki = Ok + i
    /i/ is upper vowel. |a, /i/, u, e. o| /i/ is 2nd vowel.
    Upper 1 step verb-body ends with 2nd vowel /i/ (2nd is upper)

    Verb "Tazune-ru"(尋ねる, ask) is lower 1 step verb

    1] Tazune-nai, 2] Tazune-masu, 3] Tazune-ru, 4] Tazune-ru-toki,
    5] Tazune-re-ba, 6] Tazune-yo! 6] Tazune-yo-u

    Tazune = Tazun + e
    lower 1 step verb ends with 4th vowel /e/
    /e/ is 4th vowel. |a, i, u, /e/, o| /e/ is 4th vowel (4th is lower)

    Using standard Japanese Verb case terms:
    1] is 未然形 (Mizen-kei), 2] is 連用形 (Ren'you-kei), 3] is 終止形 (Shuushi-kei)
    4] is 連体形 (Rentai-kei), 5] is 仮定形 (Katei-kei), 6] is 命令形 (Meirei-kei)

    In common contemporary Japanese, certain word is added to each form (these words are representative word for the usage of that case).
    1] -nai (not), 2] -masu (polite), 3] - (end form)
    4] -toki (time), 5] -ba (if), 6] -yo (order, imperative)

    There are also Henkaku-katsuyou doushi (Irregular verbs, 変格活用動詞).
    /suru (do)/ and /kuru (come)/ are representative.
    "Suru" is called サ行変格活用 (Sa-gyou Henkaku-katsuyou)
    "Kuru" is called カ行変格活用 (Ka-gyou Henkaku-katsuyou)

    They are very representative and important verbs.

    * Tips: Noun + suru --> verb

    Guuguru-suru <-- to search by Google
    Guuguru-suru --> Gugu-ru (recent slang)

    ex: ググれば分かる (Gugure ba wakaru)
    = If you search by Google, you will see at once.


    In Third

    There are two types of substance words (実体詞) in Japanese:

    1] 用言 (Yougen) basically changeable: verb, adjective, and adverb (non-changeable), etc.
    2] 体言 (Taigen) basically non-changeable: noun, etc.

    In verb, Ren'you-kei follows with Yougen
    In verb, Rentai-kei follows with Taigen
    In other cases in verb, it follows with particle (or nothing).


    In Fourth

    Japanese adjective sometimes becomes a noun (with some suffix or particle).
    So, remember adjective (形容詞, Keiyou-shi) can be a noun.

    Adjective are changeable in 6 cases (or 6 connecting forms. same as in verb)

    1] Mizen: Kanash-i-karo (悲し・かろ) /probably (may be) sorrowful/
    2] Ren'you: Kanash-i-katt- (悲しかっ) ex: Kanashi-katt-a = was sad
    2] Ren'you: Kanash-i-ku- (悲しく) ex: Kanashi-ku-nai = not sad
    3] Shuushi: Kanash-i-i (悲しい) ex: Watashi wa kanashi-i = I am sad
    4] Rentai: Kanash-i-i (悲しい) ex: Kanashi-i hi = sad day
    5] Katei: Kanash-i-kere (悲しけれ) ex: Kanashi-kere-ba = if (it is) sad
    6] Meirei: Kanash-i-kare (悲しかれ) ex: Be sorrowful!

    EX: 悲しい Kanash-i-i, 楽しい Tanosh-i-i, 美しい Utsukush-i-i

    The above are "SHI adjective", one type of "I adjective".

    "I adjective"(イ形容詞):

    1] Mizen: Omo-karo (重・かろ) /probably (may be) heavy/
    2] Ren'you: Omo-katt- (重かっ) ex: Omo-katt-a = was heavy
    2] Ren'you: Omo-ku- (重く) ex: Omo-ku-nai = not heavy
    3] Shuushi: Omo-i (重い) ex: Tetsu wa omo-i = Iron is heavy
    4] Rentai: Omo-i (重い) ex: Omo-i ishi = heavy stone
    5] Katei: Omo-kere (重けれ) ex: Omo-kere-ba = if (it is) heavy
    6] Meirei: Omo-kare (重かれ) ex: Be heavy!

    EX: 軽い Karu-i (light), 明るい Akaru-i (light <--> dark), 暗い Kura-i (dark), 悪い Waru-i (bad), 良い Yo-i (good),

    Note: There are Ooki-na, or Chiisa-na form. These forms are not considered adjective form. Ooki-i hito (large person, adjective), Ooki-na hito (large person). [ these are partially form of "NA adjective" ]

    See 3], adjective is copula adjective.
    私は悲しいです Watashi wa kanashi-i desu = I am sad
    私は悲しい Watashi wa kanashi-i = I am sad

    Shuushi-kei in adjective does not need copula word ("be verb").
    世界は美しい Sekai wa utsukushi-i = The world is beautiful

    2] Ren'you-kei is used for adverb:
    花が美しく咲く Hana ga utsukushi-ku saku = Flower blooms beautifully
    私は悲しく思った Watashi wa kanashi-ku omott-a (variation of /omou-ta/) = I thought sadly.

    The above are "I adjective" (イ形容詞). There is "NA adjective" (ナ形容詞).
    "I adjective" is standard adjective in Japanese.

    Example of "NA adjective" (ナ形容詞) :

    華やかな Hanayakana
    2] Ren'you-kei: Hanayaka-ni ex: Hanayaka-ni odoru = (She) dances fashionably
    3] Shuushi-kei: Hanayaka-da ex: Toshi wa hanayaka-da = The city is flowering.
    4] Rentai-kei: Hanayaka-na(ru) ex: Hanayaka-na kyuuden = Gorgeous palace.
    5] Katei-kei: Hanayaka-nara-ba

    EX: 馬鹿な Baka-na (stupid), 賢明な Kenmei-na (clever), 雑な Zatsu-na (rough)

    etc. etc.


    There are still many things in Grammar. We cannot write and explain much here.
    But I think the above things are very essential and important. If you know pretty many Kanji characters. The three types of Japanese verbs (Godan, Ichidan, Henkaku) are useful.
    Also 6 cases or usages of each verb, and adjective may be useful.

    _ mrd


    In Fifth, there are words order rules:

    A] Adjective which qualifies a noun is placed in front of noun.
    -- that is, [ADJ] + [NOUN]
    ex: Utukushi-i hana = beautiful flower
    ex: Oroka-na otoko = Stupid man/guy
    ex: Kawai-i shoujo = Cute girl
    ex: Ooki-na uchuusen = Large spaceship / starship

    In English, there is "Group modifier" (I don't know correct grammatical term, but the following example):
    "King of Fairyland's daughter" or "Great King of the Legendary Fairyland's daughter"

    In Japanese, these are: "妖精の国の王の娘" or "伝説の妖精の国の偉大な王の娘"
    ("Yousei no Kuni no Ou no musume", "Densetsu no Yousei no Kuni no idai-na Ou no musume")
    that is: "a daughter of the King of the Fairyland" or "a daughter of the great King of the Legendary Fairyland"

    Qualifiers are placed in front of the noun (daughter in this case) which is qualified by these qualifiers.

    B] Adverb which qualifies a verb or adjective is placed in front of verb or adjective.
    that is, [ADV] + [VERB], or [ADV] + [ADJ]

    [ADV] + [VERB] --
    ex: Hayaku hashiru = (he/she etc.) runs fast. [ hayaku = fast, hashiru = run ]
    ex: Shinchou-ni kangaeru = (she/he/I/you etc.) think(s) carefully. [ shinchou-ni = carefully, kangaeru = think ]
    Usually, we do not say "Kangaeru, shinchou-ni", but rarely this word order is used (poetical expression, or special wording).

    [ADV] + [ADJ] --
    ex: Hijou-ni utsukushi-i = Very beautiful (hijou-ni = very, adv. Utsukushi-i = beautiful, adj)
    ex: Souzou wo zessite zankokuna sentou = Inconceivably cruel battle (Souzou wo zessite = beyond our thoughts/imaginations = inconceivably, sentou = battle)

    [ADV] + [ADJ] + [Noun] --
    ex: Osoroshi-ku haya-i jidousha = terribly fast automobile (osoroshi-ku = teribly, jidousha = automobile)
    ex: Hijouni minikui okonai = Very ugly deeds (hijou-ni = very, minikui = ugly, okonai = deeds)

    [ADJ] [ADJ] [ADJ] + [NOUN] --
    ex: Sensai-de utukushi-i junsui-na otome = Delicate, pretty, pure maiden (sensai-na = delicate, junsui-na = pure, otome = maiden)

    C-1] Direct object is in front of a Verb.
    -- that is: [OBJect] + [VERB]
    ex: Hoshi wo miru = (he/she) sees the star (hoshi = star, miru = see)
    ex: Roma no Okutawianusu wa Dai-teikoku wo kiduita = Octavianus of Rome established the Great Empire.

    C-2] Indirect object is in front of a Verb.
    -- that is: [indir-OBJect] + [VERB]
    ex: "Dai-teikoku wo kiduita Okutawianusu" wa Roma ni umareta = "Octavianus who built the Great Empire" was born in Rome.
    cf: "Dai-teikoku wo kiduita Okutawianusu" wa Ejiputo-oukoku wo horoboshi-ta = "Octavianus who built the Great Empire" destroyed Egypt kingdom. ( This is [Direct-OBJ] + [VERB] pattern.)

    _ mrd
    Last edited by mildis; June 20th, 2019 at 04:23 AM.
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    Re: Understanding Japanese languange structure

    Thanks! It's a very detailed explanation and the examples are really useful, i'll be sure to try to study this to improve my japanese. And here i thought studying kanji alone are torture already (various meanings, various writings with some depends on situation, same/similar pronunciation, very similar or same meanings with usage depending on the situation, old words but still used sometimes, glorified impression, technical/specialized words, old meanings, old expression, strange expression, law terms, and don't get me started on the 4 characters words) guess now i'm going into a world of pain. I've always wondered is it possible to just trailblaze one's way disregarding all those structures and complicated stuff like for instances: for"から kara (from), へ e (to, toward), と to (with, and), も mo (too), まで made (till, until), そして soshite (and), または matawa (or), しかし shikashi (but), keredo (but), もし moshi (if) etc." I've already mastered these usage simply from exposure and I'm wonderin, can you master the structure by pure exposure (perhaps with little bit example study?) for instance when i studied english i've never actually bothered with the structure like tenses, verb, noun and all but here i am writing all this long complicated sentences just by pure exposure

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