日本語 (nihongo)


Spoken by: 127 millions according to ne.se, 2009

Official in: Japan

Spoken primarily in: Japan, USA, Brazil

Despite being spoken natively in almost only one country, Japanese is one of the biggest languages in the world. It is the the dominant language of the Japonic language family, which also includes the Ryukyuan languages spoken on the southern islands of Japan. Researchers have connected the Japonic languages with other language families, but all claims remain controversial. Special to written Japanese is the mix of writing systems. In addition to the Chinese characters (kanji), used for both native words and Chinese loanwords, Japanese makes use of two parallel syllabaries (hiragana and katakana). Hiragana is normally used for native Japanese words, while katakana for (historically more recent) foreign loanwords. The text of the fable below shows only kanji and hiragana being used.