Similarities between Japanese and Other Languages

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All languages have similarities, it can be in writing, grammar, speech or in some words. In this article we will present the similarities that the Japanese language has with other languages such as Chinese, Portuguese, English, Korean and others.

When studying Japanese I realized that it has characteristics of several languages. This can happen because of history, influence, importation and even by chance due to the results of the collective unconscious.

What is the benefit of knowing languages that have similarities to Japanese? Perhaps you are a curious polyglot, or want to find similar languages. I hope you like this article and share it with your friends.

Similarities of Japanese and Chinese

people often end up thinking that Japanese and Chinese are the same language. There is no shortage of reasons, Japanese uses most of the ideograms of Traditional Chinese and also imported most of its words.

But this is one of the few similarities with the Chinese language, because it is pronounced, and some spelling rules change completely. The only thing that stands apart from the ideograms is simplicity.

Chinese is a tonal language, while Japanese has so few pre-defined syllables that the sound does not change at all. The way of speaking in Chinese is completely different from Japanese. Japanese writing also has 2 other syllabic alphabets that are mixed with ideograms imported from China.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

Similarities between Japanese and German

How is the Japanese language similar to German? Have you noticed the huge and complicated words of the German language? They are junctions of small words that form others, which sometimes have very different meanings.

Like German, Japanese is a language that joins words together to form others. There are many similar languages, but German is one of the most popular when it comes to putting words together.

As in German, when referring to just one thing in Japanese, the word is written together using ideograms. Both German and Japanese put words together to form new ideas.

It can sometimes seem confusing because the Japanese language doesn't have space, but the similarities are visible, and it was one of the first things I noticed when learning Japanese.

Similarities of Japanese and Sign Language

Japanese can be similar to sign languages for 2 reasons, firstly the simplicity of the language, and also because of the signs that represent images in the mind, as do ideograms.

Sign language has a simple grammar and language. There are thousands of languages with a simple language, but the most similar to Japanese is sign language.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

Similarities of Japanese and Korean

The Japanese and Korean language share several similarities, such as SOV grammar (subject + object + verb), typology, honorifics, prefix verbs, etc. One of the differences between Japanese and Korean is that Korean grammar is much more difficult than Japanese.

About 40% of Korean vocabulary bears resemblance to Japanese language. Like Japan, Korea was influenced by the Chinese language. Korea also had influences on the Japanese language, in the same way Japan also influenced Korea in some way.

Korean writing is totally different from Japanese writing, but they share the same idea. While Japan simplified its language by creating hiragana and katakana, Korea completely removed ideograms creating its own writing system.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

Similarities between Japanese and Portuguese

The Portuguese language had a lot of influence on the Japanese language. The Portuguese arrived in Japan around 1542-1543, being the first Europeans to establish a continuous and direct flow of trade between Japan and Europe. 

Over the years, it has been speculated that more than 4,000 Japanese words were influenced by the Portuguese language and the Portuguese. That's why we have many similar words in both languages.

It is believed that the try and maru (accent that changes the Japanese syllable) was created only because of the Portuguese foreigners who lived in Japan.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

Words such as glass, alcohol, button, swing, flask, jesus, cape, cup, cross, bread and tobacco are used in the Japanese language adapted to katakana writing.

Read our article on Portuguese words imported into Japanese.

Similarities between Japanese and English

Like Portuguese, Japan has been heavily influenced by the English language in recent centuries. Nowadays most of the inventions and things that appeared had their name derived from English.

These words borrowed from English are called wasei-eigo, something similar happens a lot in Portuguese, where we talk about downloads, hashtags, updates, billboards and smartphones.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

If 4,000 words of Portuguese origin in Japanese is a lot, the English influenced much more. Words like apartment, elevator, underwear, panties, ice cream, animation, butter, milk, dorms, building, computer, desk, driver, fight, and christmas were imported from English.

Read our article on English words imported into Japanese.

Similarities between Japanese and Tupi-Guarani

For some reason, several Tupi-Guarani language families have striking similarities with the Japanese language. Words like wall, rain, restless and wildflowers are almost identically pronounced.

It is not enough to have a similar pronunciation, Tupi-Guarani and Japanese have similar words with the same or similar meaning. Sometimes not only the words but even the Japanese grammar looks like Tupi-Guarani.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

In Japanese there is the demonstrative pronoun year (あの) while in Tupi there are demonstrative pronouns to and dwarf. Are these similarities coincidental or was there some twist in history that brought these two distant nations together?

Read our article on the similarities between Japanese and Tupi-Guarani.

Similarities of Japanese and Hebrew

Some insist that the Hebrews influenced Japan in some way, both in history and in the political system and language. We won't discuss it here, because scholars totally contradict such a belief.

Still, there are slight similarities between the Hebrew language and the Japanese language. This happens in both writing and pronunciation, but there is a scientific explanation for such coincidences.

The explanation for such a theory is what we call collective unconscious. It consists of the idea that we all inherit tendencies, functional traits, virtual images, which would be common to all human beings. Which explains several coincidences around the world.

Similarities between Japanese and other languages

Japanese similarities with other languages

In addition to those mentioned, other scholars create theories similar to Japanese and other languages. Some claim that Japanese phonology is similar to those of Austronesian languages such as Creole.

Other researchers have tried to link Japanese with Indo-European languages, Dravidian languages, and with other Eurasian languages. There are some similarities between Altaic languages like Turkish, Mongolian and others.

I don't rule out any possibility of these languages causing influences between them. Directly, indirectly or through the collective unconscious.

Is that you? Do you know any other languages that are similar to Japanese? Leave your comment on this subject and share with friends!

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