Lowlands-L Anniversary Celebration

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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...



Abstracted from Chinese characters in very
cursive calligraphic style, the “phonetic”
Japanese Hiragana script (seen here in a
document from the early 12th century)
was originally intended to be used by and
for women and other persons that knew few
or no Chinese characters

Language information: Japanese is the native language of the vast majority of Japanese people in the world, increasingly also the primary language of Japan’s ethnic minorities, such as Ryukyu Islanders, Ainu, Koreans and Chinese. Japanese language studies are popular all over the world, because Japan is a major trading nation, Japanese tourism is an important source of income, and Japanese art, literature and Buddhist traditions enjoy worldwide recognition and admiration, especially in Europe and the Americas.
     Japanese uses a mixed script consisting of two types of syllabaries (known as kana, hiragana for native syllables and katakana for foreign-based syllables) as well as Chinese characters (kanji). Chinese characters can be pronounced differently, depending on the time and place from which the words they occur in were imported. This makes Japanese a difficult language to learn to read and write.
     Some linguists consider Japanese a language isolate while others consider it an Altaic language. It may well be possible that it descended in part from proto-Altaic and came to be infused with Ainu and Malayo-Polynesian elements.

Though direct contacts with Dutchmen on Dejima Island
were limited, “Dutch studies” flourished in Japan during
the country’s isolationist era.

          During a period of xenophobic isolationism and ruthless persecution of Christians, prior to American Commodore Perry’s success in prying Japan open by means of gunboat diplomacy, merchants from the Netherlands were the only Westerners permitted to conduct business in Japan, though fairly strictly controlled and confined to Dejima Island in Nagasaki Bay. Some Japanese soon learned, mostly from translators, that the Dutchmen had worthwhile scientific and technological information written in Dutch, though most of it was not specific to the Netherlands. Mostly clandestinely, a good deal of this information came to be transferred to interested Japanese off the island and was distributed in Japanese translation, and the area of Rangaku (“Dutch studies”) developed from there. Thus, before Japan was reopened to the world under American pressure (14 July 1853), there had been two periods of Western influence: first a Portuguese and Spanish period and then a Dutch one.
     Nowadays, Japanese uses numerous English loanwords (written with Katakana characters). Some of these have been abbreviated since they were adopted. For instance, the word suto ‘(labor) strike’ has been abbreviated from original sutoraiku.

Genealogy: (Altaic >) Japanese

Historical Lowlands language contacts: Dutch, English

    Click to open the translation: [Click] Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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