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Japanese Deconstructed

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Japanese Deconstructed

Postby 100PercentWeasel » Sat 05.16.2009 3:20 am

I read a interesting blog by a very interesting man. I suggest you read it before you attempt to participate in my request.
http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2007/11/07/how-to-learn-but-not-master-any-language-in-1-hour-plus-a-favor/
Also read
[url]http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/01/20/learning-language/
[/url]
I find it unfortunate he hasn't posted his japanese deconstruction and I see no where on the web where someone has done so, so I present the task to this forum.

I guess the first task would be to translate:

The apple is red.
It is John’s apple.
I give John the apple.
We give him the apple.
He gives it to John.
She gives it to him.
I must give it to him.
I want to give it to her.

Second Task: Find the 100 most common spoken and then most common written words in Japanese.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby astaroth » Sat 05.16.2009 8:24 am

Isn't sentence deconstruction simply equal grammar and grammatical pattern?
I remember hours spent during High School doing that, namely identify subject, verb, objects and so on, for Latin, and in Elementary School for Italian and English too.
So I don't really understand what the innovation of it ... or probably "sentence deconstruction" sounds just cooler than "grammar" ...
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 05.16.2009 9:02 am

If you've already decided to learn Japanese, the exercise is pointless.

Also, those sentences can't be translated without knowing who John is in relation to all the other people, and who the sentences are being spoken to. And if you ignore those factors, you are purposely avoiding part of what makes Japanese difficult to master, thus rendering the whole exercise useless. The verb "gives" in "He gives it to John" has at least 10 possibilities depending on the relationships between all the people involved (yaru, ageru, sashiageru, kureru, and kudasaru, plus the -masu versions of all of those -- some are less likely to occur in real life than others, but all 10 are theoretically possible).

The idea is nice, but it can give a false impression of the difficulty of Japanese because many of the most complicated aspects of Japanese (particularly politeness, wa vs. ga, and "n da") cannot be dealt with on the basis of a single, isolated sentence with no context. It also excludes cultural differences, focusing exclusively on grammatical aspects -- but differences in culture can create barriers to learning a language just as significant as the features of the language itself. In theory, politeness is not that difficult in Japanese -- it really boils down to just learning one extra conjugation, a couple of regular polite forms, and a handful of additional vocabulary. What makes it so fiendishly difficult is the cultural aspect of deciding when to use the polite forms.
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Sat 05.16.2009 4:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby yukamina » Sat 05.16.2009 12:38 pm

Those sentences don't really deconstruct Japanese like they would another(Europeon?) language. He, she, I and the verbs they are used with don't change forms in Japanese(I give her vs she givess me).
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby JaySee » Sat 05.16.2009 3:51 pm

I might not have understood correctly, but what he seems to say is that if you want to learn a second language, you should start by deconstructing a couple of languages, see which one is easiest, and then go for that one to get maximum results within a certain timeframe.

I could see his idea of "deconstructing" a language being helpful in getting a very general idea of what a certain language is like, and how similar it is to your own native language. It might also be beneficial for those who don't care about what specific second language they will be learning, but just want to learn (any) one as fast as possible.... I really doubt that there are many people who think like this though.

Maybe I missed the point he's trying to make, but it all seems a bit strange to me.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby yukamina » Sat 05.16.2009 6:27 pm

JaySee wrote:
I could see his idea of "deconstructing" a language being helpful in getting a very general idea of what a certain language is like, and how similar it is to your own native language. It might also be beneficial for those who don't care about what specific second language they will be learning, but just want to learn (any) one as fast as possible.... I really doubt that there are many people who think like this though.

Maybe I missed the point he's trying to make, but it all seems a bit strange to me.

That's how it came across to me too. If you really want to learn a certain language, it doesn't really matter if it's more difficult than other languages. I'm certainly not learning Japanese because I thought it would be quick and easy.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby Mike Cash » Sat 05.16.2009 8:33 pm

yukamina wrote:That's how it came across to me too. If you really want to learn a certain language, it doesn't really matter if it's more difficult than other languages. I'm certainly not learning Japanese because I thought it would be quick and easy.


That's a very common sense answer. Yet there seems to be a never-ending supply of folks on the internet who say things like, "Hey! How long will it take me to master Japanese? Cuz if it will take more than a couple of weeks I'm going to learn Urdu or Swahili instead. Thanks, bye! (E-mail me your answers, thx!)"
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby jcdietz03 » Mon 06.01.2009 9:56 pm

OK - I will bite. This post is a little long.
A lot of you (maybe none of you for all I know) like anime. Sometimes lists like these need a personal touch. Here is an anime-centric word list from a little while back.
http://www.yale.edu/anime/essential-words.pdf

I found a list of words (written Japanese) with newspaper bias.
の - Particle
、- punctuation
。 - more punctuation
を - another particle
は - another particle
に - another particle
た - plain form of copula
が- another particle
て- another particle
で- another particle
する- do
「-punctuation
」-punctuation
と-another particle
)-punctuation
(-punctuation
も-another particle
いる-be; has another meaning related to continuing action (-ている) I'm not familiar with.
・-punctuation
する-do
日-the most common kanji there is.
から-another particle
ない-a verb ending meaning not
な-I don't know
こと-thing
など-I don't know - is that even a word?
年-year
か-another particle
や-another particle
日本-Japan
人-person
なる-become
ある-be
この-demonstrative
円-Yen
ため-for the sake of; in order to
まで-until, to. A particle.
という-I know いう means to say. Don't know about という. I think it's the same いう though. Might be used in quotations.
さん-Mr./Mrs.
へ-A particle.
一-One
よう-Could be anything. Day of the week. Not sure of other meanings.
氏-I don't know this one.
れる-Seems to be a verb ending. Don't know.
二-two
同-I don't know
東京-Tokyo
ば-Not sure. Is it a particle?
三-three
%-punctuation
その-demonstrative
問題-question
=-symbolic (equal sign)
的-I don't know
について-concerning
いう-to say
1-numeric
これ-demonstrative
2-numeric
もの-also means "thing"
約-about/approximate
う-Verb ending?
です-polite copula
者-someone
市-market
3-numeric
時-hour or time
首相-prime minister
四-four
大統領-president
だけ-only
ます-polite verb ending
くる-come
政府-government
会-meet/meeting
回-number of times
ら-makes certain nouns plural
経済-economics/economy
しかし-however
政治-government
分-minute, part, understand
たい+verb ending
米国-America - it's interesting that this is one of the top 100 Japanese words
五-five
区-ward
中-inside, character for china
県-prefecture
また-again, still

I have heard before that the first hundred words are only a drop in bucket. Half of the words (written) are among the 1500 most common ones and half of the words (spoken) are among the 800 most common ones. I don't remember where I heard that. Even so, 100 is only a small fraction of the 1500 most common written words in Japanese.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 06.01.2009 10:25 pm

jcdietz03 wrote:I found a list of words (written Japanese) with newspaper bias.

米国-America - it's interesting that this is one of the top 100 Japanese words


It shouldn't be that interesting or surprising that America would be one of the most frequent words in a newspaper.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby jcdietz03 » Mon 06.01.2009 10:54 pm

I will have to agree on that - it's the newspaper bias.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby furrykef » Mon 06.01.2009 10:58 pm

Perhaps surprising that 米国 is on the list and アメリカ is not, though.

As for the word list, I think it's a bit silly, especially considering that it has punctuation... I don't think it has any use beyond maybe satisfying curiosity. It certainly doesn't even begin to paint a picture of learning beginner's Japanese.

た - plain form of copula


The plain form of the copula is だ, not た. Did you make a typo?

円-Yen


Don't forget that it means "circle", too.

同-I don't know


This kanji appears in the word 同じ (onaji), which means "same". It's also used as a prefix, but I'm not familiar with that usage.

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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 06.01.2009 11:02 pm

furrykef wrote:Perhaps surprising that 米国 is on the list and アメリカ is not, though.


Not if the list is based on newspapers, since 米国 is more common there.

円-Yen


Don't forget that it means "circle", too.


I cannot recall ever actually seeing 円 used to mean "circle", although I've seen that in textbooks.
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby furrykef » Tue 06.02.2009 12:42 am

smart.fm/iKnow! has the sentence そこに大きな円を描いて, for what that's worth, though I guess that would fall under the "textbooks" category (more than it would under the "real life" category, anyway).
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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby AJBryant » Tue 06.02.2009 3:21 am

furrykef wrote:Perhaps surprising that 米国 is on the list and アメリカ is not, though.


Newspapers are on a really tight budget space-wise. 米国 is only two characters. アメリカ is four.

It's because of the tight space restraints that newspaper articles are harder to read than magazine articles -- more kanji where others would typically drop in kana, tighter grammar, etc.



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Re: Japanese Deconstructed

Postby jcdietz03 » Tue 06.02.2009 5:33 pm

It seems like katakana words were ignored by the list.
But that's wrong - katakana words were included. The most common katakana word is ロシア which is around 200th on the list.

I got the list from a file called "wordfreq" on the WWWJDIC ftp site.
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