Friday, October 22, 2004

Some Characteristics of Japanese Grammar

1. Constituents of a Japanese sentence

There are eleven word classes in Japanese, that is to say,
- noun
- * verb
- * "i" adjective
- * "na" adjective
- attributive
- adverb
- conjuction
- interjection
- * auxiliary verb
(Those classes marked with an asterisk conjugate.)

Words are divided into two types:
- independed lexical words
- dependent grammatical ones

Independed lexical words, or "juritsugo" in Japanese,
can occur at the beginning of a node (a phrase or element),
while dependent words or "fuzokugo" can never do so, but
can only occur after independent lexical words.

Particles and auxiliary verbs belong to the dependent gramatical
class, and the rest are in the independent class.

A Japanese sentence consists of a number of nodes, Each node is
an independent lexical word, or a combination of an independent
lexical word and some dependent grammatical words.

Kinoo anata wa terebi o mimashita ka.

The above sentence consists of four nodes. There are four independent
lexical words, i.e., kinoo, anata, terebi, and mi(ru), and all of them occur
at the beginning of each node. The dependent grammatical words are
i.e., wa, o, mashi, ta, and ka.

2. Word order

The most important part of a sentence in Japanese is the predicate,
which always occurs at the very end of the sentence.

Densha ga kita.
(Watashi wa) denwa of kakeru.
(Anata wa) kyoo kaisha e ikimasu ka.

As the subject and object in a sentence are indicated by specific particles
rather than by their positions in the sentence, their positions are
comparatively free.

Modifiers are placed before the word to be modified as follows:

takai yama (takai yama)
yoku hashiru uma (yoku hashiru, yoku hashiru uma)
kinoo tabeta ryoori (kinoo tebeta, kinoo tabeta ryoori)
Kare wa tabun kuru deshoo. (Kare wa kuru deshoo, tabun kuru deshoo)

1) Kinoo watashi wa tomodachi ni denwa o kakemashita.

The above example sentence consists of five nodes. 'kakemashita' is the
predicate that has to come at the end of the sentence, but the other four
nodes are free to occur anywhere else in the sentence. Therefore, 24 variations
of this sentence are grammatically possible. Usually, however, a temporal
element, a subject or a theme is placed at the beginning of a sentence. So,
examples 3), 4), and 5) below are not ungrammatical but very rarely used.

2) Watashi wa kinoo tomodachi ni denwa of kakemashita.
(frequent, standard)

3) Kinoo denwa o tomodachi ni watashi wa kakemashita.
(rare)

4) Denwa o tomodachi ni watashi wa kinoo kakemashita.
(rare)

5) Tomodachi ni denwa o kinoo watashi wa kakemashita.
(rare)