Japanese (Nihongo)
Posted 3/31/08
Japanese (Nihongo)

Before the 4th century AD, the Japanese had no writing system of their own. During the 4th century they began to import and adapt the Chinese script, along with many other aspects of Chinese culture, probably via Korea.

At first the Japanese wrote in Classical Chinese or in a Japanese-Chinese hybrid style. An example of the hybrid style is the kojiki (Records of Antiquity) written in 712 AD. They then started to use Chinese characters to write Japanese in a style known as man'yōgana, literarly "Ten Thousand leaf syllabic script", which used the characters for their phonetic values.

Over time a writing system emerged in which Chinese characters were used to write either words borrowed from Chinese or Japanese words with the same or similar meanings. Chinese characters were also used for their phonetic values to write grammatical elements and these characters were simplified and eventually became two syllabic scripts, hiragana and katakana.

Japanese literature reached a high point during the 11th century with the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. Many other Japanese literary works were also written by women.

Modern Japanese is written with a mixture of hiragana and katakana, plus kanji. Modern Japanese texts may also include rōmaji, (Roman letters), the standard way of writing Japanese with the Latin alphabet, eimoji (English script), non-Japanese words written in their own script and various symbols known as kigō.
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