Linguistic typology is a subfield of linguistics that studies and classifies languages according to their structural features. Its aim is to describe and explain the common properties and the structural diversity of the world's languages. It includes three subdisciplines: qualitative typology, which deals with the issue of comparing languages and within-language variance; quantitative typology, which deals with the distribution of structural patterns in the world’s languages; and theoretical typology, which explains these distributions.
Japanese (日本語 Nihongo , [nihõŋɡo], [nihõŋŋo] ( )) is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic (or Japanese-Ryukyuan) language family, whose relation to other language groups, particularly to Korean and the suggested Altaic language family, is debated.
Little is known of the language's prehistory, or when it first appeared in Japan. Chinese documents from the 3rd century recorded a few Japanese words, but substantial texts did not appear until the 8th century. During the Heian period (794–1185), Chinese had a considerable influence on the vocabulary and phonology of Old Japanese. Late Middle Japanese (1185–1600) saw changes in features that brought it closer to the modern language, as well the first appearance of European loanwords. The standard dialect moved from the Kansai region to the Edo (modern Tokyo) region in the Early Modern Japanese period (early 17th century–mid-19th century). Following the end in 1853 of Japan's self-imposed isolation, the flow of loanwords from European languages increased significantly. English loanwords in particular have become frequent, and Japanese words from English roots have proliferated.
The Japanese dialects (方言 hōgen ) comprise many regional variants. The lingua franca of Japan is called hyōjungo (標準語, lit. "standard language") or kyōtsūgo (共通語, lit. "common language"), and while it was based initially on the Tokyo dialect, the language of Japan's capital has since gone in its own direction to become one of Japan's many dialects. Dialects are commonly called -ben (弁, 辯, ex. Osaka-ben, lit. "Osaka speech"), sometimes also called -kotoba (言葉, ことば, ex. Shitamachi-kotoba, lit. "Shitamachi language") and -namari (訛り, なまり, ex. Tōhoku-namari, lit. "Tōhoku accent").
There is general agreement among linguists that the Ryukyuan languages of Okinawa Prefecture and the southern islands of Kagoshima Prefecture form a separate branch of the Japonic family, and are not Japanese dialects.
The Japanese language uses a broad array of honorific suffixes for addressing or referring to people, for example -san, as in Amano-san. These honorifics are gender-neutral (can be used for males and females), though some are more used for men or women (-kun is primarily used for male, while -chan is primarily used for women) and can be attached to first names as well as surnames, for example, Peter-san, Jessica-san, Smith-san. Using an honorific is generally required when referring to someone, but in some cases it can be dropped or must not be used—see usage notes below.
The Kansai dialect (関西弁, 関西方言 Kansai-ben, Kansai hōgen ) is a group of Japanese dialects in the Kansai region (Kinki region) of Japan. In Japanese, Kansai-ben is the common name and it is called Kinki dialect (近畿方言 Kinki hōgen ) in technical terms. Dialects of Kyoto and Osaka, especially in Edo period, are also called Kamigata dialect (上方言葉, 上方語 Kamigata kotoba, Kamigata-go ). Kansai dialect is typified by the speech of Osaka, the major city of Kansai, which is referred to specifically as Osaka-ben. It is characterized as being both more melodic and harsher by speakers of the standard language.