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In Japan, as in other Eastern countries, two dialects are used simultaneously, one for speaking, the other for writing purposes. The spoken or colloquial dialect is that to which consuls, merchants, missionaries, and others who are brought into daily relations with the Japanese, must devote their first efforts. Their next step should be to acquire the written language, without a knowledge of which every book, every newspaper, every post-card, every advertisement, every notice in a railway-station or on board a steamer remains a mystery, even when transliterated into Roman characters. Some of the differences affect the vocabulary. But the constantly recurring difficulties are rather in the grammar, and may be mastered in a few weeks by those to whom the colloquial is familiar. The great obstacle hitherto has been the absence of any book specially devoted to the elucidation of the modern form of the written language. Mr. Aston's admirable treatise covers a much wider field. Previous writers had left Japanese grammar a chaos. Mr. Aston brought light and order into its every part. But most persons have neither time nor inclination to investigate every part. Their concern is, not with the Japanese classics and philological research, but with the language as commonly written now; and they weary of searching through the pages of a learned work for the every day forms, which alone to them are useful. The object of the present little book is to put before such persons, in as simple a manner as possible, just so much as will enable them to read contemporary literature and correspondence. All forms that are obsolete or purely classical have been omitted. Theoretical discussions have been dispensed with, save in a few instances (notably the passive verb), where a knowledge of theory is, for a foreigner, the only road to correct practice.

A word as to the history, affinities, and written system of the Japanese language. The nearest of kin to Japanese on the mainland of Asia is Korean, the structural resemblance between the two tongues reaching down even to minutiæ of idiom. The likeness of the vocabulary is much fainter, but still real. Whether both Japanese and Korean are to be classed with the Altaïc tongues, must depend on the exact sense given to the word “ Altaïc.” Judged from the point of view of syntax and general structure, they have as good a right to be included in the Altaïc group as Mongol or Manchu. Traces of the law of “attraction,” by which the vowels of successive syllables tend to uniformity, as in ototoshi, for atotoshi, the year before last," point in the same direction.

If the term “ Altaïc " be held to include Korean and Japanese, then Japanese assumes prime importance as being by far the oldest living representative of that great linguistic group, its literature antedating by many centuries the most ancient productions of the Manchus, Mongols, Turks, Hungarians, or Finns. Its earliest extant documents go back in their present shape to the beginning of the eighth century of our era, and its literature has flourished uninterruptedly from that time downward. Japanese as written now differs, however, considerably from the language of the eighth century. While the meagre native vocabulary has been enriched by thousands of words and phrases borrowed from the more expressive Chinese, many of the old native terminations have

fallen into disuse. One consequence of this long and varied career of the Japanese language is the existence at the present day of a number of styles distinguished by strongly marked peculiarities. Leaving aside poetry and a certain ornamental kind of prose cultivated chiefly by a few Shinto scholars, there are four categories of style in common use, viz.

I. The Semi-Classical Style, distinguished by its preference for old native words and grammatical forms. The standard translation of the New Testament is in this style.

II. The Semi-Colloquial Style, into which the lower class newspaper writers occasionally fall. Its phraseology savours largely, and its grammar slightly, of the peculiarities of the modern colloquial dialect.

III. The Chinese Style, or Sinico-Japanese, which is replete with Chinese words and idioms. It is founded on the literal translations of the Chinese classics, which were formerly the text-books in every school. This style is the ordinary vehicle of contemporary literature.

IV. The Epistolary Style. Almost exclusively Chinese in phraseology, this style has grammatical peculiarities which are so marked as to necessitate treatment in a separate chapter.

The system of writing, that has hitherto been in use in Japan, is an extremely complicated one, semi-ideographic and semisyllabic, founded on the ideographic writing of the Chinese. But the language may easily be written with Roman characters. Indeed the general introduction of the Roman alphabet is the question of the day. A society entitled the Romaji Kai," or “Romanization Society," has been formed, and includes among its members most of the leaders in science and in politics. A purely phonetic system of transliteration has been adopted, and has met with acceptance both among natives and foreigners. To this system, as being that which is likely to supersede all others, the spelling of the following pages conforms.

In conclusion, it is my pleasing duty to acknowledge my obligations to Mr. J. C. Hall, Acting Japanese Secretary to H. B. M. Legation, Tōkyō, and more particularly to Mr. Ernest Satow, C.M.G., H. B. M. Minister Resident at Bangkok, for a number of valuable suggestions. My thanks are likewise due to Lieutenant M. Takata, I. J. N., for smoothing away certain difficulties with regard to the publication of the book in Japan.



February, 1886.


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p. 3, line 18; after k insert “ "and g." 52, the brace should unite, not yukazu and yukazaru, but

yukazaru and yukanu. 69, line 3 from bottom; for “Section 6" read “ Section 3.” 70, line 14; for beski read beshi.

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