Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Japanese Adjectives – An Introduction

No matter what ever languages you use, you definitely need some word to praise, blame, envy, etc, Some of the examples are Cute, Stupid, Smart, etc. Hence, like every other language, Japanese also has its own set of adjectives with appropriate rules and exceptions. We will be discussing about it in our today’s lesson.

What is an Adjective?

You all must already be knowing but still for the ones that are yet to know, Wiki says

In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun, giving more information about the noun or pronoun's referent.
In simple words, an adjective is a word which modifies the nouns and pronouns.

English - “That is a book”
Hindi – Wo ek kithab hai (वो एक किताब है)
Tamil – Adhu oru puthagam (அது ஒரு புத்த‌க‌ம்)
Japanese – Sore wa hon desu (それ は ほん です )

This is a normal sentence. Here book (kithab/puthagam/hon) is a noun. Let us add “something” that can modify this noun.

Using adjective before the noun
English - That is a good book
Hindi – Wo ek achha kithab hai (वो एक अच्छा किताब है)
Tamil – Adhu oru nalla puthagam (அது ஒரு ந‌ல்ல‌ புத்த‌க‌ம்)
Japanese – Sore wa ii hon desu (それ は いい ほん です)
Using adjective after the noun
English - That book is good
Hindi – Wo kithab achha hai (वो किताब अच्छा है)
Tamil – Andha puthagam nandraga ulladhu (அந்த‌ புத்த‌க‌ம் ந‌ன்றாக‌ உள்ள்து)
Japanese – Sore wa hon ii desu (それ は ほん いい です)
Here “good” (achha/nalla/ii) changes the noun and it acts as an Adjective.

So, you must be clear by now that – "In Japanese, adjectives are placed either before a noun or at the end of a sentence which is the same case as in English

Types of Adjectives

In Japanese, they have two different types of Adjectives. They call it as
  • I – adjective (called as the 'true' adjectives) - Adjectives that end with an “I” sound
  • Na – adjective (called as the 'quasi' adjectives) -Adjectives that end with an “NA” sound
There is a third form as well which is the "noun + 'no' particle" form. Technically speaking, these are nouns but they are often used as adjectives. Do not worry a lot about this, I will disuss it in detail in further lessons. For now, understand that there are two types of Adjectives in Japanese and they are the i and na adjectives.

Why two types of adjectives?

Well, the answer to your question is, “Why two types of Kana exist in Japanese?”.

Yes, it is for the same reason. I-adjective have Japanese Origin while the NA-adjectives are mostly Chinese origin words.

Now, guess what type of adjective the below belong to…

TAKAI - たかい (meaning Expensive) – I adjective
SHIZUKANA - しずかな (meaning Quiet) – NA adjective.

That was really simple, wasn’t it? :)

Well, there are some exceptions too where not all i-adjectives have to end with I sound and not all na-adjectives have to end with a NA sound. Don’t worry about the exceptions now, we have just started, Let us take it slowly :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Usage of small tsu - sokuon - Chiisai tsu

We already have seen the usage of Hiragana letter along with small ya, yu and yo. In today’s lesson we will see how to make use of the small tsu (っ). This small tsu is called Sokuon (written in Kanji as 促音). Small Tsu literally translated to Japanese gives us Chiisai Tsu (Chiisai means Small)

There are some vocabularies even in English which might need an extra stress to the letter. For example, consider the word, “button”. As you see here the extra stress is over the letter ‘t’. Such words are there in Japanese language too. For example,

Chotto meaning “little”
Kekkon meaning “marriage”

So, how do we write these letters? This is when the small tsu (っ) comes into picture. You need to use a small tsu right before the word which needs stress.

Consider the word chotto. Breaking down this word a little bit further down gives us

Cho-(t)to ちょっと
Cho is nothing but chi + small yo ちょ
To is と
As the stress on t is before the word to, we need to add a small tsu before to like ちょっと
Similarly, the words matte まって, kitte きって, kekkon けっこん, etc
(matte means wait, Kitte is postage stamp and Kekkon is marriage)

There are certain rules in the usage of this sokuon (促音). Wiki says,
The sokuon cannot appear at the beginning of a word, before a vowel kana (a, i, u, e, or o), or before kana that begin with the consonants n, m, r, w, or y. In addition, it does not appear before voiced consonants (g, z, d, or b), or before h, except in loanwords.