Native words define the language itself. Regardless of the percentage, native words are used extensively. They're very similar looking throughout the Japonic language family.
IPA/Curriculum Note: Tʃ is more similar to an English "ch". ɺ̠ is a retroflex lateral flap.
Native words suggest that Japanese is an isolate. Some words, though, are similar to Korean. In fact, many deemed native are actually ancient borrowings from Korean and elsewhere. Words like 馬 and 梅 came from China before 漢字. カササギ (magpie) is from Old Korean. クズリ comes from Nivkh. Lots of words come from Ainu. When the 弥生 (ancestors of the Japanese people) came to Japan, they met people called 蝦夷（えみし・えぞ）. There are no records about these languages, but their descendants are the Ainu. In some Northern Japanese dialects such as 気仙, significant vocabulary comes from them. Many words considered native may be borrowed words from extinct 蝦夷 languages.
As for Modern Japanese native words, most are polysyllabic and CV (consonant-vowel). Japanese grammar for the most part doesn't intermingle items of different etymologies; however, some exceptions exist. For example, する follows Sino-Japanese words to make them verbs. な is added to Sino-Japanese abstract nouns to make them adjectives, and る is often added to words to create colloquial verbs.
Word Note: Surnames for the most part are native in origin, but given names are a different story. As for writing, native words are generally written in 漢字 or ひらがな.
漢語 (Sino-Japanese words) were borrowed from Chinese readings from several stages of Chinese. Nearly 70% of all Japanese words are 漢語, but they make up only 20% of the most frequently used words. 音読み is the basis of deciding whether a word is of Chinese origin; however, be cautious of 当て字. There are rare exceptions where a 訓読み is actually of Chinese origin: 馬 and 梅.
和製漢語 literally means "Japanese-made Chinese words". At the start of modern innovation, many terms were created with 音読み to describe new things.
Some Sino-Japanese words made in Japan even correspond to unique Japanese items.
|Tokyo||東京||とうきょう|| Japanese paper||和紙||わし|
| Public bath||銭湯||せんとう|| Go (game)||碁||ご|
| Powdered green tea||抹茶||まっちゃ||Kendo||剣道||けんどう|
Many Sino-Japanese words are the product of putting characters in a Chinese word order and using 音読み to make a more technical term. Of course, there are always the words that are half Sino-Japanese and half native--.
| To get angry||腹が立つ||はらがたつ||立腹||りっぷく|
| Fire breakout||火が出る||ひがでる||出火||しゅっか|
Foreign loanwords are from modern languages. Preference to use these words is somewhat debatable. Some have no native equivalent. Some have been borrowed because the possible Japanese term is too complicated. For the most part, these words are nouns, but with the aid of grammatical items such as する, な, and る, they may be turned into verbs, adjectives, etc.
At times words have mixed etymology. Foreign expressions in Japanese are often abbreviated. This is so common with English terms that it creates "和製英語" or Japanese-made English words. These words have diverged from their original appearance, meaning, or both. At times 外来語 are made in Japan to describe a unique thing and are then brought back to the original language as a new phrase. The best example of this is anime.
Common languages where 外来語 may arrive include French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, and several primarily Indo-European languages. There are even some 外来語 from modern Chinese dialects.
外来語 are primarily written in カタカナ. There are some older loanwords, though, that may be written in 漢字. More traditional approximations are common. So, many speakers will still call a smart phone a スマートホン rather than a スマートフォン. But, there is a movement in electronic terminology to prefer newer combinations. Nowadays, though, you are more likely to hear the abbreviated form スマホ.
To some speakers, loan words are undesirable. In the realm of technology, words have been coined with normal Japanese processes and borrowing. For example, function keys used to be called 機能キー. Now they're called ファンクションキー. Many speakers would rather use 機能 rather than ファンクション.
|アベック||Avec|| Romantic couple||French|
|アイドル||Idol|| Pop star||English|
|アイスクリーム||Ice cream||Ice cream||English|
|アイゼン||Steigeisen|| Climbing irons||German|
|アルバイト||Arbeit|| Part-time job||German|
|ビル||Building|| Modern steel building||English|
|ボールペン||Ballpoint pen|| Ballpoint pen||English|
|デパート|| Department store|| Department store||English|
|ドンマイ|| Don't mind|| Don't worry about it||English|
|ドラマ||Drama|| TV drama||English|
|エアコン|| Air conditioning|| Air conditioning||English|
|エステ||Esthétique|| Beauty salon||French|
|フロント|| Front desk|| Front desk||English|
|ガソリンスタンド|| Gasoline stand|| Gas station||English|
|ゲーセン||Game center||Video arcade ||English|
|グラス||Glass|| Drinking glass||English|
|ハンスト|| Hunger strike|| Hunger strike||English|
|ホーム||Platform|| Railway platform||English|
|イクラ||икра|| Salmon roe||Russian|
|合羽|| Capa de chuva|| Rain coat||Portuguese|
|カラオケ|| 空 + orchestra||Karaoke|| Japanese and English|
|コップ||Copo|| A glass||Portuguese|
|マージャン・麻雀||麻雀||Mahjong|| Mandarin Chinese|
|マンション||Mansion|| Condominium block||English|
|マスコミ|| Mass communication|| The media||English|
|OL|| Office lady|| Female office worker || English |
|プロレス||Professional wrestling|| Professional wrestling|| English |
|ラッコ||Rakko|| Sea otter||Ainu|
|リモコン|| Remote control|| Remote control||English|
|ロードショー|| Road show||Premiere||English|
|サボる||Sabotage|| To slack off||French|
|ストーブ||Stove|| Space heater||English|
|トランプ||Trump|| Playing cards||English|
|ワンピース|| One piece|| Single piece dress||English|
|ワープロ|| Word processor|| Word processor||English|
To search for an apartment.
Vocab Note: There are two words for apartment, アパート and マンション. An アパート is more like a 1~2 story building with a relatively cheaper rent whereas a マンション would be at least 3 stories.
Noun Note: 塗る is paired with ペンキ. 塗る can also mean "to varnish; color; rub".
The word "pan" came from Portuguese.
Chinese Loan Words
Newer readings from Chinese keep coming in from modern Chinese languages. Many words involve food and culture items.
Pi dan is a preserved food of goose egg wrapped in ash.
Szechuan pickles is a pickled food in Chinese cuisine.
Gyoza is really delicious, isn't it?
Bamboo shoots boiled, sliced, fermented, dried in salt, and soaked
|ラー油||辣油||Chinese red chili oil|
|リーチ||立直||Declaring that one is one tile away from winning in mahjong|
1. Find a Japanese publication at least a page long and categorize the words as either native, Sino-Japanese, or foreign.
2. What is another name for 大和言葉?
3. What are 和製漢語?
4. What are 和製英語?
5. What is the main language where foreign words come from?
6. What is the difference of classification of Chinese words borrowed in ON readings and ones borrowed today?
7. Create a sentence with at least two 外来語.
8. How do the cognate phrases of Japonic languages demonstrate the way native words play a major role in Japanese?
9. Describe the phonological phenomenons related to 外来語.
10. What role does Sino-Japanese vocabulary play in Japanese?