When Japanese blew my mind

When I was learning grammar in school, I thought I knew what a preposition was. I couldn’t really define it, but I thought I knew what it was. I knew that they were about connecting concept (“about”, “concerning”), or about helping to express location (“in”, “on”), or direction (“to”, “from”), or time (“during”, “after”). But I never thought much about them. They just were.

preposition-graphic-1-2

And then earlier this year, all that changed.

Japanese, though it has its analogue, doesn’t have prepositions. Hebrew does, Spanish does, JSL does, Patois does; but not crazy Japanese. No; it decided to flip the script.

Japanese has postpositions.

img10303128221

I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. Prepositions are so called because they usually precede the noun or verb or whatever; that’s their position.

All those things that my Japanese teachers simply called “particles” (in Japanese, 助詞, joshi, helper words) were postpositional words and suffixes. Damn… How did I not see it sooner?

It’s easy enough to find examples:

time marker
7時起きる
shichiji ni okiru
wake up at 7:00

destination marker
学校行く
gakkou e iku
go to school

location marker
いる
uchi ni imasu
to be at home

And there’s some that have no analogue in English:

object marker
チキン食べます
chikin wo tabemasu
eat chicken

subject marker
学生です
boku wa gakusei desu
I’m a student

And here’s another that’s not always expressed as a separate morpheme in English:

possession marker
明子
Akiko no hon
Akiko‘s book

possession marker

watashi no haha
my mother (the mother of me)

All of these come after the words they “govern”; the exact opposite of English. I wonder how many other languages do this…

日本語面白いなぁ?

日本語面白いなぁ?

Anyway, prepositions and postpositions are together called adpositions in linguistics. And strangely enough, even though there are postpositions (most common one: “ago“) in English, they’re usually just called prepositions. I guess since there are so few of them.

Learnt something new, I did.

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This entry was posted in 日本語 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to When Japanese blew my mind

  1. Robyn says:

    Ooh, nifty! I never would have thought of that.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Explaining the Situation: Patwa and Japanese | Mr Multilingual

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