This is a thing that I noticed while preparing for an oral examination in my Japanese class.
Japanese and Korean definitely share a lot of words due to the heavy influence of Chinese on both languages. There is a very clear pattern of sound changes as you go from Korean's Chinese loanwords to Japanese's Chinese loanwords. Even some non-Chinese loanwords in both languages sound the same (e.g. 나란하다 (naran-hada; "to line up") and 並ぶ(nara-bu; "to line up") *although the Japanese does contain Chinese character in the writing, it is a meaing-reading in Japanese which means the word itself is not borrowed from Chinese but only written with Chinese character.). Due to such lexical proximity and grammatical similarity between the two language, it tends to be easier for me to switch between Japanese and Korean than to switch between Korean and English or between Japanese and English.
What I noticed today, was that, such tendency also happens between Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. My friend who prepared the Japanese oral exam as partners with me mistakenly dropped down some Mandarin while discussing our script.
It is true that it is just one instance of it, but I feel a much stronger connection between Korean and Japanese and I think that happens with my friend between Chinese and Japanese.
So wouldn't it be possible to speculate that closer languages are more closely coded in the brain. It is simply much easier to drop some Korean among Japanese words than it is to drop Korean words in the middle of English words.
Today is a weird era for human languages
It is weird for natural human languages (such as English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, etc.) in general as the rate of societal change far surpassed the rate of linguistic change.
In other words, what society is mainly about has changed too fast for human languages to accommodate for the very change.
Take some English words for example. Words that are related to agriculture are usually very short. Cow, ox, crop, lamb, egg, etc. Of course, those words were much more "natural" in a sense that they existed even before human existed and therefore they were already there when human came about to assign some random sounds to them.
These words are words of the old days. When human society was primarily agricultural. It makes sense that they are incredibly concise, because they were used frequently for a very long time in human history.
However, words of today are usually quite bulky. Words like "entrepreneurship," "communication," "technology," "engineering," "incorporation" are quite long. Yes, they usually convey more complex ideas. But it is also true that these words are quite recently coined, compared to the ancient, agricultural words above. They were coined so recently that, even though they are clearly used more often than "crop" nowadays, they didn't have enough time for people to shorten them.
However, languages are changing quite fast to catch up. For example, the word "advertisement" is much more frequent written as "ad." With things like this happening rapidly, modern languages are in the process of getting used to the societal changes, but I don't believe that language change will ever catch up with societal changes. Societal changes are speeding up at an exponential rate just like that of human population. However, there seems to be a limit to language change. English hasn't changed significantly since 1600s. The idea of formal grammar and ways of writing also serves to decelerate linguistic changes.
So for the moment, and for a while, and maybe forever, we might have to say hard-to-pronounce bulks like "entrepreneurship" over and over.
As a native speaker of Korean it has been quite easy to learn Japanese, as the word order and the way of expressing things are extremely similar for the two languages.
The languages are resemble each other so much that substituting each word and grammar particles usually makes sense as a translation. The nominative case marker usage differs more frequently than others but even that difference is small enough that Korean sentences using Japanese case marker style is understandable by a speaker of Korean. For an example let me explain the differences in English, Korean, and Japanese in example sentences in each language that means the same thing.
English also has the verb "am" which, in English, is required for an adjective (predicate adjective it is called in this case) to modify the subject of a sentence. This is very different from both Korean and Japanese, both of which treat adjectives kind of like verbs (it is possible for Japanese and Korean and adjective to conjugate to reflect the tense, aspect, mood, respect levels, etc. without the help of a linking verb like "be", "am", etc.).
English is very different, again, as it uses a prepositional phrase (no prepositional or postpositional phrase is used in either Korean or Japanese sentences) in order to describe what the subject "I" is good at.
It is interesting how the most important information in the English sentence ("English") is in a grammatically unimportant position. By this I mean that the word "English" is neither the subject nor the object of the sentence. It is merely the object of the preposition "at" which modifies the predicate adjective "good" which in turn modifies the subject "I" with the mandatory help of the copula (linking verb).
This is my best attempt and it is really bad because English lacks the topicalization marker (은 or 는 in Korean and は(read as 'wa' when this is a topicalization marker) in Japanese). English also lacks the object marker and even the accusative case is only prersonal pronouns such as "me", "thee", "them", "him", "us", and "her". The 를 in bold is the accusative case marker in Korean and this differs from Japanese because in the Japanese sentence the bold text is actually the nominative case marker which marks the subject of the sentence. This is one difference between Korean and Japanese. Finally, English lacks the verbal ending ("ㅂ니다" in Korean and "です” in Japanese) that marks respect toward the listener.
So the Korean sentence is organized in this way: the "subject" of the sentence is marked with 는 which is actually a topicalization marker. The word 나 (first person singular informal) is actually not a subject but a topic, which is quite hard to explain but topic is usually less important information wise than subject in a typical sentence. After the topic+topic marker pair, the object 영어 ("English") and the accusative marker 를 comes. Finally the verb at the end to fit in the SOV order ends the sentence. The verb has quite some parts to it. The whole verb is "잘합니다" with three parts: "잘" + "하" + "ㅂ니다". "잘" means "well" and can be interpreted as a adverb. "하" is a verbal stem which means "to do" and it actually cannot be used as is because it verbal stems require verbal ending in Korean. "ㅂ니다" is the verbal ending that shows respect toward the listener. This gives a polite nuance to the listener. Since there is no past tense marker, the sentence is in the present or in the indicative mood. The verb can actually be "well does", but the verb is a very common one and it usually is used together so much that it became a verb (or I should say "adjectival verb").
Personally, I feel that human language is the most explicit manifestation of human's unique intelligence and by studying them, we can gain insights into intelligence to build a strong AI.
Although we can think about how we think through metacognition, we cannot really dive into the individual neural activity or anything like that.
Thus, language is the most study-able output of human brain, and I believe that by studying the universals in language across all languages and by exploring the frontiers of human cognition through language construction we can unlock the secrets of human intelligence.
How is human thinking augmented by language?
How is human thinking limited and biased by language?
Can language be more sophisticated or more efficient?
What is the "language" of thought--Mentalese?
As a native speaker of Korean and as a person who is learning Japanese quite seriously (through anime and Memrise), I share a bit about what I have thought about the differences and similarities between Korean and Japanese languages.
Seems like random words meshed up, but well I hope this interests some people.
It is very interesting to watch anime with Korean subtitles, because certain Chinese loanwords in two languages sound almost identical (most of them sound similar) and I can understand about 30% of Japanese perfectly while being always able to identify which Korean words cluster (word + particle grouping) goes with which Japanese speech that was just spoken by an anime character.
It's pretty amazing how much Japanese I can learn from just watching anime. How similar and also different the two languages are interests me a lot.
I am also learning Mandarin Chinese, so I think I'll write about the three major East Asian languages soon.
Good night! Or maybe I should say good morning (it's 2:41 in the morning).
Computers can send all of pixels of a picture, the wholeness of a song, every single practical moments recorded on a video. Computers does so using extremely fast communication in binary numbers.
For humans, the situation is quite different. Humans have extremely sophisticated brain, which is a computer that no artificial computer can outsmart today. It recognizes faces, remembers tricks that solve problems, and creates new things. It thinks, it is conscious, and it feels. However, the method of communicating information is quite limited, compared to what computers can do. All human brains can do is utter a speech, that is encoded in language which is limited by the vocabulary and the finite number of pronunciations human can produce. Unlike computers that can send every single bit of data that matters, humans cannot.
That is why we so value simile and metaphors. Metaphorical speech can bring about an image that can't otherwise be communicated through language. But it has its limitations because by using a metaphor, you don't convey your own mental image of the compared thing to the listener directly. Listener thinks of his own mental image that may or may not match the mental image you intended. However, metaphor is indeed a useful tool in communicating data for humans.
If we were able to connect our brains and convey our thoughts directly, our communications will be so much more fast and accurate and wholesome. However, evolution is not quick enough or didn't have enough time to evolve such a inter-brain communication. But it developed robust enough a tool, which is our language. Although it is limited by vocabulary (there are many words in Korean that doesn't exist in English, so it is hard for an English speaker to rapidly conceive an idea that a Korean word may describe), it can convey infinite number of ideas. Just that power enables humans this much advancement. The fact that you can describe and evoke mental images is amazingly fascinating.
Language is brain's way of communicating data, which is limiting but potent enough to bring about a civilization that we know of today. Study of language thus can reveal some great insights into human mind, because language is a simplistic representation of human mind's operating system.
This linguistics of yes and no is one of the confusing grammars in English for Korean speakers.
So what do I mean by the linguistics of yes and no?
It is this:
In English, when people ask you
A: "Don't you want to play tennis?"
B: You answer either "Yes, I do" or "No, I don't."
However, in Korean when you are asked the question
A: "테니스 치고싶지 않아?" (Do you not want to hit tennis?)
B: You answer a little differently. Actually you answer with switched position of yes and no.
Like this: "응, 않 칠래." (Yes, I don't want to; but means the same as "No, I don't" in English's case.) or "아니, 치고싶어." (No, I do want to play tennis.)
I know it is really confusing, so let me explain.
In English, we focus on whether or not you want to play tennis. And we match your action with the yes/no. For example, if you want to play, you'll say YES, I DO, never YES, I DON'T and vice versa for no.
But in Korean, speakers focus on whether or not you agree with the questioner. In the example above, B used 응 (yes) when he agreed with A's statement. Since B agreed with A's statement, B's choice was not to play tennis. Thus, B says, "응, 않칠래" (yes, I don't want to). In the other case, B used 아니 (no) to state that he disagree with A's statement. Since B disagrees and therefore uses 아니 (no), B's choice, in this case, is to play tennis. Thus, "아니, 치고싶어"(No, I do want to play tennis).
I remember struggling with this difference in the use of yes and no between Korean and English. But, fortunately, this difference only occurs when you ask with negative (i.e., Aren't you tired? Didn't you miss me? etc.). In non-negative question, English and Korean agree on the yes/no usage. For example:
Do you want to sleep?
Yes, I do want to sleep.
No, I do not want to sleep.
Isn't that a good news? I do think so.
But this is not it. There are some languages that don't have or use yes/no at all. How can this be possible? See Mandarin Chinese!
(I hereby let the readers know that I was too lazy to put tone markings on pinyin. Also note that I am only a novice in learning Mandarin Chinese.)
ni xiang yao chi ma?
Do you want to eat?
(wo) xiang yao.
(I) do or more literally, (I) want.
(wo) bu xiang yao
(I) do not or more literally, (I) not want.
Here it is, the way to avoid the use of yes/no!
I believe this is a really good way not to be ambiguous. If you say only yes or no, what you want can be pretty ambiguous. But if you don't use yes or no and just say "I do" or "I don't" then it'll be much clear and much easier to understand.
Lastly, I want to introduce to you an exception in English yes/no. It is "yeah!"
I might be wondering what's the difference between "yeah" and "yes." From what I have observed during my 3 years here, speaking English full-time, I realized that "yeah" and "yes are different.
In short, "yeah" is just like Korean 응 and used in exactly the same way. For example,
He didn't do homework?
걔 숙제 않했데?
Yeah, he didn't do homework. *use of "yeah" because you agree with the question.
그래, 걔 숙제 않했데.
Nah, he did his homework. *use of "nah" because you don't agree with the question.
아니, 걔 숙제 했데.
Do you see? Many people think that "yeah" and "nah" are just slang-ish versions of "yes" and "no" but they are linguistically different in their functions.
These are all that I know of, because I know only English, Korean, and a little bit of Chinese and Spanish. Let me know if you know any other language or any word that pertains to this yes/no conception.
Data generated from Wiktionary data of frequency of words in languages
Created by Justin Jin Woo Won
This excel file data is still just data to be processed and made useful.
Further research and analysis will soon follow.
Possible research topics and ideas are summarized below.
Do NOT plagiarize my ideas; my blog posts are copyrighted according to the Section 102 of the Copyright Act., as "original work of authorship."