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This language is spoken by over 130 million people, mostly in Japan. The classification of the Japanese language is open to debate, and historical linguists have been unable to deduce its exact origins or affiliation. Some believe that it is related to now extinct languages once found on the Korean penninsula; the Korean language, Altaic languages; or Austronesian languages.
There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan. The two main dialects are "Tokyo type" and "Western type," each with a number of subdivisions. Many of these dialects are mutually unintelligible. "Standard Japanese" has recently become prevalent across the country due to the media and increased mobility of the population. Most young people speak both standard Japanese and their own regional dialect.
Japanese is an agglutinative language in which words are created by joining morphemes together. It is distinguished by a complex system of honorifics used to denote the hierarchical structure of Japanese society, with verb forms and certain vocabulary used to indicate the status of the speaker, listener, and the person mentioned in the conversation. Japanese vocabulary has been heavily influenced by other languages, most notably Chinese, English, and some Dutch (because of the special trade relationship between Japan and Holland in the 17th century).
Japanese is written with a combination of three scripts: Chinese characters (known as kanji in Japanese), and two syllabic scripts, hiragana and katakana. Hiragana are used for words for which there is no kanji, including particles and suffixes, as well as when the kanji is unknown to the writer, is not expected to be known by the reader, or is too formal for the writing purpose. Katakana are most often used for the transcription of words from foreign languages and onomatopoeia.
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