Basic Grammar and Vocabulary

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Basic Grammar and Vocabulary

Postby IkimashoZ » 2005-09-15, 10:12

This thread will be a basic grammar course, designed to give you an understanding of the basic grammar and vocabulary of the Japanese language.

Throughout this course I will be referencing my copy of the 日本語基本文法辞典 (Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar). The ISBN is 4-7890-0454-6 if you wish to purchase your own copy. It's a very handy reference book.

This course assumes you are familiar with the hiragana and katakana. It is designed to run parallel to the Basic Kanji course, and will assume that your kanji knowledge is increasing in respect to that course.

Feel free to post any questions about basic grammar. Please put more complex topics in the advanced thread.

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Studied Lots: Deutsch, 日本語
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Postby IkimashoZ » 2005-09-15, 10:56

Lesson 1: ~ は ~ です ( ~ is ~ )
September 15, 2005

In this lesson I will lay out the basic rules for making one of the most simple statements you can in Japanese. It's also one of the most infinitely useful. Take a look at the dialogue.

Matt arrives at his Jr. High school a bit early to take care of some grading and finds something unexpected on his desk.

マット先生: 山本先生?
山本先生: はい!
マット先生: すみません。これは何ですか?
山本先生: それは紙です。
マット先生: これはコピーですか?
山本先生: はい。それはコピーです。

Yamamoto Sensei shows Matt how to figure out when and where all his classes are. He points to a large whiteboard that covers the entire back wall of the office.

山本先生: あれは見えますか?
マット先生: はい。見えます。あれは何ですか?
山本先生: あれは今週の予定表です。
マット先生: ああ。そうなんです。今週はたくさん授業があります、ね?

Kanji Transcription:
先生: せんせい
山本: やまもと
何: なん (can also be なに under the right circumstances; in these dialogues it is always pronounced なん)
紙: かみ
見えます: みえます
今週: こんしゅう
予定表: よていひょう
授業: じゅぎょう

これ: this [thing near me]
それ: that [thing near you]
あれ: that [thing far from us both]

せんせい: teacher
やまもと: surname
はい: yes
すみません: excuse me
なん・なに: what
か: sentence-final question particle (think of it as a verbal question mark)
かみ: paper(s)
コピー: copy(ies)
みえます: able to see
こんしゅう: this week
よていひょう: schedule
そうなんです: Oh, I see.
たくさん: many
じゅうぎょう: class(es)
あります: to have, to exist
ね: sentence-final particle that indicates the speaker's request for confirmation or agreement from the hearer about some shared knowledge (日本語基本文法辞典, pg. 286)

Dialogue Translation:
Matt: Yamamoto Sensei?
Yamamoto Sensei: Yes?
Matt: What are these?
Yamamoto Sensei: Those are papers.
Matt: Oh, are these the copies?
Yamamoto Sensei: Yes, those are the copies.

Yamamoto Sensei: Do you see that over there?
Matt: Yes, I see it. What is it?
Yamamoto Sensei: That is this week's schedule.
Matt: Oh, I see. We've got many classes [to teach], don't we?

The ~ は ~ です structure equates two items in Japanese the same way the word is does in English.

The two parts actually have independent functions. は marks anything it follows as the topic of the sentence. For now, know that a topic is like a subject, but the function is subtly different. Whole books have been written on the subject.

です is a standard conjugation suffix for any noun. Nouns, and even adjectives, conjugate for time just like verbs, though number and person are irrelivent for all three (nouns, verbs and adjectives). Formality and social status are important factors in conjugation instead. Don't worry though. The formality level you're learning is the one that's generally safe to use with any individual you might want to talk to. Not to mention, all nouns (and even most verbs) in Japanese are completely regular. There are no such things as stem changes among nouns. When used without a topic (an object marked with は), ~ です simply means He/She/It is ~. Pronouns exist, but are only used if you want to put emphasis on the person(s) in question.

Vocabulary that pops up very often in the dialogue are the words これ, それ and あれ. これ is your pretty standard this (n.). However, それ and あれ both translate as that (n.) in English. The difference lies in the proximity of the object in question to the person being spoken to.

For example, when Matt asks Yamamoto Sensei about the papers on his desk, Yamamoto Sensei refers to them as それ, since they are close to Matt (the person whom he is speaking to). When the two discuss the weekly schedule, however, a large whiteboard, far from both of them, both parties refer to the object as あれ, the thing far from both parties.

Nouns in Japanese have no special plural form. Sometimes plurality is indicated on pronouns, but those are infrequently used. You can also specify a specific number of items in question, but the form of the noun never changes.

Since there is no plural, これ, それ and あれ can also mean these, those and those respectively.

Supplementary Vocabulary:
book: ほん
chopsticks: はし
dictionary: じしょ
Ishikawa (surname): いしかわ
pen: ペン
school: がっこう
student: がくせい
teacher (the profession): きょうし
textbook: きょうかしょ

A) Translate the following sentences into English.
1. これはペンです。
2. マットはきょうしです。
3. あれはよていひょうです。
4. それはじしょですか?
5. あれはがっこですか?
6. いしかわさんはがくせいです。
7. これはなんですか?
8. それはほんです。

B) Translate the following sentences into Japanese.
1. Is Yamamoto a student?
2. No, he is a teacher.
3. These are chopsticks.
4. Is that (over there) a textbook?
5. What are these?
6. Those (things near you) are copies.
7. That (over there) is a school.
8. This is the schedule.

Wow, that was a lot of work. I'll save kanji for tomorrow. じゃあ、また。

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Studied Lots: Deutsch, 日本語

Current Obsession: Español

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Postby Karavinka » 2005-09-30, 3:02

Great course! These are my answers. :D

1. Is this a pen?
2. Matt is a teacher.
3. That is a schedule.
4. Is that a dictionary?
5. Is that a school?
6. Ishikawa is a student.
7. What is this?
8. That is a book.

↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A
Spoiler Alert: Turkish | -30 Thai | Sink or Zapotec

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Postby IkimashoZ » 2005-10-01, 23:03

(A) 1. This is a statement.
(B) 2. None of the major pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) should ever be directly translated into a sentence. While correct on some level, this is like saying, 'Oh, yeah, HE's a student'. It sounds as though we got confused as to who's being talked about and had to clarify. So, while technically, in spoken Japanese, you will be understood, it will be really grating on the ears to hear all those はed topics all the time. This is exactly what は does. It marks nouns as important new information, and lets speakers tell each other what the topic of conversation is. English does this by repeating pronouns in the subject position of every subsequent sentence. Japanese does it instead by specifying a noun once with the topic particle and then leaving that information out of every subsequent sentence.

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