A Comparison among Spanish, English, and Japanese
The purpose of this short essay is to provide a brief comparison among the most important aspects of three languages: Spanish, English and Japanese.
Spanish is a Romance language, like Italian and French, and it is spoken by over 300 million people natively in 21 countries, parts of the United States and Africa, whereas English is a Germanic language and it is the most widely spoken language in the world either as a native tongue or an official second language. Japanese is different from Spanish and English; there are several competing theories: in that it might be a member of Altaic language family, and is said to be an agglutinative language such as Mongolia and Turkish. Some linguists mention that Japanese is related to other Asian languages which could be Sino Tibetan. Some people, however, argue that Japanese is a Southern Asia Language, although others regard these languages as isolates. Japanese is spoken by over 125 million people most exclusively in Japan; it has been sometimes spoken in countries besides Japan.
All three languages differ from each other in their writing system. Both Spanish and English are of the SVO type, based on the Roman alphabet. The Spanish writing system is very close to actual pronunciation which means every speaker can guess the pronunciation from the written form. The English writing system, however, is originally reflected the pronunciation of the language, but it doesn’t any longer. Hence, the sound “f” can be expressed by the letter “f” or the combination “gh” as in ‘safe’ and ‘enough’. On the other hand, The Japanese writing system is of the SOV type, based on three main alphabets: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana is similar to katana in terms of phonetic characters. Hiragana is used for Japanese words and grammar, while katana is mainly used for onomatopoeia foreign words. Contradictory kanji, is complicated characters mostly from Chinese, representing an idea, with two different pronunciation: Japanese, which was formed by matching an already-existing Japanese word to an imported kanji, and Chinese, which was formed by Japanese-izing an already-existing Chinese pronunciation of that character.
The phonetic system in Spanish is made up of about 19 consonant sounds with varieties based on phonetic context, whereas Japanese has 16 basic consonant sounds. Both Spanish and Japanese has 5 vowel sound which are a, e, i, o, and u. A long vowel sound instead of a short one or vice versa in the Spanish language will not change the meaning of the word, while in the Japanese does: “ojisan” means uncle and “ojiisan” means grandfather is a case in point. English differs from Spanish and Japanese not only a number of consonant sounds but also in vowel sounds. It is composed of approximately 24 consonant sounds and the same as 5 vowel letters in Spanish and Japanese, but these can be pronounced differently in 20 ways such as a, e, i, o, u, ea, oo, ee, ie, etc., and vowel length often distinguishes words.
Spanish is a syllable-based language, stressed and unstressed vowels share the same quality. Every syllable has the same time duration, and the languages have no reduced vowels like English. In contrast to English, it is a stress-based language. Stress means the relative emphasis given to some syllables over others. The stressed syllable usually has a higher pitch, longer duration, and typically fuller vowels than the unstressed syllable. All English words of more than one syllable have a primary stressed accompanied by secondary or unstressed syllables. Japanese is unlike Spanish and English in this sense, it is a mora-based language in which mora is a rhythmical unit that dictates the length of syllables and one syllable could have one or two moras such as te means ‘hand’has 1 syllable and 1 mora, and hon means ‘book’has 1 syllable, but 2 moras. Each mora has a pitch accent of either high(H) or low(L), and thus pitch becomes crucial for distinguishing words. These tone rules vary across dialects, for instance, in the Tokyo dialect, the word hashi pronounced with a high-low(HL) tone demotes ‘chopstick’, but with a low-high(LH) tone it demotes ‘bridge’.
Spanish and Japanese differ from each other in their number of tense forms, but both of them use conjugation to indicate tenses. There are three tense forms in Spanish: the past tense, the present tense and the future tense. For example, to form the present simple tense, it uses conjugation as auxiliary verbs as in Hablo means ‘I speak’. On the other hand, in Japanese there are only two basic tense forms: both the present and the future have the same tense form, and the past tense. For instance, the gerund (-te form) plus the auxiliary form imasu/iru are usually use to indicate the present&future tense: as inkite imasu regularly means ‘I have come’. English is different from Spanish and Japanese in that it has inflections for tense and word formation. The past tense, for example, is expressed by ‘ed’. Furthermore, prefixes and suffixes can be added to form new parts of speech such as ‘available’ (adjective) and ‘availability’ (adverb).
In Spanish has subject and verb agree in person and number. This means that subjects and the verbs they go with are arranged in conjugations of six forms: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, each used in singular and plural. Moreover, noun, articles and adjectives have to agree in gender: masculine and feminine, and number: singular and plural. While, English has only inflections for number agreement. For instance, subjects and verbs must agree in number as in ‘I go…, He goes’. While, Japanese is unlike Spanish and English in that derived form of word occur often in Japanese. Nouns can be made into verbs, adjectives into nouns, gerunds and other forms, and so on. There is no subject-verb agreement rule bacause the same form for the verb is used with singular and plural subjects. There is also no gender distinction, for instance, the noun ki can be ‘tree’ or ‘trees’. Where number is important, it can be indicated by providing a quantity (often with a counter word) or (rarely) by adding a suffix. Moreover, plural, gender, and articles do not presented in Japanese.
All three language grammars have the concept of grammatical mood, but they differ in amount of the moods. Moods indicate the feeling of the verb; more specifically, the speaker's attitude or feeling toward the action, e.g., true, uncertain, possibility or command. In Spanish consists of four moods: indicative, conditional, subjunctive and imperative, while in English has only three moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. In Japanese has more moods than Spanish and English: imperfective, continuative, terminal, attributive, hypothetical and imperative. For example, the imperative mood is used to expresses direct commands, requests, and prohibitions: "Paul, do your homework now" is a case in point.
In Spanish, subject pronouns are very often omitted due to the verb forms themselves usually signal what the subject is. It is not necessary for comprehension the way like it is in English, because the subject of the verb is evident from the conjugated verb such as ‘I go’ can be translated by ‘yo voy’ or simply ‘voy’. Another difference is regarding a position of object pronouns take within the sentence. The object pronouns in Spanish always go before the verb, whereas in English they always go after the verb, for example, Le dije and I told him. Japanese contrasts with Spain and English with respect to the pronouns is usually used when the speaker wants to put a special stress on the fact that pronouns are scarcely used in Japanese, using their names is always better than using pronouns.
Some of these differences may explain why people have trouble learning any of these languages. Differences in pronunciation and grammar are usually the most difficult to overcome, but not impossible.
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