Yoon Ha Lee wrote:
><puzzled look> Isn't Japanese an agglutinating isolate (or next best
>thing), like Korean, rather than an isolating language?
Agglutinating? Yes. Isolate? Controversial. One of the currently most
popular theories is that Japanese is a form of Old South Korean imported to
Japan when the northern kingdom of Korea conquered the two southern
kingdoms. (Or something like that -- I'm not to current on my Japanese
historical stuff.) Supposedly the original inhabitants were Austronesian
speakers with a strict CV syllable structure. That native language forced
a simplification of Japanese syllable structure (it is a known fact that
Japanese syllables have simplified) and a reduction in the number of vowels
(also known to be true). Personally, I have doubts about the Austronesian
aspect, but the Korean origins do seem reasonable from the little
linguistic evidence I've seen, as well as some of the archeaological evidence.
> In Korean the
>influence of Chinese seems mainly to be in the writing and in loan words,
>*not* the grammar.
Tough to say. Vocabulary has certainly been influenced in Japanese and
Korean. But what about things like the sentence final question
particles? Or the fact that wh-words don't move to the beginning of the
sentence? Or the fact that they allow for long distance anaphors (ie, they
can all say something like "I wish that John gave myself a present", which
is bad in many other languages)? Or the fact that all three have
topicalization? One thing that is almost definitely due to Chinese is the
classifiers used with numbers.
Just for the record, I know next to nothing about Korean, so if anything I
said above does not apply to it, I wouldn't be overly surprised.
"When you lose a language, it's like
dropping a bomb on a museum."
-- Kenneth Hale