Like Basque, Japanese is known as a language isolate, which means that it does not belong to a language family. There have been attempts by linguists to link it to other languages, such as Korean, but there are not enough cognates between Japanese and any other language to prove a relationship between them.
Spoken almost exclusively in Japan (about 99% of its native speakers live there), Japanese has approximately 125 million speakers.
It has a roughly subject-object-verb sentence structure, with the verb going at the end of the sentence. Adjectives go before the noun like in English.
The first written evidence of Japanese dates to the 8th century. It now has 3 writing systems which are all used simultaneously:
- Kanji: these are the characters which they imported from the Chinese writing system. They are used for a lot of the basic words in Japanese.
- Hiragana: this is used for writing Japanese words that have no kanji form, and also for writing suffixes, etc.
- Katakana: this is used for loan words – phonetic transcriptions of foreign words.
Japanese can be written horizontally, reading from left to right, or vertically, reading from top to bottom, right to left.