J is for Japanese

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.

Related posts: I is for invented languages     K is for Korean and Kickapoo

B is for Bable and Basque

B is forEach of the autonomous regions in Spain have their own language in addition to Spanish, which they call Castellano, or Castilian. The most well-known is Catalan, but that begins with C, so let’s look instead at Bable and Basque.


Bable is the language spoken in Asturias. Surprisingly, it is a Romance language even though the culture and heritage of the region is Celtic. Also known as Asturianu, it has around 100,000 native speakers and there are approximately 450,000 more who understand it or who have it as a second language. It is not an official language of Asturias, but it has protected status.

Bable was used in official documents in Asturias until 14th C and then disappeared gradually between 14th – 17th centuries although it was still spoken unofficially.

Basque also known as Euskara, is spoken in the Basque country which is the region to the west of the Pyrenees in north east Spain and south west France. It has between 500,000 and 700 000 speakers.
Basque is what is known as a ‘language isolate’ which means it is not related to any other language. This means it is most likely to be pre-Indo-European. The first written evidence of it dates to the 11th C.

Basque is not an official language of Spain, but it has co-official status in the Basque Country. It has no official recognition at all in France.

Related posts: A is for Arabic   C is for Chinese