A Little Compare and Contrast

As most of you know, I am learning two languages as of right now (German and Japanese).  And if you didn’t know, grammar is my favorite part of any language.  I don’t know why, but I find it really fascinating how the language is actually structured.  Anyway, I was doing a bit of thinking today on these two languages along with English.  Just a few similarities and differences is all.  It would take forever to list all of them.

The first difference I really thought of was a difference between all three languages, which is the direct object (word that receives the action of the subject).  Each language has a different way of distinguishing the direct object from the subject.  In English, it totally depends on word order.  The direct object comes after the verb.  Take the sentence, “The boy threw the ball,” for example.  It would make no sense to an English speaker if it said, “The ball threw the boy,” because we would interpret it as the ball doing the action of throwing the boy.

In German, however, the object can, and often does, come before the verb (which means it starts the sentence).  While there is some structure to the word order in German, it is not as important because they rely on different cases (different forms of their nouns you could say) to show subject, object, and direct object.  So in German the sentence, “The ball throws the boy,” would make perfect sense because the ball would be in the object case (or Akkusativ case).  Once upon a time English did have different cases, and we mostly see evidence through that with our pronouns (I, me, and mine, etc) and who, whom, and whose.

In Japanese, word order doesn’t matter as much as it does in German and English.  In Japanese the function of a word depends on the particle that follows it.  The particle は (pronounced wa) marks the subject of the sentence, which usually is at the beginning of the sentence, but doesn’t have to be.  The direct object is marked by を (pronounced o) and usually comes directly after the subject.  They have no tense and will still be able to pick out the subject and object even if they are not together or at the beginning of a sentence.  But a Japanese sentence (using our example) would be something like, “The boyは the ball を threw.”

One of the aspects of all three languages that is similar and I find most interesting is negative words.  I know not all negative words have an -n in them, like あまり (amari), but there are a lot of -n’s when sentences are negated in some way.  In English it is no, not, never, negative, etc.  In German it is nein (no), nicht (not), nie (never).  In Japanese it is in the conjugation of both verbs (ex.食べれto eat) and adjectives (ex.おもしろい interesting),  食べません (tabemasen; to not eat), 食べない (tabenai; informal to not eat), おもしとくない (omoshirokunai; not interesting), おもしろくなかった (omoshirokunakatta; wasn’t interesting).  I kind of want to take a linguistics class and see if there is any reason the -n sound appears in so many negative forms.  I don’t know why it seems to be this way or if there is any correlation at all, but I want to look into it more.

So I think this is a long enough post for today and I’m sure if you are reading this you probably don’t care nearly as much as I do, but I what can I say?  I’m a nerd who loves her major and minor heh heh.


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