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April 05, 2006


Paul D

From knowing Japanese, it's clear Maurice Swadesh was somewhat off if he posited those words exist in all languages; from what I can see, the list is quite Euro-centric. Sure, Japanese has a pile of ways to refer to oneself or one's addressee, but no true pronouns that correspond to "i" and "you". It also has no word like the negating adverb "not" that European languages use.

Those quibbles aside, that list looks quite useful as I get further into it.


Another great post and while the idea of creating a list of words you think you'll need to know is a good idea, I think Japanese has an added pitfall. The existence of multiple words for the same concept can really be vexing( that's right, I said vexing in modern language! ). Even just a basic word like "book": You could use 読本「とくほん」or you could use 図書「としょ」or 本「ほん」or 著書「ちょしょ」. How is a beginning student to know which one is appropriate without the aide of a native speaker?

Paul D

Every language has those pitfalls, Scott. :) Consider the equivalent situation in English: book, tome, volume, novel, manual, handbook, etc. You can't really learn any language without a really good monolingual dictionary and an educated native speaker to ask questions.

Steven Lytle

The Wikipedia Swadesh list for Japanese has been deleted, along with many others. A different source should be linked to.

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