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The Story of the Alphabet               67
Japanese^ hke Finnish and Hungarian, has its place in a dass called
agglutinating languages We shall learn more about their characteristics
in later chapters. Here it is enough to say that agglutinating languages
are languages of which root words can attach to themselves a relatively
small range of affixed syllables (pp 196-200). The significance of the
affixes is easy to recognize, and the affixes themselves are relatively
few and tegular. Thus words derived from the same roots grow by
addition of a limited number of fixed syllables like the -ing which we
add to love, have, go, bind and think, in loving, having, going, binding, and
thinking. They do not admit of the great variety among corresponding
derivatives of another class such as loved, had, gone, bound, thought
This,of course5means that the word-pattern of an agglutinatmglanguage
is necessarily more simple than that of such languages as our own.
The sound pattern of Japanese words is much simpler and more
regular than that of English for another and more significant reason.
Affixes of Japanese words are all simple vowels or open monosyllables
consisting hke pea of a simple consonant followed by a simple vowel.
The only exception to this rule is that some syllables, hke some
Chinese words, end in n. Thus the familiar place names YO-KOHA-MA
or FU-JI-YA-MA are typical of the language as a whole. We can split
up all Japanese words m this way, and the number of possible syllables
is limited by the narrow range of dear-cut consonants and vowels—
fifteen of the former and five of the latter This accounts for the
possible existence of seventy-five syllables, to which we must add five
vowels standing alone., hke the last syllable in IO-KI-O, and the terminal
n, making a complete battery of eighty-one (Fig 46)
Thus the Japanese are able to represent all their words by com-
bining the signs for a small number of Chinese (see Figs 44 and 45)
vocables Though then writing is based on syllables, the Japanese use
a script which need not contain many more signs than the letters of an
alphabet reformed to represent all English simple consonants and
vowels by individual symbols * At first, the Japanese used their Kana
* "In Amhanc (an Ethiopian language) which is printed syllabically there
are 33 consonantal sounds, each of which may combine with any of the seven
vowels Hence to print a page of an Amhanc book3 7 x 33, or 231 different
types ar^ required instead of the 40 types which would suffice on an alphabet
method In Japanese this difficulty is less formidable than m many other
languages,, owing to the simplicity of the phonetic system which possesses
only 5 vowel sounds and 15 consonantal sounds There are therefore only
75 possible syllabic combinations of a consonant followed by a vowel. Several
of these potential combinations do not occur m the language^ and hence it is
possible with somewhat less than 50 distinct syllabic signs to write down any
Japanese word "—Taylor The Alphabet, vol i, p 35