Communities

Writing
Writing
Codidact Meta
Codidact Meta
The Great Outdoors
The Great Outdoors
Photography & Video
Photography & Video
Scientific Speculation
Scientific Speculation
Cooking
Cooking
Electrical Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Judaism
Judaism
Languages & Linguistics
Languages & Linguistics
Software Development
Software Development
Mathematics
Mathematics
Christianity
Christianity
Code Golf
Code Golf
Music
Music
Physics
Physics
Linux Systems
Linux Systems
Power Users
Power Users
Tabletop RPGs
Tabletop RPGs

Dashboard
Notifications
Mark all as read
Q&A

Why didn't the same one (ancestor) language preponderate over China, Japan, Korea?

+1
−0

Don't hesitate to revise my post, particularly if you want to add maps. I'm basically extending this question on Reddit to Chinese.

Unquestionably China, Korea, Japan are much closer to each other, than Iceland, Ireland vs. Bengal — the "polar opposite" language borders of the Indo-European family. China and Korea share land borders. The shortest distance from Korea to Japan is 214 km, from Busan to Hakata.

I'll analogize Chinese, Japanese, Korean to Latin and Latin's devolution into the Romance Languages. Where does my analogy fail? Korea and Japan adopted Chinese, the Chinese writing system, and culture. "The Chinese hanzi is in fact Korean hanja and Japanese kanji". I know about Sino-Korean and Sino-Japanese words, but Modern Japanese utilizes Chinese characters more explicitly and readily than Modern Korean. Similarly, Western Europe adopted Latin, the Latin writing system, and Roman culture.

Like the Roman Empire, China has been a military, economic, and social superpower that influenced Korea, Japan, Vietnam. "Korean and Japanese officials and intellectuals used Chinese for the official documentation, records and poems, just like British used [Norman] French in their courts for some time before their native “English” language could be widely accepted and used". It's reasonable to surmise that some ancestor of Chinese would've been a sprachbund and a lingua franca.

Did the East Asians lack horses and wheeled vehicle technology of the Indo-Europeans?

Whether Koreanic and Japonic languages share a common origin is an outstanding question — but this is irrelevant, because even if they are related, the Sino-Tibetan language family is undoubtedly distinguished and distinct from the Koreanic/Japonic language families.

I read that the Japanese migrated not from mainland China, and "the Manchurians (related more the the Mongols and Turks than the Han Chinese) migrated to Korea, and then the Koreans crossed the straight into Japan".

enter image description here

Why does this post require moderator attention?
You might want to add some details to your flag.
Why should this post be closed?

1 comment thread

"Where does my analogy fail?" (1 comment)

1 answer

+1
−0

Language is an invention much older than civilization. We have no idea whether all human languages share a single common ancestor language, or whether the capability evolved several times independently. If there was a single common ancestor, then Chinese, Japanese and Korean are distant relatives[1]. Distant ones indeed, to the point of non-recognizability.

The Japanese and Korean peoples did initially learn writing from the Chinese, but that didn't bring about any permanent language shift, nor any substantial convergence between the spoken languages involved. The Chinese writing system was a much better fit for the isolating (classic) Chinese language than for the other two languages, which led to a gradual divergence of the writing systems between Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese. North Korea recently stopped using Chinese-inspired Hanja altogether, South Korea did so to a significant degree; Japanese Kanji is very prosperous but it is massively dependent on syllabaries added to it inside the unique Japanese writing system.

The ideograms involved are significantly evolving over the 3500 years or so during which they exist; and there's no transnational body that would keep their system and their shapes consistent across the separately managed education systems - so they aren't the same across China, Japan, and Korea, and in fact, not even between PRC and ROC.

You get a similar picture inside Europe. Latin-like alphabets are used in much of Europe, including to write Basque, Hungarian, or Maltese, neither of which is Indo-European. The alphabets aren't identical to each other, but the common inspiration is strikingly obvious.

Every major place in the world uses multiple registers, multiple dialects, multiple languages, often even multiple language families. These days, you'll find a strong presence of Indo-European languages on several continents not shown on your map; you will also find pockets of Sino-Tibetan languages (including a handful of Chinese language day schools in Japan and Korea) all over the world in constant contact with languages from other language families. However, this in itself doesn't cause language shift in either direction.

A lot could perhaps be speculated about horses and other military technology, but I'm afraid that it would be off topic for this site. Military events don't immediately determine subsequent language shifts.[2]


  1. By even mentioning this possibility, I'm violating an old ban on publications that dabble in this notoriously hopeless question. ↩︎

  2. A historical example of conquered Korea and unconquered Japan suggests that horses aren't everything when invading an island and that some Chinese emperors were actually Mongols who chose to learn Chinese as a secondary language rather than impose Mongolian on everybody. ↩︎

Why does this post require moderator attention?
You might want to add some details to your flag.

0 comment threads

Sign up to answer this question »