chapter  1
25 Pages

Introduction

There are many indications that the japanese are a racial amalgam, the major constituents arriving both from the west, over the northern mainland of Asia, and from the south, by way either of the Pacific islands or the southeastern fringes of China. The japanese language itself affords a good example of this diversity of origin. It has certain structural affinities with Korean and with other members of the Ural-Altaic group. One influence of such links is to be found in the phenomenon of vowel harmony-the appearance of only one of the vowels within a given word, even to the point of variation in a suffix vowel to retain symmetry with that of the word to which it is attached. Another pointer to the Ural-Altaic kinship of japanese lies in the nature of its number words; the root of the word for 'five', as in Mongolian and Manchurian, is related to that for 'to close', the roots of the word for 'ten' and of 'open' are identical-and as he counts on the fingers of one hand, the japanese closes down from one to five, so that the fist is clenched on five, then he opens up one finger each for six to ten, ending with an open and extended palm.