Grammer Instructor? Why aren't they in Japan?

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May 12, 2012 23:27 Japanese
I read a book which is Japanese translation "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker. The theme of the book is that the ability of human being to talk and universal grammar. It is particularly interesting for me that sign languages is not kind of pantomime but a complete language like Japanese or English. (For example, they have conjugations.)

However, some part is difficult for me to understand. It is a part about norm of English grammer. The author blames English grammer instructors who try to teach about "correct and normative" grammer.(They are called "言語指南役" in Japanese version but I do not know their original name in Engilish.) I read that there are "normative" grammer, for example that infinitive should not be separated like "to carefully read". According to the author, it is nonsense.
It is because Japanese do not have many "normative" rule like English that I could not realize it.

It is said even in Japanese that the "ら" in verb should not be drop (ex. "見られる"→"見れる") for example. But, I do not know anothor rule.


I think that there are three reasons.

The first reason is orthography of Japanese.
As you know, unlike English and other Languages in Europe, Japanese words are written without separation.
Ex. 「日本語では、分かち書きをしません。英語のように、単語と単語を空白で区切ったりしないのです。」

In past, Punctuation marks, dakuten(the symbol 「゛」in「が」) , han-dakuten (「゜」in「ぱ」) , and hiragana 「っ」「ん」 do not used to be used
Ex. 「日本語ては分かち書きをしません英語のように単語と単語を空白て区切ったりしないのてす」

Additionally, women do not use Kanji, they used only hiragana!
Ex. 「にほんこてはわかちかきをしませえいごのようにたんことたんこをくうはくてくきたりしないのてす」
(Of course, these are just example. Ancient words are used in past.)

Therefore, it is difficult for non-researcher to recognize Japanese grammer in the first place.


The second reason is existence of kanji.
Japanese have to study one thousand charactors in six years in elementary school. Additionally, it is necesary for Japanese to memorize more one thousand charactors by high school. So, teachers of Japanese (fortunately) do not have enough time to teach about grammer.


The third reason is honorific. I think this is the biggest reason.

Any launguage has honorific expression.
For example, in English,
"Teach me about Japanese"
→"Would you please teach me about Japanese?"

However, Japanese launguage has the most complex system of honorific expression. Indeed, words itself change to special ones.
「日本語について教えろ」
→「日本語についてご教授頂けませんでしょうか?」

In this example, word 「教える」 changed to 「ご教授頂く」 So, we can say that Japanese people use two languages - Japanese and honorific Japanese.


Japanese young people have to learn honorific expressions after graduation because honorific expressions is not teached in School. On the contrary, some senior people also have trouble in using honorific expression.

I think that English speakers are lucky enough. It is because they have leeway to learn about grammer!