Japanese is spoken by roughly 110 million people, most of whom live in Japan. The earliest extensive texts in Japanese date back to the early eighth century. Its genetic affiliation is controversial (see Shibatani (1990) for the survey of various suggestions in the literature). The language consists of many dialect groups. In this chapter, we will focus on the dialect spoken in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Japanese expressions for three types of spatial information are discussed. One is location, namely, where an entity is located. The other is motion, in which an entity changes its locative relationship with another entity. The third is frames of reference, with which space is divided into regions with respect to a reference point so as to specify location and direction and trajectory of motion.
Very brief grammatical overview of the language
Japanese has a nominative-accusative case-marking pattern, and the canonical order among subject, direct object and indirect object is S-DO-IO-V. While rigidly verb final, various discourse factors lead to ‘scrambling’ of the constituent order among S, DO, IO, adjuncts and adverbials. Furthermore, when recoverable from the context, verb arguments are usually left unexpressed in Japanese discourse. Derivational morphology of verbs is complex. Categories marked by productive verbal morphology include tense, aspect, passive, causative, reciprocal, ‘can do X’, ‘want to do X’, ‘to do X too much’, epistemic modality, negation and honorification. There is no participant marking on the verb, and grammatical relations are marked by postpositions on NPs.