I never stopped wondering why the rhythm and use of vowels and double consonants in Japanese sounded so familiar to me, although my mother tongue is Finnish.
I did some research and found out that in fact the true origins of both Finnish and Japanese are still rather difficult to track down. Finnish belongs to the Ural-Altaic language group (Finno-Ugric subgroup). To my surprise I found out that according to some investigators, Japanese should also be considered as an Altaic language.
Some linguists consider that Ainu, a disappearing language in Hokkaido in Japan, is a distant relative of the Finno-Ugric subgroup of Ural-Altaic languages. Archeological findings and anthropological studies suggest that the Ainu people might originate from the North Ural Mountains, and have spread from Finland to Northeast Siberia between 700 BC to 700 AD.
So it seems there might be some distant linguistic relationship between Finnish, Japanese and Ainu.
There are remarkable similarities between Finnish and Japanese. Both languages have vowel harmony, are agglutinating in structure (stringing suffixes, prefixes or both onto roots), use SOV word order (Finnish has no strict word order), and lack grammatical gender.
There are some jokes about it, how Finnish can be made to look like Japanese and still have a meaning. Doesn’t it look just like Japanese to you too (although it really is Finnish):
How is Japanese fisherman called?
- Seko siko siimasi. (= ”did the fishing line got tangled”)
How is a Japanese policeman called?
- Sako tappa jota kuta. (= ”go give someone a fine”)
How is Japanese gardener called?
- Hajo siko hara vasi. (= ”did your rake broke”)
How is Japanese formula driver called?
- Kato Siko Takakumi. (= ”did the back wheel disappear”)
Japanese and Finnish also seem to share an interest in simplified design, music (power metal band Sonata Arctica is hugely popular in Japan), commercials and appreciation of tranquility. Not to forget technology and innovation.
Although the Finnish language has no relations to any Indo-European languages, it is quite strange that Finns are genetically closest to Germanic origins (largest group originates from Flanders region in Belgium), only the language is Uralic.
Language wise, the relation stretches as far as Japan but genetically speaking, we Finnish are most closely related to the Flemish. We are not as distant to each other as we might think at first.
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