A lot of the questions here are out of my understanding, simply because I started learning Japanese not so long ago. Although I don't understand a lot, I love more than anything the questions about the origin of a word or "why those kanjis means this or that".

I tried to look on the internet somewhere where I could have a complete (as much as possible) history of the Japanese language but didn't find a lot.

I started learning Japanese language because I like a lot the little I know about it's culture, history and mythology but I would like to dive right in.

Can anyone recommend a book on the history of the Japanese language, a book on Japan history (the book doesn't have to go into great details but I would love a book that goes as far back as possible to recent events) and a book on it's mythology. I found some books but I cannot tell if they are good or not. I also would like (if possible) to avoid the "school-books" because a lot of the time they are not too interesting and jumps over some aspects that I would have liked to know.

I know this question might be a bit off for the japanese.stackexchange but I would like some book recommendations and why they are good.

I hope it's not too much trouble.

1 Answer 1

  • Frellesvig's A history of the Japanese language is the current go-to English-language reference on, well, the history of the Japanese language. Read it skeptically because there are disagreements among linguists working on the area; but I think most of us agree that it's overall worthwhile. I recommend Seeley's A History of Writing in Japan, too. Also, I suggest looking up on dialects and Ryūkyūan languages; you can't really understand the history of the language while leaving those aside.
  • For Japanese history my best recommendation is, try to find The Cambridge History of Japan in a nearby library. It's well-written but it's a lot of material; just skim it and delve into the parts that interest you. There are many many “lighter” books for general audiences on Japanese history, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to recommend any of them in particular. Amazon ratings etc. will probably serve you well in that.
  • For mythology I recommend going directly to the source, and reading Philippi's translation of the Kojiki This is a bit of stretch but I'd like also to push Blacker's The Catalpa Bow, a fascinating report on a side of Japanese folk religion that's often overlooked or brushed aside.
  • 2
    I'd like to add as a recommendation, though not necessarily for history, but for history of literature, you may look at Shirane's Early Modern Japanese Literature (found here: cup.columbia.edu/book/early-modern-japanese-literature/… ). It's a good compendium of analyses of works written in the Tokugawa period. It might help alight the transition from classical to modern Japanese.
    – psosuna
    Oct 9, 2017 at 21:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .