Daily Japanese Study Unit Index

So our Daily Japanese Study Unit series is exclusive to our dontcallmesensei blog, meaning that you’ll have to go there to see it. But over here we’ve taken the liberty of providing links to each unit.

The DJSU units consist of 10 grammar points, taken from JapaneseTest4You, 20 vocabulary words from Routledge’s A Frequency Dictionary of Japanese, and 15 Kanji from the Kyouiku Kanji series in order.

Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4 Unit 5

Unit 6 Unit 7 Unit 8 Unit 9 Unit 10

Unit 11 Unit 12 Unit 13 Unit 14 Unit 15

Unit 16 Unit 17 Unit 18 Unit 19 Unit 20

Unit 21 Unit 22 Unit 23 Unit 24 Unit 25

Unit 26 Unit 27 Unit 28 Unit 29 Unit 30

Unit 31 Unit 32 Unit 33 Unit 34 Unit 35

Unit 36 Unit 37 Unit 38 Unit 39 Unit 40

Unit 41 Unit 42 Unit 43 Unit 44 Unit 45

Unit 46 Unit 47 Unit 48 Unit 49 Unit 50

Unit 51 Unit 52 Unit 53 Unit 54 Unit 55

Unit 56 Unit 57 Unit 58 Unit 59 Unit 60

Unit 61 Unit 62 Unit 63 Unit 64 Unit 65

Unit 66 Unit 67 Unit 68

An Abundance of Ending Particles

Every now and again academics who work on similar matters have to get together and decide what the big questions in the field are. Then for the next few years they work to find the answers.

We’re not part of the proverbial Ivory Tower, so what exactly Japanese linguists are fussing over at the moment is unknown to us. But here’s what’s bugging us: the abundance of ending particles.

Ending Particles are equivalents are too many for comfort.

There are a set of lexical items we all agree are ending particles:

よ、ね、か、かい、な、わ、ぞ、ぜ    [Thus far 8]

And they make sense in that they’re monosyllabic and don’t seem to share any meaning with anything else.

But the plot thickens:

Then there are a few items that seems to just show up at the end sometimes:

って、さ、さあ    [Thus far 11]

But these items can actually be elsewhere in the sentence. って is a quotative; and さ and さあ are filler words (so they’re a little bit like “eh?” in some North American English dialects)

We can resolve さ and さあ easily, because they’re filler words and we can consider them interjections and thus we don’t have to pay too much attention to them for syntactic purposes.

But って, we can’t ignore. Essentially if it’s at the end of a sentence then we want to say that the speaker is quoting something and the verb (be it 言う or 聞く or whatever) is being omitted. And that’d be fine… if it was a quote of some sort. But it seems that often when someone does end a sentence in って, it isn’t a quote. So this isn’t a thought, or something one heard or something one said.

So we have to create a work around: we say that って is an expression. We say that Japanese has a Foghorn Leghorn expression. So sometimes the Japanese are just saying “I say, I say” a bit randomly and for the sake of semantics we can ignore it. Fine. So we say we have an Inflexional Phrase, that it’s being quoted, and that the main verb dropped off. That’ll work.

But there is another set of ending particle-esque things that are kind of like って:

の、 なの    [Thus far 13]

So の is that substantivizing suffix we continuously talk about. な is semi-copula that nouns (not all, but many) take. So they’re functionally different and we know what they are. That’s wonderful.

But here’s the problem: just like って, you don’t need it. Nothing “needs” to be a noun phrase. It’s just there as an expression. It seems to be a feminine thing to do.

So we can essentially ignore it for the sake of semantics since nouns and verbs in Japanese inasmuch as they are parts of speech, are more functional than semantic anyway.

But wait, there are verbal expressions too that are ending particle-esque:

でしょう、だろう    [Thus far 15]

These two are equivalent. One is more polite than the other. We have reason to believe they’re contractions of ですよ and であるよ. Okay, so they’re verbs, fine.

But the problem is this: you can actually end your main component of the Inflexional Phrase in a verb and then add だろう or でしょう to the end.

So syntactically you can’t really call it a verb. It won’t work out. It has to be in the position of the ending particle.

But wait, there are even at least one topical-verbal-ending particle-esque lexical item:

じゃない    [Thus far 16]

This is a contraction of ではない. That we know. We also know that では is the topical particle and that ない is the indicative, negative, present conjugation of the copula ある. So we know what it is.

But the problem is this: topical particles follow noun phrases, not verb phrases. So, like with でしょう and だろう, we cannot think of them as topical-verbal in our syntactic analysis.

But wait, there are compound ending particles!

でしょうか、だろうか、じゃないか、よね、よな、なのよ、のよ、かね    [Thus far 24]

And it’s at this point that someone stops us and tells us “Okay, some we don’t have to consider ending particles, and the others don’t exactly have new meanings. They’re just the meaning conveyed by one ending particle along with another. Like か, which just makes everything a question.”

And to that, we say, yes! And this makes us very happy in the sense that one can reason one’s way to the meaning of the compound ending particles.

But here’s the totally insane thing: There’s an order in which the ending particles appear. よ appears before ね. か always appears in the end (except in one or two cases, which seem to be expressions in themselves), and all the expressions appear before ね, よ, and か.

What does this imply? That very possibly, there exist three classes of ending particles that go in a specific order. That idea freaks us out. We need to look at more data before making an assertion, but it is something to look into and consider very seriously.

(Note: We do handle things very differently from conventional Japanese grammar. We are aware of that. Every now and again someone will ask why we make a big deal out of things that the Japanese don’t make a big deal of. It’s part of the job of a linguist. 🙂 )

Grammar/Vocab/Kanji (4)

We’ve been MIA for a while! So sorry about that! We still have two models to go through before we decide on which one to go with. Without further ado…


1. のがへた (no ga heta)

Parsing: [Verb Phrase] [no (substantivizer)] [ga (nominative particle)][heta (noun-unskillful)]

Meaning: (Someone) is unskillful/bad at [Verb Phrase]


2. すぎる (sugiru)

Parsing: [Verb stem] [sugiru (verbal suffix- too much)]

Meaning: to [verb] too much OR to exceed in [verb]-ing


3. たい (tai)

Parsing: [Verb stem] [tai (desiderative verbal suffix)]

Meaning: to want to [verb]

Note: -tai as such is normally used for personal desires.


4. たことがある (ta koto ga aru)

Parsing: [Verb-past] [koto (noun-thing/experience)] [ga (nominative particle)] [aru (copula verb – to be/to have)]

Meaning: to have the experience of [verb]-ing


5. ている (te iru)

Parsing: [Verb- Te form (gerund)] [iru (copula verb- to be/to have]

Meaning: Periphrastic progressive aspect: to be [verb]-ing


6. てもいい (te mo ii)

Parsing: [Verb- Te form (gerund)] [mo (secondary particle-too)] [ii (adjectival verb- good]

Meaning: It is okay to [verb]


7. てから (te kara)

Parsing: [Verb- Te form (gerund)] [kara (post-position – after)]

Meaning: After [verb]-ing


8. てはいけない (te wa ikenai)

Parsing: [Verb- Te form (gerund)] [wa (topical particle] [ikenai – (verb-potential negative – to not be able to proceed]

Meaning: One must [verb]


9.  (to)

Parsing: [Noun] [to (parallel conjunction] [Noun-2]

Meaning: [Noun] and [Noun-2]


10. つもりだ (tsumori da):

Parsing: [Verb Phrase] [tsumori (dependent noun – intention)] [da (copula verb – to be]

Meaning: One intends to [Verb Phrase]


1. その — (adjective) that (close to the addressee)

2. あの — (adjective) that (close to neither the speaker nor the addressee)

3. どの — (adjective) which?

4. あそこ — (pronoun) over there

5. どこ — (pronoun) where?

6. 誰(だれ)— (pronoun) who?

7. 美味しい(おいしい) — (adjectival verb) delicious

8. 魚(さかな) — (noun) fish

9. 豚カツ(とんかつ) — (noun) Pork cutlet

10. 肉(にく) — (noun) meat

11. メニュー — (noun) menu

12. 野菜(やさい) — (noun) vegetable

13. 鉛筆(えんぴつ) — (noun) pencil

14. 傘(かさ) — (noun) umbrella

15. 鞄(かばん) — (noun) bag

16. 靴(くつ) — (noun) shoes

17. 財布(さいふ) — (noun) wallet; handbag

18. ジーンズ — (noun) jeans

19. 辞書(じしょ) — (noun) dictionary

20. 自転車(じてんしゃ) — (noun) bicycle


1. 天

Meaning: Heaven
Chinese Reading: テン
Japanese Reading: あめ・あま

2. 生

Meaning: Life
Chinese Reading: セイ・ショウ
Japanese Reading: い(きる)・う(む)・なま

3. 花

Meaning: Flower
Chinese Reading: カ
Japanese Reading: はな

4. 草

Meaning: Grass
Chinese Reading: ソウ
Japanese Reading: くさ

5. 虫

Meaning: Insect
Chinese Reading: チュウ
Japanese Reading: むし

6. 犬

Meaning: Dog
Chinese Reading: ケン
Japanese Reading: いぬ

7. 人

Meaning: Person
Chinese Reading: ジン・ニン
Japanese Reading: ひと

8. 名

Meaning: Name
Chinese Reading: メイ・ミョウ
Japanese Reading: な

9. 女

Meaning: Female
Chinese Reading: ジョ・ニョ
Japanese Reading: おんな

10. 男

Meaning: Male
Chinese Reading: ダン・ナン
Japanese Reading: おとこ

Japanese: Grammar/Vocab/Kanji (3)

And we’re back! This is a third idea. The main thing is the Kanji table (forgive the bad resolution; I can make it as a PNG if we decide to go for the table). The Grammar section also offers no real linguistic explanation besides saying what part of speech it actually is, which I’m not keen on myself, but if you all like it I can live with it.

Let me know what you think at the end of the week!


  1. もう (mou): adverb | “already/anymore” | “mou V[past]” – “Already V-ed”| “mou V[neg] – “Does not V anymore”
  2. (na): imperative negative suffix | “do not” | “V[present affirmative]na” – “Do not V.”
  3. ないでください (naide kudasai): verbal expression | “please do not” | “V[present negative]de kudasai – “Please do not V.”
  4. なる (naru): verb | “to become” | “N ni naru” – “to become N” | “Vi[stem]ku naru” – “to become Vi”
  5. (ni): dative particle | “at, for, by” | the dative case marks a location intrinsic to the action or indirect object (mainly).
  6. (he): /locative particle | indicates a destination. NOTE: the dative particle can carry out this same function. NOTE: Pronounced /e/
  7. に行く (ni iku): verbal expression | “to go in order to” | “V[stem] ni iku” – “to go in order to V”
  8. にする (ni suru): verbal expression | “to decide on” | “N ni suru” – “to decide on N”
  9. のがじょうず (no ga jouzu): noun expression | “is skilled at” | “V no ga jouzu” – “is skilled at V-ing.”
  10. のがすき (no ga suki): noun expression | “likes” | “V no ga suki” | “likes Ving”


  1. 文学  (ぶんがく・bungaku)— (noun) Literature
  2. 歴史 (れきし・rekishi) — (noun) History
  3. 仕事 (しごと・shigoto) — (noun) job; occupation
  4. 医者 (いしゃ・isha) — (noun) medical doctor
  5. 会社員 (かいしゃいん・kaishain) — (noun) office worker
  6. 高校生 (こうこうせい・koukousei) — (noun) high school student
  7. 主婦 (しゅふ・shufu) — (noun) housewife
  8. 大学院生 (だいがくいんせい・daigakuinsei) — (noun) graduate student
  9. 弁護士 (べんごし・bengoshi) — (noun) lawyer
  10. お母さん (おかあさん・okaasan) — (noun) mother
  11. お父さん (おとおさん・otoosan) — (noun) father
  12. お姉さん (おねえさん・oneesan) — (noun) older sister
  13. お兄さん (おにいさん・oniisan) — (noun) older brother
  14. 妹 (いもうと・imouto) — (noun) younger sister
  15. 弟 (おとうと・otouto) — (noun) younger brother
  16. これ (kore) — (pronoun) this (thing)
  17. それ (sore) — (pronoun) that (thing) [close to the addressee]
  18. あれ (are) — (pronoun) that (thing) [close to neither speaker or addressee]
  19. どれ (dore) — (pronoun) what? (thing)
  20. この (kono)  — (adjective) this



Japanese: Grammar/Vocab/Kanji (2)

And we’re back! Today’s format will be more streamlined – quite different from what we saw before. Let me know which one you like better at the end of the week!


  1. (ka): secondary suffix | “X ka Y” – “X or Y” | X and Y can be any noun or verb (or adjective)
  2. から (kara): post-position | “X kara Y” – “From X, Y” | X will be a noun
  3. から (kara): conjunction | “X kara X” – “Because X, Y” | X will be an inflexional phrase
  4. けれども (keredomo): conjunction | “X keredomo Y – “Although X, Y” | X will be an inflexional phrase. (Conjunctions けど (kedo) and けれど (keredo) are functionally the same)
  5. くらい (kurai): suffix | “X (Y) kurai” – “about X (Y) | X will be a number; Y is an optional counter
  6. まだ (mada): adverbial noun | “Mada X” – “Still X” | X is an inflexional phrase; “mada” modifies the verb.
  7. まえに (mae ni): noun and dative particle | “X mae ni” – “Before X” | X will be an inflexional phrase modifying “mae.” If X is a noun phrase, then it will become an inflexional phrase through the additional attributive form of the copula “da,” viz. “no,” at the end. ([Noun phrase] no mae ni)
  8. ませんか (-masen ka): expression | “X[pol. neg. pres.] ka” – “Why don’t we X?” | X is a verb conjugated for the polite, negative, present with the interrogative ending particle. This functions as an invitation to do something.
  9. ましょう (mashou): expression | “X[mashou]” – “Let’s X!” | X is a verb conjugated in this particular way. This functions as soft cohortative.
  10. (mo): secondary particle | “X (Y) mo” – “Even X” or “X, too” | X will tend to be a noun phrase. Y will be the main case particle, which in the case of “ga,” “wo” and “wa” will drop out when they precede “mo.”


  1. 日本 (nihon/nippon) – (noun) Japan.
  2. 〜年生 (nensei) – (suffix) -year (commonly used for school and college year.) E.g. 2年生 “second year (student)”
  3. はい (hai) – (interjection) Yes.
  4. 半 (han) – (suffix) half-, half past-. E.g. 六時半 “half past six.”
  5. 番号 (bangou) – (noun) number; series of digits.
  6. 留学生 (ryuugakusei) – (noun) international student.
  7. 私 (watashi) – (pronoun) first person singular, “I.”
  8. アメリカ (amerika) – (noun) casual term for the U.S.
  9. イギリス (igirisu) – (noun) casual term for the U.K.
  10. オーストラリア (oosutoraria) – (noun) Australia.
  11. 韓国 (kankoku) – (noun) casual term for the nation of South Korea.
  12. スウェーデン (suweeden) – (noun) Sweden.
  13. 中国 (chuugoku) – (noun) China.
  14. 科学 (kagaku) – (noun) Science.
  15. アジア研究 (ajia kenkyuu) – (noun) Asian Studies.
  16. 国際関係 (kokusai kankei) – (noun) International Relations.
  17. コンピューター (konpyuutaa) – (noun) computer.
  18. 人類学 (jinruigaku) – Anthropology.
  19. 政治 (seiji) – Politics; Government.
  20. ビジネス (bijinesu) – Business.


百 — もも ー ヒャク ー Hundred

千 — ち ー セン ー  Thousand

上 — うえ ー ジョウ ー Above

下 — した ー  ー Under

左 — ひだり ー サ ー  Left

右 — みぎ ー ウ・ユウ ー Right

中 — なか ー チュウジュウ ー Inside/Middle

大 — おお ー ダイタイ ー Big

小 — ちい ー ショウ ー Small

月 — つき ー ゲツカツ ー Moon

Japanese Grammar/Vocab/Kanji (1)

  1. (This is a post from dontcallmesensei!)

    This is my beta test of something I’d like to make a daily series sooner than later. What we’ll be doing is looking at grammar points, vocabulary, and Kanji from a linguistic perspective. So let’s try some thing out this week.

    Grammar (from JapaneseTest4You)

    1. だけ (dake)- is a substantivizing suffix, meaning that it is a suffix that, if it attaches to a verb, makes it syntactically a noun. “Dake” means “only.” “N dake” and “V dake” mean “Only N” and “Only V;” but remember that after “V dake” you may need a copula: “V dake da.”
    2. だろう (darou)- is a verbal expression. It functions as the verb of the sentence, but does not conjugate. It replaces copulae, but does not replace other verbs, which will remain the same when the expression is used, making “darou” seem like a verbal suffix of sorts. It mans “It seems that…” “[Inflexional Phrase] darou” means “It seems that [Inflexional Phrase].”
    3. (de)- is a post-position. It’s like a preposition, giving us spatio-temporal information, but coming after the phrase instead of before. “De” indicates location. It tends to be translated as “at,” but it can also be “on” or “in” depending on context. “[Noun Phrase] de” means “at [noun phrase]
    4. でしょう (deshou)- is just the nicer version of “darou.” They mean the same thing.
    5. (ga)- is a conjunction. It connects two inflexional phrases (or sentences); and it conveys as sense of contradiction of dissonance between the two phrases, thus gets translated as “but” or “though.”
    6. [Noun Phrase]がある (ga aru)- is a sentence construction using the copula “aru,” which, unlike “da,” can easily convey an existential property and not just a categorical property. This is the difference between “It is X” and “There is an X.” “[Noun Phrase] ga aru” conveys the latter for non-living things.
    7. [Noun Phrase]がいる (ga iru)- is the same as the previous, except that the copula is “iru,” and it conveys an existential property for living things.
    8. [Verb Phrase]ほうがいい (hou ga ii)- is a verbal construction. In Japanese, nouns are modified by verb phrases preceding them. “Hou” is a noun that means “way” or “manner.” With the verb phrase preceding it, it means “the way that [Verb Phrase]” “ga” is our nominative particle, indicating that “hou” is the subject of the sentence; and “ii” is the adjective (though it really isn’t an adjective) meaning “good.” So what this is expressing is that “the way that [Verb Phrase] is good.” What the expression is implying is that “One should [verb phrase].”
    9. [Verb Phrase [V-neg]]ほうがいい (hou ga ii)- is the same as the previous, except that the verb in the verb phrase is negative. In this case, as logic would dictate, the implication is that “One should not [verb phrase [V-pos]].”
    10. 一番 (いちばんー ichiban)- is a word that is a noun and adverb- and as an adverb it modifies nouns (meaning it behaves like an adjective). In other words, it’s a very versatile word. It means “number 1″ or “the most.” It will go before the noun or verb it wants to modify.

      A construction JapaneseTest4You brings up is: “[Verb Phrase] no ga ichiban [adjectival noun] da.” “No” is a substantivizing suffix. So the whole verb phrase is a noun. “Ga.” is the nominative particle, meaning it’s the subject of the sentence. (One may also have “wa,” the topical particle, where the meaning doesn’t change much.) And then you have the adjectival noun and “ichiban.” What this conveys is that “[Verb Phrase] is the most [adjectival noun].

    Vocabulary (from Genki 1) 

    (We’ll be using Routledge in the near future. For now, Genki will have to do.)

    1. あの (ano)- is an interjection, equivalent to “umm…”
    2. 今 (いま – ima)- is an adverb meaning “now.” It can also be used as a noun.
    3. 英語 (えいご – eigo)- is a noun meaning “the English language.”
    4. 学生 (がくせい – gakusei)- is a noun meaning “student.”
    5. 〜語 (〜ご – ~go)- is a suffix meaning “language.” It’s what you see in “英語.”
    6. 高校 (こうこう – koukou)- is a noun meaning “high school,” referring specifically to the last 3 years of pre-college education.
    7. 午後 (ごご – gogo)- is an adverb that functions adjectivally meaning “p.m.” It will go immediately before the phrase indicating the time in hours and minutes.
    8. 午前 (ごぜん – gozen)- is just like “午後,” except that it means “a.m.”
    9. 〜歳 (〜さい – ~sai)- is a suffix meaning “years old.” It will go after a number. The only exception that comes to mind is 20歳, which is said “hatachi,” which has nothing to do with Kanji.
    10. 〜さん (~san)- is an address suffix. You put it after someone’s name (most commonly their family name.)
    11. 〜時 (~ji)- is a temporal suffix, indicating an amount of hours. Like “〜歳” it comes after a number.
    12. 〜人 (~jin)- is a suffix indicating one’s nationality or ethnicity; but it is used mostly for the former. It comes after the names of countries.
    13. 先生 (sensei)- is a noun and address suffix. As a suffix, it goes after a person’s name. What it indicates is someone who has a didactic or guiding role in one’s life. This is most commonly used for schoolteachers, professors, doctors, and famous authors.
    14. 専門 (senmon)- is a noun meaning “speciality” or “expertise.” It can be used to refer to one’s “major,” but a better term for one’s major is “専攻 (せんこう – senko).”
    15. そうです。(Sou desu.)- is an expression meaning “It is so.” When make a question, “Sou desu ka,” it indicates intrigue.
    16. 大学 (だいがく – daigaku)- is a noun meaning any “post-secondary education institute” so it refers to both college and university.
    17. 電話 (でんわ – denwa)- is a noun meaning “telephone.”
    18. 友達 (ともだち – tomodachi)- is a noun meaning “friend.”
    19. 名前 (なまえ – namae)- is a noun meaning “name.”
    20. 何 (なに/なん – nani/nan)- is an interrogative pronoun meaning “what?”

    Kanji (from the standard Kyouiku Kanji curriculum)

    Kanji Meaning Chinese Reading Japanese Reading

    一   One    いち         ひと

    二   Two    に          ふた

    三   Three   さん         みつ

    四   Four    し          よん

    五   Five    ご          ご

    六   Six    ろく         むつ

    七   Seven   しち         なな

    八   Eight   はち          やつ

    九   Nine   きゅう         ここの

    十   Ten    じゅう         とう

    So that’s one format we can go for. I’ll throw out another idea tomorrow.

An Important Announcement About Patreon

Hey everyone,

Happy Saturday. We hope you are all doing very well and enjoying the weekend as much as you can.

As many of you know, we do have a Patreon. As you may not have known, we have yet to gain any Patrons. 

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We really do not like talking about money due to the sensitivity of the subject, but it is important due to how revenue will affect the pace and the quality of our work.

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