. . . A perhaps pedantic comment: The idea that everything has a particle in theory, which is either "dropped" or not, is actually relatively modern. In earlier forms of Japanese, there were many cases where "no particle" was most correct, particularly marking subjects and direct objects: 花咲く都, 兎追いし彼の山, etc.

Thus: (1) The modern "use ALL the particles" written style is not the Ideal form from which particles are dropped, but an artificially hypercorrected form;

from a comment by Matt

That makes sense.

(but then, the discrepancy between spoken & written language must have been great 1000 years ago.)

When did we start wanting to put particles on everything?

Most people today want Japanese to be so exact, like an artificial language -- purging all possible ambiguities and illogical stuff.

("hypercorrection" or overcompensation) -- See Misplaced(?) に in たった4週間の間に毎日3Lの水を飲み続けた女性の変化がヤバすぎ! for the over-zeal to put particles (助詞) resulting in insertion of に into 4週間の間に making the sentence ungrammatical (2 examples).

1 Answer 1


When did we start wanting to put particles on everything ?

In the context of "proper writing" I think the push for precision and predictability is a common feature that many written languages take on as society gets more complex. The less ambiguity in written communication, the better - even at the expense of utility and aesthetics.

I believe that in Japan this thought would have started to gain real traction in the Meiji period through the 言文一致運動 and would have continued on into the post-WW2 language reforms as the country was being Westernized.

This would eventually lead to the, "everything's gotta have a particle" mentality that I think you're referring to.

You can see similar examples in Chinese with the national movement away from 文話 towards 白話, and in German with their occasional Rechtschreibung (correct-writing) reforms.

  • This is excellent. Do you have examples of [ LESS utility because of this trend or movement ] ? The more examples, the better, if that's not asking too much. Thank you.
    – HizHa
    Oct 21, 2016 at 6:49
  • 1
    Kanbun (漢文) and Kakikudashibun (書き下し文) are far more compact, but often lacking the precision of modern written Japanese. Like for instance, 「有朋自遠方来、不亦楽乎」 or in 書き下し文、「朋あり遠方より来る、また楽しからずや」or in more modern prose, 「朋が遠方より来てくれると、なんと楽しいことだろう」. Granted that's not a Japanese composition, but I think that it illustrates the precision over utility idea that prompted the Japanese as a society to move from 漢文 to 書き下し文 and then from 書き下し文 to 現代文.
    – sazarando
    Oct 21, 2016 at 7:11

You must log in to answer this question.

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