This is a topic that I hold particularly dear. This question is related to data so that it is acceptable for this community. However, as a languages enthusiast, what deeply concerns me is that this explosion in katakana loanwords is (and will be more and more) "re-shaping" a beautiful language like Japanese in a sort of hybrid language (this is of course a very pessimistic view).

Intro: (on purpose a little provocative)

I have just read an answer from Naruto to this question. In particular these last two sentences made me decide to finally start scraping the surface of this topic which I have been concerned with for a long time.

Today, Japanese people no longer frequently coin totally new kanji compounds nor borrow new kanji words from Chinese. Instead, people introduce new katakana loanwords almost every day.

I totally agree, and want to build up on this.

Anyway, I will not ask whether you think or not that "katakana is just ugly, so isn't the less the better"? (Want to have a headache? Look here for example). Would be an opinion.

Although I am extremely curious to know about it, I will not ask "why do you think that Japanese people like so much to just adopt a katakana loanword rather than make up a "traditional" Japanese word for something new? (For example Chinese would (almost) never do that I believe). You would be surprised at the reaction many Japanese people when I ask: so, why has it been called エスかレター and not, say, 自動階段? (I came up with this example myself but people seem to agree that could make perfect sense). Would be probably be an opinion again.

Actual question:

I have the feeling that especially in the last decades the use of katakana loanwords has increased dramatically (and this seemed to agree with the quote above).

When exactly did it start? Do you know of any data/references where one could track the evolution of creation and use of such loanwords? I would be very interested to know what is the growth rate. Also, they seem not only related to technology or "new inventions" but my feeling is that more and more nouns, adjectives, etc are becoming popular (リーズナブル、インストラクター、 ディスカッション, and I could go on forever). So at what pace and why katakana loanwords are growing so much?

Related to this I would also like to clear the following. Again, my feeling and personal experience tells me that Japanese is probably one of the languages with the highest rate of loanwords in the world. Is this true? Is there data to back this theory up?

Bonus question (might be slightly an opinion):

Do you think that using katakana instead of the English alphabet also for words that are normally not considered Japanese words would in the long run (tens of years) contribute to the creation of a new loanword that will be adopted and integrated as a "Japanese word"?

Example: a building is called ビュータワー。 No Japanese today (I hope!) would use ビュー for "view" (they would use 景色,眺め、眺望, or whatever appropriate).

However, wouldn't using English alphabet make a much clearer distinction between what is a Japanese word and what is not? Doesn't using constantly a Japanese alphabet also for English words risk to lead, in the future, to people saying something like "綺麗なビューですね"?

Final Note:

Although it might be difficult to feel this difference from "original" and "loan" words from a native speaker point of view (they probably both would sound natural at the same level), IMHO Japanese is a beautiful language and this extreme growth in loanwords is doing some serious harm. Of course one could argue that every language evolves and will eventually change. But is it wrong to want to protect it's roots structure? I actually met Japanese people that seems to feel the same way I do and would be interesting to continue this discussion.

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    According to one article I read, English has a rate of 42(?)℅ loan words. Many are old. French, Latin, Greek and a host of others. Now it's a net exporter, being the international language of business, diplomacy & science. It has Hollywood and a very substantial armed force behind it. Other international languages like Greek, Latin and French did much the same thing as English, for better or for worse. And the more formal/educated words in Japanese are quasi-Chinese.
    – Robert
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 3:19
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    Here's an article for this topic with some statistical figures, although it may not be satisfactory...
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 3:32
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    @naruto thanks for the link. Maybe is not a perfect reference but it does give some interesting numbers. For example it's interesting that in 40 years between 1954 and 1994 外来語 went from 9.8% to 33.8%.. that's indeed an incredible increase I think.
    – Tommy
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 4:33
  • Great question! I might be a beginner to the language, but I have read up considerably on katakana and totally agree with this post! Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


By summing up your actual questions, they become as follows:

  1. When exactly did the drastic increase of the use of katakana loanwords start?
  2. Do you know of any data/references where one could track the evolution of creation and use of such loanwords?
  3. What is the growth rate of loanwords?
  4. At what pace and why are katakana loanwords growing so much in nouns and adjectives, besides those relating to technology or "new inventions"?
  5. Japanese is probably one of the languages with the highest rate of loanwords in the world. Is this true? Is there data to back this theory up?

The questions could be summarised into two as:

A: Does anyone have the statistics on this theme?
B: Why is the loanwords based on English increasing drastically besides those relating to technology or new inventions?

I don't have the answer for A. As for B, I think the combination of the following prominent factors have induced the status quo:

(1) 英語の国際語化
The spread of English as the international language

(2) 日本経済の急成長とそれに伴う国際貿易および様々な国際交流の急増
The Rapid growth of the Japanese economy after World War II, and the rapid increase of its International trade and the international various exchanges based on the growth

(3) 日本の産業構造の変化(第三次産業の相対的急増)
Change of the industry structure of Japan - relative rapid increase of the tertiary sector of industry

(4) 戦後(第二次世界大戦終了後)急増した欧米白人文化、特に米国文化に対する日本人の劣等感の裏返しとしての同文化移入の加速化
Acceleration of the culture introduction as the reaction of the Japanese inferiority complex for the Western (European and particularly American) culture that increased rapidly after World War II

(5) 漢語を工夫しての造語能力の低下
Drop of the ability for coining words made by devising Chinese characters

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    It's a nice answer and I'll up vote it, but I'm not sure this is exactly what I'm looking for. Anyway thank you for taking the time to write it.
    – Tommy
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 0:21
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    @Tommy: The disorder of Japanese language including the unnecessary introduction of katakana loanwords, has been also my subject of concern. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to think of it.
    – user20624
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 2:01
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    Great, I'm glad when I see I'm not the only one concerned with this subject (although someone probably doesn't feel this way as I noticed I received a down-vote as well :/ ).
    – Tommy
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 2:03

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