Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, whose relation to other language groups, particularly to Korean and the suggested Altaic language family, is debated.
Little is known of the language’s prehistory, or when it first appeared in Japan. Chinese documents from the 3rd century recorded a few Japanese words, but substantial texts did not appear until the 8th century. During the Heian period (794–1185), Chinese had considerable influence on the vocabulary and phonology of Old Japanese. Late Middle Japanese (1185–1600) saw changes in features that brought it closer to the modern language, as well as the first appearance of European loanwords. The standard dialect moved from the Kansai region to the Edo (modern Tokyo) region in the Early Modern Japanese period (early 17th century–mid-19th century). Following the end in 1853 of Japan’s self-imposed isolation, the flow of loanwords from European languages increased significantly. English loanwords in particular have become frequent, and Japanese words from English roots have proliferated.