Japanese Syntax

I suck at titles so felt I’d just be blunt about it.

One of the things that fascinates and confuses me most about Japanese is its sentence structure. That being said, I’m having a hard time finding resources that explain Japanese syntax thoroughly. Most websites just seem to talk about the word order and maybe include a somewhat complicated sentence or two, but their explanations are lacking.

I did find a 94 page paper on Japanese syntax that I’ll look through, but was wondering if anyone (particularly those with a higher level of Japanese) knows of any resources that really delve into Japanese syntax?

This may seem insignificant to some, but as someone that’s really fascinated with grammar and the way a language works, learning something like this is both fun and beneficial to my studies.


Not sure this is what you are wanting, but it seems fairly comprehensive.


This is a good starter:


I personally find it easier to absorb a lot of (level appropriate) material and then go back and read about the details and nuances of the grammar points. If I try to read about a grammar point before I have ever encountered it, even if there are example sentences included, it’s difficult to jam it in. It kind of needs to settle in, and then later I can grasp the formulaic explanation.

If you are interested in the way the language works, for its own sake (as apposed to for the sake of being able to speak it), then I would recommend An Introduction to Japanese Linguistics by Natsuko Tsujimura.

As I alluded to above, this book is not a good resource if your only goal is to be able to speak the language. I would describe it more as an introduction to linguistics, using Japanese as a case study.

There is a newer edition than what I linked above as well. I have read the newer edition, but based on the Amazon description it might be more approachable for someone with no linguistics background.

This book is a great resource for some of those nitpicky aspects of Japanese that often really stump learners. It’s a small book and doesn’t cover everything but I think that it’s definitely a good start in the direction that you are looking for. I am reading it right now and loving it! (And I’m preparing to test for N2 next week so…)


Making sense has some great anecdotes in it!

I agree, I’ve enjoyed this one.

@rfindley Since I can’t send you a PM, I’ll ask here since at least it was mentioned in the topic. How much grammar do you think is covered by 80/20 Japanese (JLPT is as good a measure as any)?
And does Making Sense of Japanese cover topics in a logical way or is it just random topics?

I’ve had both on my list for a while, but haven’t bothered buying them yet. More information would be helpful in deciding whether or not to buy them.

Making Sense of Japanese is kind of arbitrary it the order it is written as it is not meant to be a textbook but rather a supplement to whatever textbook you are using. If you are only a beginner it may not be as enjoyable as it is for someone of intermediate level or above that is still struggling with “basic” things like the difference between は and が.

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It’s been a looong time since I read the book, but I remember it being pretty much as mollymay5000 describes. I was at a very basic level when I read it, so it helped frame things that I would learn more deeply later.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

And here’s a followup comment about coverage:

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