Sino-Japanese vocabulary

Sino-Japanese vocabulary or kango (Japanese: 漢語, pronounced [kaŋɡo], "Han words") refers to that portion of the Japanese vocabulary that originated in Chinese or has been created from elements borrowed from Chinese. Some grammatical structures and sentence patterns can also be identified as Sino-Japanese. Sino-Japanese vocabulary is referred to in Japanese as kango (漢語), meaning 'Chinese words'. Kango is one of three broad categories into which the Japanese vocabulary is divided. The others are native Japanese vocabulary (yamato kotoba) and borrowings from other, mainly Western languages (gairaigo). It is estimated that approximately 60% of the words contained in a modern Japanese dictionary are kango,[1] but they comprise only about 18% of words used in speech.[lower-alpha 1]

Kango, the use of Chinese-derived words in Japanese, is to be distinguished from kanbun, which is historical Literary Chinese written by Japanese in Japan. Both kango in modern Japanese and classical kanbun have Sino-xenic linguistic and phonetic elements also found in Korean and Vietnamese: that is, they are "Sino-foreign," not purely Chinese. Such words invented in Japanese, often with novel meanings, are called wasei-kango. Many of them are created during the modernization of Japan to translate Western concepts and have been reborrowed into Chinese.

Kango is also to be distinguished from gairaigo of Chinese origin, namely words borrowed from modern Chinese dialects, some of which may be occasionally spelled with Chinese characters or kanji just like kango. For example, 北京 (Pekin, "Beijing") which was borrowed from a modern Chinese dialect is not kango, but 北京 (Hokkyō, "Northern Capital", a name for Kyoto), which was created with Chinese elements is kango.