According to the United Nations’ definition, East Asia consists of regions covering North and South Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan, Japan, and China, including Hong Kong and Macau. The total population reaches 1.6 billion. The coastal areas in its eastern half, including archipelagos in the Pacific Rim, are inhabited much more densely than its western inland half. Table 1 shows part of the languages presently spoken in East Asia, classified by language families.

Among the languages in Table 1, the so-called national languages are Mandarin Chinese (C), Korean (K), Khalkha Mongolian (M), and Japanese (J), each belonging to a different language family. In this entry, these languages are considered representative of the East Asian languages.

Phonological Characteristics

One of the most conspicuous distinctions found in the consonants of the four ...

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