03 Japanese, Lesson Three

NIHONGO. LESSON THREE. HOW TO READ JAPANESE.



HOW TO READ A JAPANESE SENTENCE BY PARSING.  Author: KEN BUTLER


田中さんの話によれば、総理大臣はもうすぐ内閣改造行う予定です。http://users.tmok.com/~tumble/jpp/pars.html

Ken Butler in his  World Wide Japanese Language Learning Web, explains how to understand a Japanese "sentence". According to Butler,  if you understand how the structure of a typical Japanese "sentence" is put together, and if you have an understanding of how Japanese particles act as guideposts in telling you how each part of a "sentence" relates to the other parts, there is no Japanese sentence which defies understanding, or rendition into the English language.

This is a very reassuring statement by an experienced professor: please read his lesson in the site indicated above. Here we will study it inserting observations,  that may  help those who are in the beginnings of his or her  Japanese studies. Given a Japanese text, determine its exact pronunciation, find its vocabulary and apply the procedures indicated by Butler.

 It is worth anticipating his advices:

The moral of this story according to Butler is that to understand (and speak and write) Japanese we must: [QUOTE]

[1] Acquire as much information as you can about the structure of Japanese sentences (such as preceding one noun by another to modify it or a verb clause preceding a noun modifying the noun, and so forth).

[2] Learn the functions of the various structural particles in Japanese. Pay attention as you hear it or read it to what each particle is telling you about the relationship of the part of the sentence the particle acts as a guidepost to.

[3] Look up any vocabulary you don't know in your dictionary.

[4] AND ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT THERE REALLY ARE NO SENTENCES  IN JAPANESE. ALL THERE IS IS A SERIES OF UTTERANCES THAT ARE LINKED TOGETHER BY PARTICLES ALONG WITH VERBS AND A FEW CONNECTING WORDS.

[5] And also always keep in mind that if the topic, the object, an the indirect object (and probably quite a few other things) of a particular utterance can be understood from the context, then the speaker or the writer has no obligation to state these parts of a "sentence" explicitly. That's all there is to it. [ END OF QUOTE]

Darcy Carvalho. São Paulo, SP, Brazil.[10/06/2013]

PARSING A JAPANESE "SENTENCE" Ken Butler

THE CORE SENTENCE. First, embedded in each Japanese "sentence" or utterance is what, for lack of  a better term, I call the "core sentence".

For example

田中さんの話によれば、総理大臣はもうすぐ内閣改造行う予定です。 Tanaka-san no hanasi ni yoreba, souridaijin wa mou sugu naikakukaizou o okonau yotei desu.

田中(たなか)さんの(はなし)によれば、総理大臣(そうりだいじん)はもうすぐ内閣改造(ないかくかいぞう)(おこな)予定(よてい)です.

VOCABULARY. JIM BREEN´S WWWJIDIC.

•田中 【たなか】(n)  Tanaka

•話 : (P); 話し【はなし】 (n) (talk; speech; chat; story; conversation;  discussions; negotiation; argument;

•によれば (exp) according to (quotation);

•総理大臣 【そうりだいじん】 (n) prime minister; premier;

•もうすぐ (exp) very soon;

•内閣改造 【ないかくかいぞう】 (n) cabinet reshuffle; cabinet shake-up;

•行う; 行なう 【おこなう】(v5u,vt) to perform; to do; to conduct oneself; to carry out;

•予定 【よてい】 (n,vs) plans; program; programme; expectation;

です(v) to be.

[ Butler]  (IF) EVERY JAPANESE STATEMENT HAS A CORE SENTENCE, HOW DOES ONE FIND OUT WHAT THE CORE SENTENCE IS?

We may have to take  several steps to arrive at it.

STEP ONE. We start at the end of the sentence, and look for a verb as part of a minimal part that make sense.

You take a look at the sentence, usually beginning at the end of the sentence, and try to find the part of the sentence that is the minimal part that makes sense, both in terms of Japanese logic and English logic -- that is, a verb, and the main particle that is associated with it.

So we start at the end of the sentence, and see the verb desu [です(v) to be.]. desu means, basically, "is". So, we know that the force of this sentence is that it's a statement of fact.

STEP TWO. AGAIN WORK BACKWARDS.

Then we work backwards to the next word, yotei. yotei has a basic meaning of "expectation", and it doesn't seem to help us much at this point, so, while keeping it in mind, we again work backwards. So far we have just a segment of meaning [is expectation予定(よてい)です] yotei desu.

STEP THREE. KEEP WORKING BACKWARDS.

We next come to the word okonau. This seems to have possibilities, since it looks like it might be a verb. It is a verb: 【おこなう】 行う; 行なう (v5u,vt) to perform; to do; to conduct oneself; to carry out.

 So, we take a look at what precedes it, and there before our eyes is the structural particle o [].

We know that the function of o is to indicate that what precedes it is going to be acted on by a verb that follows it, so we take a look at what precedes it. And the word is 内閣改造 【ないかくかいぞう】 (n) cabinet reshuffle; cabinet shake-up;  kaizou,  modified by the word naikaku (we know that one Japanese "noun" can precede  another one to modify it), so we look in the dictionary and find out that naikaku has the English equivalent of "Cabinet" and kaizou has the English equivalent of "reorganization". We also look in the dictionary and see that okonau is in fact a verb with the English equivalent of "carry out".

 We reflect upon this news for a second, and then realize that with the words naikaku kaizou o okonau we may perhaps have found the "core sentence", since we know that one of the most common acceptable utterences in Japanese is a noun followed by the particle  o [].  which is then followed by a verb. So, we have: [ naikaku kaizou o okonau /yotei desu]. [a cabinet reorganization carry out / is expectation]. We mentally transpose this to "carry out  a  cabinet reorganization", and although we don't as yet have a subject for the sentence, it looks like we have an acceptable Japanese utterance. [a cabinet reorganization carry out / is expectation].

STEP FOUR. KEEP WORKING BACKWARDS. LOOKING FOR A SUBJECT OR TOPIC INDICATED BY THE PARTICLE WA

田中(たなか)さんの(はなし)によれば、総理大臣(そうりだいじん)はもうすぐ内閣改造(ないかくかいぞう)(おこな)予定(よてい)です.  

But it would help if we had a topic, (or subject, as is usually the case), so we continue our look backward and we see the words もうすぐmou sugu ("quite soon"). But since these words don't seem central to the meaning of the sentence, we continue to look backwards and come to the structural particle wa.

Now we've really found something of value, since we know that what precedes wa is going to be the topic of the sentence. So now, discarding for a moment all of the extraneous parts of the sentence, we end up with:  Prime Minister Cabinet reorganization carry out.

総理大臣(そうりだいじん)もうすぐ内閣改造(ないかくかいぞう)(おこな)予定(よてい)です.  

SOURIDAIJIN WA NAIKAKUKAIZOU O OKONAU YOTEI DESU.

Transposing this into English, we get the sentence: "(The) Prime Minister (will?) carry out (a) Cabinet reorganization." [the verb okonau is in the "present" tense, which can also be used to indicate a future action, so we need to decipher the rest of the sentence before deciding what meaning to give it in English.]

The above English seems to make pretty good sense, and we now have some confidence that we're well on the way to understanding the entire sentence.

STEP FIVE. KEEP WORKING BACKWARDS.

So, just to tidy things up, we continue looking backwards, and see that the sentence starts with the clause Tanaka-san no hanasi ni yoreba. Well, to make a long story short, this clause means "According to what Tanaka-san said", and so we start putting the other remaining parts of the sentence together:

Tanaka-san no hanasi ni yoreba  田中(たなか)さん(はなし)によれば、"According to what Tanaka-san said"  souridaijin wa naikaku kaizou o okonau 総理大臣(そうりだいじん)もうすぐ内閣改造(ないかくかいぞう)(おこな) "(The) Prime Minister (will?) carry out (a) Cabinet reorganization."  When will he carry it out? mou sugu もうすぐ"quite soon".

FINAL STEP.

And what does the long clause souridaijin wa naikaku kaizou o okonau modify?
[A verb clause preceding a noun modifies the noun] yotei"expected" And what follows yotei? desu. "is" (in the sense that what precedes it is a statement of fact)

So, now we put this all together, and we get an English translation as follows:

"According to what Tanaka-san says, (the) Prime Minister is expected to carry
out (a) Cabinet reorganization quite soon."
It makes perfect sense, doesn't it.

CONCLUSION ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LEARNING THE STRUCTURAL PARTICLES,  THE KEYS FOR UNDERSTANDING JAPANESE. Ken Butler

But common sense tells us that Japanese, when speaking or reading their language among themselves, do not perform these convoluted mental gynastics of waiting until a speaker or writer has completed a sentence and then working backwards to determine what the speaker or writer has said.

If they don't do this,then what do they do? They understand the sentence as it is spoken. And how do they do this?  They do it by hearing and understanding what the structural particles are telling them as they are spoken (or written) with regard to the relationships of the various parts of the sentence, as follows:

Tanaka-san no hanasi ---> "Tanaka-san's talk" (or in English "what Tanaka-san said"

ni yoreba ---> "according to" [Henderson, Handbook of Japanese Grammar, p. 211]

Tanaka-san no hanasi ni yoreba ---> "According to what Tanaka-san said"

souridaijin wa --- > "(the) Prime Minister . . ."
[Here we know we have the topic of the sentence]

Tanaka-san no hansi ni yoreba souridaiji wa --->
"According to what Tanaka-san said, the Prime Minister ..."

mou sugu nakaku kaizou o okonau --- >
"quite soon (will) carry out (a) Cabinet reorganization"

Tanaka-san no hanasi ni yoreba souridaijin wa mou sugu nakaku
kaizou o okonau

"According to what Tanaka-san said, (the) Prime Minister will quite
soon carry out a Cabinet reorganization."

If the sentence stopped here, okonau would be in its sentence-ending form:
okonaimasu, and the above rendition of the sentence in English would be accurate.

But since okonau is in the normal "present" tense form (sometimes
referred to as the "dictionary form"), the Japanese listener or reader automatically knows that he or she has just heard a verb clause that will modify what comes next.

And what comes next is yotei desu ---> "is expected"

This then completes the sentence, and the Japanese listener or reader has understood
each part of the sentence, and the complete sentence, as the speaker was speaking it, or as he or she was reading it.

The moral of this story is that to understand (and speak and write) Japanese:

Acquire as much information as you can about the structure of Japanese sentences (such as preceding one noun by another to modify it or a verb clause preceding a noun modifying the noun, and so forth).

Learn the functions of the various structural particles in Japanese.

Pay attention as you hear it or read it to what each particle is telling you about the relationship of the part of the sentence the particle acts as a guidepost to.

Look up any vocabulary you don't know in your dictionary.

AND ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT THERE REALLY ARE NO SENTENCES  IN JAPANESE. ALL THERE IS IS A SERIES OF UTTERANCES THAT ARE LINKED TOGETHER BY PARTICLES ALONG WITH VERBS AND A FEW CONNECTING WORDS.

And also always keep in mind that if the topic, the object, an the indirect object (and probably quite a few other things) of a particular utterance can be understood from the context, then the speaker or the writer has no obligation to state these parts of a "sentence" explicitly.

That's all there is to it. KEN BUTLER

 DARCY CARVALHO[10/06/2013]

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