Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hungry. Like eating. Please, have dinner soon?

  So far I've written about the abstract concepts of becoming self-taught, and the closest to actual "lessons" I've put together have been a few vocabulary lists that have my specific interests in mind.  I'm sure that there are people who enjoy reading them for what they are, but most of you will want to have some actual tutelage in the Japanese language.  I suppose that it IS the purpose of this blog to teach as I learn, so today I will share my experiences on tightening up sentence structure!

  In Japanese, sentence structure is incredibly important, and what you leave out is as important as what you include.  For example, if the subject is able to be inferred from the conversation at hand, then there is no need to include it.  This is in stark contrast to English, where the labeling, identification, and inferring of the subject is a large part of the flow to a conversation.

  As a comparison, the conversation as follows differs in structure as is displayed:
English
Alex: You look good today!
Beth: Thank you!
Alex: Your dress is very pretty.
Beth: I bought it yesterday.

Japanese (items in parenthesis are not included in speech)
Alex: (you) Look good (today)!
Beth: Thank (you)!
Alex: (your) Dress is very pretty.
Beth: (I) Bought (it) yesterday!

  If the subject is implied (such as stating that you bought your dress), it is left out of the sentence.  Think of it as a way to not insult someone's intelligence.  However, if you don't think they'll understand what or whom you are talking about, then you include it, as in the following example.

English
Carol: I went to the store with Evan today.  We went shopping for a few things.
Derrick: What did you get?
Carol: I bought a new game.
Derrick: What about Evan?
Carol: He bought new shoes.

Japanese:
Carol: (I) Went to (the) store with Evan (today).
Derrick: What (did you) get?
Carol: I bought (a) new game.  ((You may choose to specify yourself as you are dealing with two subjects)
Derrick: What about Evan?
Carol: (He) bought new shoes.  ((Now that Evan has been specified, it is unnecessary to state the subject again)

  Whereas English is very descriptive and to the point in its communications, Japanese has more of a tendency to expect that context clues be used to understand the topic in the moment.  In this way it is a very dynamic language.  You can -- of course -- include every subject you are talking about, but if you speak in this manner you will be seen as very simple, basic, and uneducated.  Imagine someone came up to you and said, "Hungry.  Like eating.  Please, have dinner soon?"  You would think the person was either deliriously hungry or just plain stupid.  However, in Japanese, the opposite is true, and saying, "I'm hungry.  I would like to eat.  Could we please have dinner soon?," would make you sound like you are struggling to get your point across and are too muddled to speak in a more intelligible, contextual manner.

  As with any language, there are exceptions to every rule, but for simple daily use, these rules suffice.  Aaaand with that, I say, thanks for reading!  Yonde kurete arigatoo!

\m/ (>_<) \m/

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