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Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

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Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby NileCat » Tue 09.08.2009 6:27 am

I'm still a newbie here. But whenever I try to answer a question about Japanese, I feel like I'm just making it more complicated. Many questioners would only want an straightforward answer to the question, wouldn't they?

Here is an example that could explain why I(we?) can't give simple answers to many seemingly simple questions.
Although I searched this issue in this forum, the posts I found were of years ago... (I had expected that this was a kind of FAQ, though)

(Sample question)
ぼくはウナギだ。---Is this correct?

It's easy if you are an eel. It means "I am an eel".
But I'm afraid most of you are not.
The following is the explanation about this "unagi sentence" (ウナギ構文)by wikipedia.

A common linguistic joke shows the insufficiency of rote translation with the sentence 僕は鰻だ (boku wa unagi da), which per the pattern would translate as "(Speaking of me), I am an eel." Yet, in a restaurant this sentence can reasonably be used to say "I'd like an order of eel", with no intended humor. This is because the sentence should be literally read, "As for me, it is an eel," with "it" referring to the speaker's order. The topic of the sentence is clearly not its subject. This is an example of deferred reference, a linguistic feature much more pervasive in Japanese than in English.

Yes, this is just an example.
Even if it's such a simple question, I'll need to make sure:
a) whether you are male or female.
b) that you are not with your boss.
c) if you are an eel.

Thank you.
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Re: Unagi sentence

Postby Sairana » Tue 09.08.2009 2:55 pm

I would just like to say this is the best "Japanese needs context" example I've ever read. This should be stickied... or added to the already-stickied context thread.. or something equally prominent. ^_^
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Re: Unagi sentence

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 09.08.2009 11:55 pm

Definitely agree.
Although the topic is not very understandable as a sticky.
Maybe something like:

Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

If nilecat is ok with me changing that, I'll sticky the thread.
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Re: Unagi sentence

Postby NileCat » Wed 09.09.2009 12:20 am

Well, I just wrote this to practice English though...
Harisenbon, can you do me a favor and revise my writing before that?
Topic, grammar errors... You can change anything. :wink:
Thank you!
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Re: Unagi sentence

Postby chikara » Wed 09.09.2009 1:17 am

As others have said an excellent post NileCat-san. *thumbs up*

NileCat wrote:.....
Even if it's such a simple question, I'll need to make sure:
a) whether you are male or female.
b) that you are not with your boss.
c) if you are an eel.

......

Well I am male and I am not with my boss because they are also male ;)
Don't complain to me that people kick you when you're down. It's your own fault for lying there
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Re: Unagi sentence

Postby keatonatron » Wed 09.09.2009 2:11 am

NileCat wrote:.....
Even if it's such a simple question, I'll need to make sure:
a) whether you are male or female.
b) that you are not with your boss.
c) if you are an eel.

......


The food at this restaurant makes me feel like I'm eel. :wink:
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 09.09.2009 10:42 pm

Okay, I stickied it and changed the topic name, but I think that there is a better place for where this topic should go...

What do you guys think?
Translations?
Grammar Questions and Problems?
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby NileCat » Thu 09.10.2009 1:23 am

...Oh, I think I have to post this before it's removed from the English Practice. :)
The appropriate line at the restaurant I think would be,

if you are male:
ぼくはウナギだ。
if you are female:
わたしはウナギよ。いちばん高いのがいいわ。それと、シャンペン。
if you are alone:
ウナギをください。
if you are with your boss:
私はウナギをいただきます。部長、いいネクタイですね!
if you want to pretend you don't speak Japanese:
ウナギ、プリーズ。
if you are an eel:
こんな店はつぶれてしまえ!
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby スーゼン » Thu 09.10.2009 5:30 pm

hmmm. ...maybe we should make this the metaphysical thread :wink:

NileCat wrote:こんな店はつぶれてしまえ!


I can't quite get the meaning. "the world is coming to an end"? ...not sure 'bout this one... :roll:
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby Sairana » Thu 09.10.2009 6:01 pm

スーゼン wrote:hmmm. ...maybe we should make this the metaphysical thread :wink:

NileCat wrote:こんな店はつぶれてしまえ!


I can't quite get the meaning. "the world is coming to an end"? ...not sure 'bout this one... :roll:


Not sure about the exact nuance, but I read it as you, the eel, threatening to obliterate all sushi shops. ^_^
"Destroy all shops like this!" ^_^
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby chikara » Thu 09.10.2009 9:20 pm

I agree with Sairana-san, only not limited to sushi shops but any shop that serves eel.

Not sure how you get world from こんな店 (shop(s) like this) Susan-san.

In Australia the Eels have their own professional football (Rugby League) club. If I was a shop owner and one of those guys said こんな店はつぶれてしまえ!I would run :)
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby スーゼン » Fri 09.11.2009 5:12 am

chikara wrote:Not sure how you get world from こんな店 (shop(s) like this) Susan-san.


I wasn't trying to translate it literally. I was testing to see if I got the gist. It's clear now, thanks!
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby keatonatron » Fri 09.11.2009 7:59 am

No one got my eel joke. Harisen buried it with clerical stuff :(
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby NileCat » Fri 09.11.2009 12:10 pm

keatonatron wrote:No one got my eel joke. Harisen buried it with clerical stuff :(

Well...I'm afraid I am the only person who didn't get it. :roll: ...ill ?
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Re: Why Context Is Important :: I am an Eel

Postby keatonatron » Fri 09.11.2009 12:29 pm

NileCat wrote:
keatonatron wrote:No one got my eel joke. Harisen buried it with clerical stuff :(

Well...I'm afraid I am the only person who didn't get it. :roll: ...ill ?


Yes!
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