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seems like .....

Postby squarezebra » Sat 11.14.2009 4:16 pm

The whole issue of "seems like" confuses the hell out of me. I've looked around on Tae Kim's grammar page on this, and I still don't really understand it. There are 4 types, although 「そうだ」 seems a little more clear; but I don't really fully understand the nuances of 〜らしい、〜みたい、〜ようだ
Take this sentence,

「その物語を聞いたことがあるみたい」(it seems to me that i've heard this story before). How might it be different if it was wrote その物語を聞いたことがあるようだ or その物語を聞いたことがあるらしい。

Is this a typical part of Japanese grammar that everyone finds confusing, or is it just me?

Thanks in advance guys; I know you're always wonderfully helpful :D
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Re: seems like .....

Postby magamo » Sat 11.14.2009 6:03 pm

その物語を聞いたことがあるみたい, その物語を聞いたことがあるようだ and その物語を聞いたことがあるらしい all mean something like "I think/guess/It seems to me that (omitted subject) has heard this story before." It's kind of unusual to take it as "I think I've heard that before" unless the speaker is a dishonest politician who always forgets what s/he heard or s/he is suffering amnesia.

Anyway, you use Xらしい when it is your guess. Usually らしい implies that you heard that X was true or you have some similar evidence/proof/reason, e.g., old adages, well-known facts and common sense. If you're (almost) sure that X is true because the evidence, etc. is strong, らしい is just softening your sentence so you don't sound too assertive.

ようだ has various meanings and usages, and らしい can often be replaced with it without changing its meaning very much. But there is a slight difference. For example:

彼は明日来るらしい。(I heard that...)
彼は明日来るようだ。(It seems that... i.e., You may or may not have heard so.)

Also, you can say まだ少し頭が痛むようだ (I think my head is still spinning a bit...), but まだ頭が痛むらしい is a bit unusual if it's about a headache you're having because it's not that you know that because someone told you so. You may hear this expression in real life especially when the headache is due to a hangover, but that's because the speaker is trying to get rid of intoxicated himself who is having a headache and telling his true-self that he's suffering a hangover.

If you look up ようだ in a decent J-J dictionary for native speakers, you'll find a long list of its meanings and usages. If you want detailed explanations for ようだ, I recommend you refer to more authoritative sources than free online textbooks for learners. I wish I could explain this word more, but forums have too many restrictions to explain the basic word well.

As for みたい, this word can be seen as a casual version of ようだ, but its meaning is limited. Again, it's impossible to explain everything about みたいだ and ようだ here, but the basic difference between the two words is causality and the fact that みたいだ is kind of a subset of ようだ in meaning. So if you say, 彼は明日来るみたいだ, instead of 彼は明日来るようだ, you're saying basically the same thing, but the former can sound a bit informal.

To answer your question, その物語を聞いたことがあるらしい implies that you heard that he had heard the story before, and その物語を聞いたことがあるようだ doesn't necessarily mean you head he had heard that. その物語を聞いたことがあるみたい is kind of a casual version of 〜ようだ.

If you want more detailed explanation, I recommend 明鏡国語辞典 published by 大修館. This post is basically a translation of part of the explanations in the dictionary. You can find a lot more detailed explanations if you look up ようだ, らしい, and みたい in the dictionary. A lot of questions asked on learners' forums are answered in this dictionary too.
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Re: seems like .....

Postby IceCream » Sat 11.14.2009 7:17 pm

hey. i was having a conversation with someone on the RTK forums about らしい a few months ago... he referred me to loads of really useful stuff, and it was a really helpful conversation for me, so maybe you'd like to read through it?

http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?pid=71934#p71934

hope that helps... :)
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Re: seems like .....

Postby squarezebra » Sun 11.15.2009 5:05 am

wow guys thanks!
Magamo you're a legend ... I think it starting to make more sense in my head now. But isn't it soo complicated?!?
The link I followed form Ice Cream has some interesting ideas on levels of responsibility for the conclusion that you come to, with ~そうだ relieving you of responsibility, and ~らしい being your responsibility because "you" made the inference yourself from the evidence that you had. So, I suppose you'd also never need to say まだ頭が痛みそうだ since its your headache, and no-one's telling you that you have one, unless you were uaware that what you were experincing was a headache until a doctor told you that you were.
I'm going to practice generating my own sentences on lang-8 for this bit of grammar and try to nail it to the ground by making a bazillion mistakes with it.
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Re: seems like .....

Postby pm215 » Sun 11.15.2009 7:27 am

I agree with Magamo that if you want this kind of grammar explanation at all often it's worth buying a decent grammar reference. I have 日本語文型辞典, which is the one albion was quoting from in that RTK forum post. It includes lots of examples for each point, which I like. (I also have 明鏡国語辞典 in my electronic dictionary but find the other a bit easier to use; not sure whether that's because it's only trying to deal with grammar and not be a general dictionary, or because I have a paper copy of it, or because it's aimed at second language learners rather than native speakers.)
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Re: seems like .....

Postby squarezebra » Sun 11.15.2009 2:27 pm

I can really appreciate what you are saying about using native dictionaries, but the truth is I'm not knowledgeable to use them much yet. I actually own a Sharp Papyrus 電子辞書 and I try to use that as much as possible, but at the moment its just really rough, and I get very little from it - the time I spend translating words from the J-J explanations could probably be better spent elsewhere. This isn't a cop-out, as I really really want to be able to use more native materials for study, but thats kinda like trying to run when you're barely walking if you get my drift. As time goes by I am spending increasingly more time using native materials, but I think I have a long way to go before I can drop my J-E/E-J.

Thanks for the rocking advice guys. Seriously, that was really helpful :D
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Re: seems like .....

Postby pm215 » Sun 11.15.2009 4:38 pm

I know what you mean -- I still use the J->E function of my electronic dictionary way more than the J-J. Anyway, if you want an English-language reference I like the _Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar_. It's got lots of detail on the topics it covers; the downside is that it doesn't always cover the thing you're looking up. (This can be alleviated if you fork out for the Intermediate volume too, but of course it doubles the price...)
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Re: seems like .....

Postby becki_kanou » Sun 11.15.2009 7:17 pm

pm215 wrote:I know what you mean -- I still use the J->E function of my electronic dictionary way more than the J-J. Anyway, if you want an English-language reference I like the _Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar_. It's got lots of detail on the topics it covers; the downside is that it doesn't always cover the thing you're looking up. (This can be alleviated if you fork out for the Intermediate volume too, but of course it doubles the price...)


And don't forget the advanced volume either. It came out a while back. I definitely recommend that series; the explanations are clear and they give LOTS of examples.
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Re: seems like .....

Postby IceCream » Sun 11.15.2009 7:32 pm

in fact, those example sentences are available as a shared deck in anki now. Its really helpful in a lot of cases to go to it and try to work out the differences in the example sentences for yourself, if you can't afford the books...

by the way, if anyone knows how to get the dictionary magamo mentions on a computer format without that babylon program, i'd really appreciate it...
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Re: seems like .....

Postby magamo » Mon 11.16.2009 5:01 am

@squarezebra

I know where you're coming from. But did you know some dictionaries are a lot more difficult than other user-friendly ones? You said you're using Sharp Papyrus, but I think some models of the series only have 広辞苑, which is too difficult for most non-native speakers. I'm pretty sure even advanced learners can't use such an advanced dictionary as effectively as native speakers. If you find your own dictionary too difficult to use, you might want to look for easier dictionaries. It's sad that demand is so low Japanese publishers don't publish monolingual dictionaries for non-native speakers. But some dictionaries are more accessible than others.

That said, It's definitely difficult and time-consuming to use monolingual dictionaries especially if you're beginning/intermediate learners. So it's logical to put off monolingual dictionaries for a while. But I also think you might be overestimating the fluency required to use monolingual dictionaries. I don't know how good your Japanese is now or when learners should start using monolingual dictionaries. But it's also true that if you're waiting for your Japanese to be good enough to be able to use them comfortably, it's unlikely your Japanese will.

Even native speakers who are not used to dictionaries find them a bit difficult and don't bother to look in them. The average Japanese kid can't use a dictionary for adults. But at the same time many people believe that you can't learn a foreign language to native fluency if you rely on translation too much. As you probably already know, achieving native Japanese children level is already quite hard too.

So it's a catch 22: You can't get the most out of monolingual dictionaries without good Japanese, but your Japanese won't become good enough without using them.

Some people start with kids' dictionaries to alleviate the difficulty. It might be a good idea to compare the same entries in monolingual and bilingual dictionaries until you get the hang of it. It may also be helpful to read entries for words you're already familiar with; you learn more about words you already know while improving dictionary reading skills.

Of course, depending on your current level, there might be no other way than relying solely on bilingual dictionaries. The thing is that there are only few good J-E/E-J dictionaries out there. I'm an avid "reader" of dictionaries and tried tons of J-J/J-E/E-J/E-E dictionaries, but when it comes to bilingual dictionaries, 新和英大辞典 by 研究社 is the only decent J-E dictionary I could find. If you're not satisfied with translations and example sentences in your J-E dictionary, I recommend this.

Anyway, I think the the key is to find a dictionary you can benefit from and not wait for too long. You have to jump into the monolingual world before your Japanese becomes "good enough" to be comfortable being there because it's too difficult for most of us to become good enough without using monolingual stuff.

Good luck!
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Re: seems like .....

Postby squarezebra » Thu 11.19.2009 9:06 am

well, you're probably right I do need too invst in more dictionaries and what not. For now, I've just bought the 3 grammar dictionaries that were recommended - Basic, intermediate and Advanced Grammar Dics, and they are fantastic!
I'll try to use more resources like the yahoo, goo and nifty online J-J dictionaries whenever i need to look up some words too. Maybe if i co-ordinate my resource use better i'll be able to move gradually towards native materials.

thanks again guys, great advice.
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