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Story tenses, and nondistributive counting

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Story tenses, and nondistributive counting

Postby Hyperworm » Wed 11.25.2009 10:23 am

My turn for a topic again. :)

1. た vs. dictionary form in stories
I've mostly been ignoring this, or rather I'd been thinking that you can just change perspective between present and past as you see fit to suit the current flow of the story, but this one sentence in Haruhi no Fungai just made me think "I really need to find out about this", because I can see no justification for it at all >_>
俺はところどころ土で汚れた体操着姿で、両手を後ろにつき怠惰に足を投げ出している。全身が完全に弛緩した状態であり、そんなリラックス体勢で現在の俺が何をやっているかというと、ごく純粋に単なる一観客だった(?)
If the author wanted to set up a past tense, why 現在の俺 and all that earlier? Why not その時の俺 or something? I don't understand the dramatic change between present and past tense that takes place in a single line. >_> (The sentence after this is back to dictionary form again.)

2. Counting that doesn't distribute over all the nouns of the subject
「家族は何人ですか。」「4人です。母と妹が2人います。」 (+私=4人)
Normally an adverb like 2人 should distribute over all the nouns (母, 妹) but here it's only applying to the last one. ._. I'd be happy with
「母と妹2人がいます」
「母と2人の妹がいます」
「母が1人、妹が2人います」
but sentences like the first one are just odd. Can anyone describe this in a way that makes it seem less weird? Does it happen in any other situations? ._.
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Re: Story tenses, and nondistributive counting

Postby Garappachi » Thu 11.26.2009 1:00 am

俺はところどころ土で汚れた体操着姿で、両手を後ろにつき怠惰に足を投げ出している。全身が完全に弛緩した状態であり、そんなリラックス体勢で現在の俺が何をやっているかというと、ごく純粋に単なる一観客だった(?)


「キョン」とか言う理屈っぽい小僧の台詞ですね? :D

文頭から「一観客」までが「俺」の目を通して進行中であると読者に印象づけて(読者は「俺」と一体化します。)、最後の「~だった。」で、はじめてそれが恰もスクリーンに写し出されたかのような過去の出来事であることがわかるカラクリになっています。

Hyperworm さんの予想通り、臨場感を増すための「視覚的」効果を狙った文章です。

(実際に読む時は、「一観客」までを体言止めの文章、または「一観客」の前までの節を「一観客」の連体修飾と解釈して、「一観客」と「~だった。」の間で2~3拍、間をとると、ニュアンスが掴めると思います。)


また、「その時の俺」の場合ですと、「その時の俺が何をやっていた」となり、わかりやすい「説明」で、自然な表現になりますが、臨場感を伴った「視覚的」効果は薄れます。

ついでに、すべての時制を過去にすると、単なる説明文になって、読者は退屈に感じると思います。


「家族は何人ですか。」「4人です。母と妹が2人います。」 (+私=4人)


まず、直接的な答えが「4人です。」、そしてその内訳が「母と妹が2人います。」で説明しています。


sentences like the first one are just odd.

同感です。

Can anyone describe this in a way that makes it seem less weird?

難しいですね。

たぶん、「~人が」の位置が用言「います」のすぐ前にあることが原因なんだと思います。

「母と妹2人がいます」だと「~人がいます」が文の骨格になって、説明ではなく、新たな話題の始まりのような印象になりますが、「母と妹が2人います。」だと「が」は「2人」にしか掛かっていないので、「~人います」で自然な説明になっています。


Does it happen in any other situations? ._.

物語の書き出しを連想します。
たとえば、
母と妹2人がいます。母は川へ洗濯に、妹は山へ芝刈りに・・・そして、芝刈らずに臭かった。 :mrgreen:
Spoiler:
(「草刈った」に引っ掛けた駄洒落です。)
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Re: Story tenses, and nondistributive counting

Postby magamo » Thu 11.26.2009 2:59 am

Um, by "sentences like the first one," Hyperworm meant sentences like 母と妹が2人います, not 母と妹2人がいます kind of sentence, I guess. What he was asking was, I think, why XとYが2人います can mean 1 X + 2 Ys because it should mean 2 Xs and 2 Ys if the distribution rule holds.

If this is what the OP was asking, then the answer is simple: The rule is wrong. I don't know where you learned that, but XとYが2人います can mean either 2 Xs + 2 Ys or 1 X + 2 Ys. Since this structure is ambiguous in meaning, you might want to avoid it unless it's very clear which you mean. You can avoid this kind of ambiguity by rewording it as:

XとYがそれぞれ2人います or XとYが2人ずついます for 2 Xs + 2 Ys,
Xと、それからYが2人います for 1 X + 2 Ys.

As the OP listed, there are many other ways to avoid ambiguity. But usually XとYが2人います is ok in conversation because the listener can easily understand which you mean by your prosody such as rhythm. Also, in the example the OP gave, the context clearly says it's 1 X + 2 Ys. I agree it's not the best wording though.

As for the tense twist in Kyon's monologue, I also took it the same way as Garappachi did. A more general explanation for the effect of the tense twist is that in general the past tense indicates a certain psychological distance between the speaker and the situation he describes. This psychological distance can be used to make a sentence sound as if it was from the third person perspective.

I don't know what Garappachi meant by "Hyperworm さんの予想通り、臨場感を増すための「視覚的」効果を狙った文章です" because I think the OP only said he didn't understand the dramatic change in verb tense... But the author's intention is the distance effect by the past tense. The sentence in question sounds like Kyon is kind of indifferent and seeing the whole situation from the third person perspective. And as every fan of the series knows, this is very Kyon.

Since he's talking about the current situation, you can't turn every verb past in the sentence (and surrounding sentences) because it changes the meaning, i.e., you'd sound like you're talking about things in the past. But you can take advantage of the past tense's psychological distance by change the last portion to the past tense and keeping other verbs in the present tense so it's still clear that you're talking about a current situation. The tense twist is a high level writing technique, so you might want to avoid using this until you develop very accurate language intuition.

This psychological distance also appears in other grammatical rules, for example, the reason why 雨が降ったそうだ. can be interpreted as "I heard it had rained" while it never means "It seems it rained."
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Re: Story tenses, and nondistributive counting

Postby Hyperworm » Thu 11.26.2009 9:44 am

magamo wrote:Since he's talking about the current situation, you can't turn every verb past in the sentence (and surrounding sentences) because it changes the meaning, i.e., you'd sound like you're talking about things in the past. But you can take advantage of the past tense's psychological distance by change the last portion to the past tense and keeping other verbs in the present tense so it's still clear that you're talking about a current situation. The tense twist is a high level writing technique, so you might want to avoid using this until you develop very accurate language intuition.
Very interesting. That seems to satisfy me for the minute. Thanks :)

magamo wrote:Um, by "sentences like the first one," Hyperworm meant sentences like 母と妹が2人います, not 母と妹2人がいます kind of sentence, I guess
Yeah. Apologies to Garappachi, for not making that clear and for making my first example sentence also a bit odd ^^;
magamo wrote:What he was asking was, I think, why XとYが2人います can mean 1 X + 2 Ys because it should mean 2 Xs and 2 Ys if the distribution rule holds.
If this is what the OP was asking, then the answer is simple: The rule is wrong. I don't know where you learned that
I didn't learn it explicitly but it's the way other adverbs have always seemed to behave. Are you saying that the rule is wrong in general?
Take a sentence like this for example (I hope it's OK, I just made it up >_>)

出来上がったチェスの駒とサンタの人形を赤く塗った
(I painted the chess pieces and the Santa figurine I had finished making in red)

Can it be used to mean 出来上がったチェスの駒と[サンタの人形を赤く]塗った
(I painted the chess pieces, and the Santa figurine I had finished making in red) [dubious English?]

i.e. simply that you painted the chess pieces, not that you painted them in red specifically (actually you used black and white as per normal), and it's only the Santa figurine that you painted red? Or does the 赤く adverb have to distribute over the nouns (which is the way I've always read it)?
(If it does have to distribute then I wonder why this doesn't apply for the sentence I put in the OP - is it just counting that behaves differently, for example)

Thanks to both of you for your useful posts :D
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Re: Story tenses, and nondistributive counting

Postby magamo » Thu 11.26.2009 12:40 pm

Hyperworm wrote:
magamo wrote:What he was asking was, I think, why XとYが2人います can mean 1 X + 2 Ys because it should mean 2 Xs and 2 Ys if the distribution rule holds.
If this is what the OP was asking, then the answer is simple: The rule is wrong. I don't know where you learned that
I didn't learn it explicitly but it's the way other adverbs have always seemed to behave. Are you saying that the rule is wrong in general?
Take a sentence like this for example (I hope it's OK, I just made it up >_>)

出来上がったチェスの駒とサンタの人形を赤く塗った
(I painted the chess pieces and the Santa figurine I had finished making in red)

Can it be used to mean 出来上がったチェスの駒と[サンタの人形を赤く]塗った
(I painted the chess pieces, and the Santa figurine I had finished making in red) [dubious English?]

i.e. simply that you painted the chess pieces, not that you painted them in red specifically (actually you used black and white as per normal), and it's only the Santa figurine that you painted red? Or does the 赤く adverb have to distribute over the nouns (which is the way I've always read it)?
(If it does have to distribute then I wonder why this doesn't apply for the sentence I put in the OP - is it just counting that behaves differently, for example)

The difference between 赤く and 2人 is that 赤く modifies the verb "塗った" while 2人 modifies the noun(s) X and Y or Y. You red-paint them ("Red-paint" is a pseudo-verb that means "to paint in red."). But it's not that X and Y two-exist (This pseudo-verb sounds like "coexist," doesn't it?). Rather, it should mean 2 Xs and 2 Ys (or X and 2 Ys) exist. So you can't take it as "to paint X and paint Y in red" because the verb is modified by "red."

In short, the word 2人 is a noun and the object of the verb while 赤く is an adverb.

Hope this clears it up.
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