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The First Dream by Soseki

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The First Dream by Soseki

Postby Jakarta » Fri 04.23.2010 12:00 am

こんばんは、みなさん。

I have a question about a sentence from "The First Dream" by Natsume Soseki: In the sentence 「自分も確かにこれは死ぬなと思った。」, what is the purpose of これは? Breaking into Japanese Literature translates this sentence as "I too felt sure she would die." Wouldn't 「自分も確かに死ぬなと思った。」 mean the same thing or is there a difference?

The only idea I have is that it's the difference between saying "I too thought this: she will certainly die" and "I too thought she will certainly die." But there doesn't really seem to be a difference there other than style. Of course, that would make sense, but I want to be certain before I move on.

(Also, I don't agree with Breaking into Japanese Literature's translation because they switched the sentences from present tense to past tense. It irks me and seems to be detriment to a student of Japanese. If you prefer a more literal translation, I would look elsewhere or try and do it yourself.)

The full text for the all Ten Nights of Dreams can be found at http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000148/fi ... 14972.html
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Re: The First Dream by Soseki

Postby Hyperworm » Fri 04.23.2010 4:22 am

First let's be clear on the structure, which is:
「自分も【確かにこれは死ぬな】と思った。」 "I too thought 【something】"
これは is inside the 【】 so it can't mean "I too thought this: 【something】"; it's in the wrong place.

これ here refers to the present situation, the condition or state of affairs that the woman is in, etc. は is performing its usual contrasting function. So I think the nuance it adds is "well, other situations might be OK, but looking at what we have here, yep I can definitely (確かに) see she'd die from this".

Note that the line doesn't explicitly say she will definitely die (though that is his belief), but rather that he can definitely see that she will die. 「確かにこれは」 is a thought to oneself and can be mentally distanced a little from what follows - "certainly, given this..." 「死ぬな」 "yep she's going to die".

I think the sentence would work as 「確かに死ぬな」と思った (inserting a comma mentally after 確かに), but the これは adds flavour.

Uses in other contexts
「確かにこれは・・・」 you, a detective, have heard that a gruesome murder was committed and have just seen the crime-scene. You trail off here, but the sentence could be completed in a number of ways, e.g. 「ひどいな」.
「これは死ぬな」 The same situation. "Yep, that'd kill you." Verb is changed to suit natural English but hopefully the emphasis/contrast put on "that" is clear here. ^^;

...

As for the present-tense past-tense thing, when you first read translations, it does seem annoying that the translators aren't preserving tense, but the past/nonpast tense in Japanese doesn't really correspond to English past/present. The Japanese verb forms have strange functions that aren't shared by English tenses.
fun translation snippets | need something translated?
BTC@1KMZXgoWiDshQis5Z7feCx8jaiP4QAB2ks
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Re: The First Dream by Soseki

Postby Jakarta » Fri 04.23.2010 2:49 pm

どうもありがとう、Hyperwormさん。 かんぺきに分かります。 :)
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