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神様 - one god or two?

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神様 - one god or two?

Postby Cyborg Ninja » Wed 02.09.2011 2:56 pm

When Japanese nationals say "kami-sama," are they most of the time referring to one God or multiple gods? It's difficult to tell, as you all know, because plural forms are not natural in the Japanese language. I hope someone with a good grasp of the Japanese way-of-thinking can help me with this.
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Re: 神様 - one god or two?

Postby Dustin » Wed 02.09.2011 3:14 pm

One I'd assume.

For plural gods

kamigami 神々 < 神神 like hitobito 人々(persons, people)

kamisama tachi 神様達, 神様たち

kamisama gata 神様方

「方」 being a polite plural suffix, which is obviously appropriate in some cases with gods.

I'll double check with a Japanese friend or two later though.
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Re: 神様 - one god or two?

Postby JaySee » Wed 02.09.2011 3:53 pm

Like you said there is no real distinction bewteen singular and plural in Japanese, so it could be either. It wholly depends on the context - I guess it's a bit like asking if an English speaking person is generally talking about one or multiple animals when they say the word 'sheep'.
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Re: 神様 - one god or two?

Postby Dustin » Wed 02.09.2011 4:27 pm

Nevermind, the more I look into this stuff the more difficult it seems to get!

Context only can tell you :p

Because Japanese does not normally distinguish singular and plural in nouns, it is sometimes unclear whether kami refers to a single or multiple entities. When a singular concept is needed, "-kami" (神?) or "-kamisama" (神様?) is used as a suffix. It is often said jokingly that there are "eight million kami" (八百万の神, happyakuman no kami?) in Japan. This is because "八百万" can be read in two different ways, often meaning "countless" (八百万, ya-o-yorozu?) instead.
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Re: 神様 - one god or two?

Postby two_heads_talking » Wed 02.09.2011 5:33 pm

As mentioned by Dustin. it's a tricky path.

But, in most cases, plural kami will be easy to determine within the context of the sentence.
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