日本語の秘密 8/33


日本語の秘密/ The Key to NIHON-GO

by 岸本建夫 [Kishimoto Tatsuo] 1999
OCR/Corr by most.cyak@gmail.com, Oct 2014


Section 2 Japanese is Wonderful Because It Doesn’t Require Rigid Precision

→ Why is it OK to Not Have a Subject?

  “Rest in peace, because the same mistake will not be repeated.”

  This is the inscription on the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial Monument. The sentence has no subject. It isn’t clear exactly who will not allow the tragedy to be repeated. The American troops were the ones who dropped the bomb, but even today the U.S. asserts that it was right to do so. Since that is the case, it’s obvious that this was a Japanese decision, but why is this not made clear? In English, the translation would probably begin, We Japanese.…

  Japanese don’t really have a world view where nature and the world move according to the will of specific persons. They believe the world moves by the collective flow of nature, and the natural course of events, or people’s feelings (not as strong a concept as the will of the people). The Japanese believe in many gods. Jesus Christ and the Buddha are both respected as individual gods among many holy figures.

  The subject is central in the English language. The most important thing is who did. This clarifies the matter of responsibility, and it’s simply not English unless you indicate the firm will of a person. There’s something dignified about English.

  Compared to that, Japanese often omits the subject. It’s really no wonder that some people think it’s a vague and irresponsible language. However, if you see the inscription on the Atomic Bomb Monument as the will of the Japanese people, then the message is narrowed down, directly at the Japanese alone. More and more countries, even developing countries, possess nuclear capabilities these days. When you want to make a statement about your hopes that the people of the world will oppose nuclear weapons, it is best not to have a subject in the statement. Japanese language may be somewhat dangerous because of its seeming irresponsibility, but it’s perfect for expressing such expectations and unspecified hopes.

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