日本語の秘密 11/33


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

→ You Don’t Need to Make Distinctions
   Between Singular and Plural

  In trying to understand things in a stricter sense English may be more scientific than Japanese, but not everything in this world is so clear-cut. You may end up just overdoing yourself if you try to be exact when expressing things which aren’t clear. For example, if you say, Kare ga hon wo motte iru to kiita (‘I heard that he had (a) book(s).’), you don’t know some things, like how many books he has. In English, after “I heard that he had....”, you must say either “a book” or “books”, but this is inconvenient. There are many things in the world which are not clear. Trying to understand everything is an illusion, and an expression of human arrogance.

  You should be precise only when you need to be. If you know exactly how many books he has and need to relay that information, you should say, Watasi wa kare ga hon wo san satu motte iru to kiita (‘I heard that, he had three books.’).

  Up to now, we have examined the difference in the world views of both Japanese and English speakers. These are just their relative characteristics, so I don’t intend to say that Japanese is always vague and English is always precise. Japanese will gradually become more precise, and more expressions will have subjects. In English, on the other hand, expressions which are less strict grammatically will become more common.

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