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TYJ Relative clauses

By Takasugi, May 22, 2017 | |
  1. Takasugi
    7.6.1. Relative clauses and verbs

    A relative clause has a main noun and an explanatory phrase that are combined in a grammatical way, and it has a base structure. For instance, "a picture that the artist drew" is a relative clause, where "picture" is a main noun and "the artist drew" is an explanation. Its base structure is the sentence "The artist drew a picture." In English, relative pronouns such as that and who are used.

    The way to make relative clauses in Japanese is quite easy.

    Kana:がかがえをかいた。
    Romanization:Ga ka ga e o ka i ta .
    Structure:(noun, artist) (nominative marker) (noun, picture) (accusative marker) (verb, drew)
    This sentence means "an artist drew a picture." Now let's create the phrase "the artist who drew the picture" in Japanese. You don't have to care about articles (a / the) here. As you have already learned, Japanese has a head-last rule, so it is clear that the noun がか "gaka" comes last in the relative clause. Just remove the noun and its postposition from the sentence and put the remainder before it, and you will get:

    Kana:えをかいたがか。
    Romanization:e o ka i ta ga ka.
    Structure:(noun, picture) (accusative marker) (verb, drew) (noun, artist)
    It means "the artist who drew the picture." Since verbs appear at the end of sentences, a verb appearing in the middle of a sentence is always in a relative clause.

    There are two important rules for relative clauses. First, you cannot use the topic marker は "wa" in relative clauses, because topics and focuses are defined in a sentence, not a clause. Do not use the topic marker in a relative clause even when there is a topic word in it. Secondly, you cannot use polite mode in a relative clause, because polite mode affects only the predicator (a verb, a copula, or an adjective) at the end of a sentence. For example, the politeness suffix ます "masu" appears only at the end of sentences.

    The following sentence means "the picture that the artist drew":

    Kana:がかがかいたえ。
    Romanization:ga ka ga ka i ta e .
    Structure:(noun, artist) (nominative marker) (verb, drew) (noun, picture)
    As you see, all you have to do is just remove え "e" and its accompanying accusative marker and put the remainder before it.

    The following sentence means "cherry blossoms bloomed.":

    Kana:さくらがさいた。
    Romanization:Sa ku ra ga sa i ta .
    Structure:(noun, cherry blossoms) (nominative marker) (verb, bloomed)
    From this sentence, you can easily make "the cherry blossoms that bloomed" like this:

    Kana:さいたさくら
    Romanization:sa i ta sa ku ra
    Structure:(verb, bloomed) (noun, cherry blossoms)
    You can also create a relative clause without removing a word. Here is the Japanese phrase for "the fact that the cherry blossoms bloomed":

    And here is the phrase for "the time when the cherry blossoms bloomed":

    Kana:さくらがさいたとき
    Romanization:sa ku ra ga sa i ta to ki
    Structure:(noun, cherry blossoms) (nominative marker) (verb, bloomed) (noun, time)
    7.6.2. Relative clauses and adjectives

    This sentence means "kimonos are beautiful.":

    Kana:きものはうつくしい。
    Romanization:Ki mo no wa u tu ku si i .
    Structure:(noun, kimono) (topic marker) (adjective, is beautiful)
    Since Japanese adjectives are similar to verbs, you can create relative clauses in the same way as you do for verbs.

    The following sentence means "a kimono that is beautiful":

    Kana:うつくしいきもの
    Romanization:u tu ku si i ki mo no
    Structure:(adjective, is beautiful) (noun, kimono)
    As you see, the word order of it is the same as that of the English phrase "a beautiful kimono". In fact, there is no difference between relative clauses and nouns with adjectives in Japanese. In English, the grammatical structures of "a beautiful kimono" and "a kimono that is beautiful" are quite different, even though they have the same meaning.

    You can easily create the phrase "a kimono that was beautiful" by using the past form of the adjective like this:

    Kana:うつくしかったきもの
    Romanization:u tu ku si ka t ta ki mo no
    Structure:(adjective, was beautiful) (noun, kimono)
    7.6.3. Relative clauses and copulas

    Moving a predicator that is the combination of a noun and a copula to create a relative clause is not as easy as verbs and adjectives. First, you have to distinguish two kinds of nouns: common nouns and adjectival nouns. The latter is also called na-adjectives, qualitative nouns, and copular nouns. As the name implies, a adjectival noun works like an adjective rather than like a noun.

    Here is an example of a adjectival noun:

    Kana:きれい
    Romanization:ki re i
    Structure:beautiful (adjectival noun)
    This noun is not a common noun but a adjectival noun, which works like an adjective, so its translation is not beauty but beautiful. A adjectival noun cannot be a subject or an object; it must be in a predicator, accompanied by a copula.

    This is a sentence that means "kimonos are beautiful," the same meaning as the example shown in the previous section:

    Kana:きものはきれいだ。
    Romanization:Ki mo no wa ki re i da .
    Structure:(noun, kimono) (topic marker) (adjective noun, beautiful) (copula, is)
    Its grammatical structure is similar to examples in the copula chapter, but its meaning is similar to the example in the adjectives chapter.

    When you create a relative clause from the sentence above, you need to change the copula だ "da" to its special form な "na" like this:

    Kana:きれいなきもの
    Romanization:ki re i na ki mo no
    Structure:(adjective noun, beautiful) (copula, is) (noun, kimono)
    This means "a kimono that is beautiful", or "a beautiful kimono". You need to change the copula only when it is だ, i.e. when it is a nonpast form of the contracted copula.
    Other forms of the copula will not chage, like this:

    Kana:きれいだったきもの
    Romanization:ki re i da t ta ki mo no
    Structure:(adjective noun, beautiful) (copula, was) (noun, kimono)
    This means "a kimono that was beautiful."

    Like copulas after adjectival nouns, you also need to change a nonpast-form copula accompanying a common noun when you create a relative clause from them, but you need to change it not to な "na" but to の "no", which is the same as the genitive marker you have already learned.

    For example, the following sentence means "Leaves are green":

    Kana:はっぱはみどりだ。
    Romanization:Ha p pa wa mi do ri da .
    Structure:(noun, leave) (topic marker) (noun, green) (copula, is)
    Since みどり "midori" is a common noun, the relative clause "a leaf that is green" becomes like this:

    Kana:みどりのはっぱ
    Romanization:mi do ri no ha p pa
    Structure:(noun, green) (copula, is) (noun, leaf)
    You may think the の "no" is the genitive marker instead of a form of the copula だ "da".

    Past-form copulas remain unchanged for common nouns like adjectival nouns. Only the nonpast-form contracted copula matters.


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    About Author

    Takasugi
    My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

    I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

    I work as a display engineer.

    One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.

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