May 15, 2007

Will I ever learn to shut up about grammar?

EDIT: I have since determined that due to the だ that is usually attached to them, na-adjectives are effectively verbs.

It started with me wanting to know if they taught, in English class, the difference between "like" and "好き". How "like" is a verb in English, and "好き" is an adjective in Japane-- what? A verb? You really think so? Teachers were called in to give opinions. The kokogo sensei made a guess and then said, "I really don't know". And I learned that it might as well be, because when a nihonjin says it, they are thinking of 好む, in a casual sense. I presented the word "likeable", which is how I think of it. We never came to a satisfying conclusion.
But how many times do I have to learn that when speaking to nihonjin, leave grammatical terms out of the conversation, before it sticks? Somehow, I feel there is some cultural clue I am missing. Some reason as to why they don't do language the same way, though they have equivilent terms. If I find that out...
Oh and a little later I found this page.
But that is pretty advanced, so if you are starting, I suggest seeding your mind with this (one read-through now and another after a couple of months of study should be good).


  1. Here's what I think is the reason behind the Japanese being so clueless about grammar: you're asking them about Japanese grammar. People aren't used to thinking about the grammar of their own language. I know my knowledge of English grammar is very basic. First language acquisition is pretty much unconscious, so it's the second language that needs tons of explanation. Do you remember seeing a diagram in your elementary school in America that said I/you/we--->don't and he/she/it--->doesn't? I'm guessing no, but when you heard someone say "He don't", you probably knew they were speaking "low English." The Japanese don't need a song to explain how to conjugate verbs into the te-form. We do. I consider myself to be someone with good grammar (I know this opens me up to criticism, but keep in mind this comment is colloquial), and I always thought I thought about my own language quite a bit. But I'm still learning about English as I'm trying to explain it and seeing JTEs do the same. Also, just out of curiosity, do you know why the regular past tense verbs (like "worked", "planned", and "planted") are pronounced three different ways, and if yes, did you know this before you were an English teacher? When I discovered it, it was really one of my "I'll be damned" moments in English.

  2. It's a bit more pronounced in Japanese. Like I said, they may be mistaking verbs for adjectives (though to their credit, they do actually speak the language, so I have to say their right I guess).

    But I have some junior high students who don't even know what a verb is.
    I think it's cause Japanese is so much more simple, grammar-wise.

    Since becoming a teacher, I have learned what past-participals are and that they are past perfect tense. But that is pretty advanced, so I feel I have an excuse.

    So your question... Is the answer that they are words that originated at different times in English's history?

  3. My question was about pronunciation, so not terribly relevant, but it pertains to us not having to think about our language. When regular verbs are conjugated into the simple past tense, they are usually have the same amount of syllables as the original verb. "Worked" is pronounced "wurkt" and "planned" is "pland", both still one syllable like work and plan. The "ed" ending, in this case, is either pronounced as a d or a t. If the final sound in a verb is voiceless, the "ed" ending is also pronounced as a voiceless "t": jumped=jumpt, laughed=laft, sucked=sukt. If the final sound is voiced, the "ed" is a voiced "d": lived=livd, sobbed=sobd, hugged=hugd. If the final sound is a "t" or a "d", an extra syllable needs to be added, so the ed ending is pronounced "id": coordinated, padded, sanded, etc. It's not a history thing, just something we started doing because it's easier to say, I guess.

  4. I may have missed your point but
    suki isn't an adjective. I think it's
    a keiyou doushi. Suki has no declension but the adjective must have declensions. The formal from of
    suki as keiyou doushi is suki-desu or
    -da. Usually, something looking like an adjective but having no declension
    is a keiyou doushi. shizuka-da(quiet) or kirei-da(pretty) is another.

    Maybe this post is too late and you know all I said here. Please forget it, then.

  5. It's what we call a na-adjective, which is how I was approaching the concept, but you are right in all practical regards (after all, one might translate 形容動詞 as adjective-verb). And I realized later I wasn't even thinking about how copulas fit into the equation...


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