Sentence Chaining

Dear reader, in the last couple of articles i have shown you some examples, i have written about the complexity and difficulty, of long Japanese sentences. Today i will revisit this topic once more. I have discovered a way, how to deal with those seemingly complex sentences, which are structurally anything but complex. Mr. Paul Benson, who came up with this method, calls this process “Chunking.” This method is about to discover inclusive chunks of text, which should help to parse sentences into more easily understandable pieces. And here is an example for this method.

私は明日大学は大学院に入った時に友達が貸してくれて複雑な本を読む。
Tomorrow i will read the complicated book my friend lent me when I went to graduate school.

私は明日友達が貸してくれて複雑なを読む。
Tomorrow I will read the complicated book my friend lent me.

私は明日複雑な本を読む。
Tomorrow I will read the complicated book.

私は明日を読む。
I will read the book tomorrow.

All these sentences are structurally the same. Tomorrow I will read that book. The only difference is the amount of information about the book. So, what we are basically have to look for, is a chunk of text that modifies a noun, as in the example above, or an action, or something else that we can easily identify in a larger sentence. Breaking down sentences, by identifying something that has been modified by the preceding text, is a key to tame the beast. Here is another example for how this method works, this time, it is my own.

日本人はこれに慣れていて、自動的に脱いだりはいたりできるが、慣れていない外国人にとっては随分複雑な習慣だ。

Let’s see, what we can find in this sentence, do you see anything? First of all, we have 日本人 followed by the topic particle は, so this sentence is obviously about Japanese people. This tells us, that Japanese people are our topic here, let’s keep looking. Next comes これに慣れていて which means they are accustomed to this [sort of thing]. This part, however, is not what we are looking for. All we can tell so far is “As for Japanese people, they are accustomed to something,” which is explained later in this text. But there is nothing that has been modified in any way.

The next passage after the semicolon is looking more promising,自動的に脱いだり履いたり出来るが, which translates to “[is | are] able to automatically undress [and] dress something but …” So, up to this point we can translate this sentence to “As for Japanese people, they are accustomed to automatically undress and dress something, but …” We could have a chunk here, but we don’t not yet, if there is not something, that is being modified, that cames in the later part of this sentence. So this sentence can be about Japanese people, and what they do automatically, or something else. To find this out, we are going to take a look, at the last part of the sentence. 慣れていない外国人にとっては随分複雑な習慣だ。 Here, we have a noun modifier clause, and a contrastive particle は, exactly what we were looking for! But let’s look what this last part tells us. “for foreigners not familiar [with this] it is a very complicated custom.” Let’s put this sentence together again and translate it.

日本人はこれに慣れていて、自動的に脱いだりはいたりできるが、慣れていない外国人にとっては随分複雑な習慣だ。

The custom of automatically dressing and undressing, which Japanese people are accustomed and able to do automatically, is very complicated for foreigners who are not familiar with it.

Now, you don’t know this, because this sentence is lacking the necessary context, what is being talked about is トイレのスリッパ [Toilet Slippers]. In this way, such long sentences become more manageable. And here is the website, this method comes from. I hope this method will help you as well, dear reader, because this is something that not textbook is going to teach you. Now i only hope that my translation, as well as my explanation, was correct. So you better refer to the example that i posted first, and to those, you will find on the linked website.

One response to “Sentence Chaining

  1. Pingback: Level Up | 日本語の日記

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