Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: Re: grammar of "no"
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 05:32:16 GMT
References: 1, 2
The most important thing to understand is that Japanese is consistently head-last. The last part of a phrase is the head and the rest are modifiers. A no B, A-suru B, A-na B, or whatever phrase ending B are all B's. "Watashi no inu" (my dog), "kuroi inu" (a black dog), and "Amerika kara kita inu" (a dog from America) are all "inu" (dogs).
> Just remember the meaning of "otoko/onna no hito" as a slight exception, though it isn't really used anyway.
They are not exceptions at all, and they are commonly used. Both "otoko no hito" (male adult human) and "onna no hito" (female adult human) are "hito" (adult human), because it's the head. Since we are humans before we are men or women, the constituent order must be "otoko no hito" and "onna no hito." "Hito" usually means humans, but in this case it means adult humans as opposed to "ko."
|Adult||otoko no hito|
|onna no hito|
|Child||otoko no ko|
|onna no ko|
This usage is parallel to the phrases "ano hito" (that person) and "ano ko" (that child). I like this distinction because in a modern society people are legally divided into majors and minors, not as men and women like Indo-European third-person pronouns indicate. However, English is influencing Japanese grammatically these days and many young Japanese use "kare" (he) and "kanojo" (she) in conversation. Some young parents even use those pronouns for their own children, which irritates me. We should use "musuko" (my son) and "musume" (my daughter) instead of "kare" and "kanojo," which sound too neutral.
"Hito no otoko" can hardly be used. The only situation I can imagine is when you compare male humans with other male humanoids.
Hito no otoko ni wa hige ga aruga, erufu no otoko ni wa nai.
(Literally: Human men have a mustache, but elven men don't.)
In this sentence, we are not talking about men as opposed to women; we are talking about male humans and male elves.
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