7.6. Relative clauses


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: (ga)(ka)(ga)    (e)(wo)    (ka)(i)(ta)(period)
Romanization: Gakaga eo kaita.
Structure: noun
(artist)
nomi-
native
marker
noun
(picture)
accu-
sative
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 (ga)(ka) "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: (e)(wo)    (ka)(i)(ta)    (ga)(ka)
Romanization: eo kaita gaka
Structure: noun
(picture)
accu-
sative
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 (ha) "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 (ma)(su) "masu" appears only at the end of sentences.

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

Kana: (ga)(ka)(ga)    (ka)(i)(ta)    (e)
Romanization: gakaga kaita e
Structure: noun
(artist)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(drew)
noun
(picture)

As you see, all you have to do is just remove (e) "e" and its accompanying accusative marker and put the remainder before it.

The following sentence means "cherry blossoms bloomed.":

Kana: (sa)(ku)(ra)(ga)    (sa)(i)(ta)(period)
Romanization: Sakuraga saita.
Structure: noun
(cherry blossoms)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(bloomed)

From this sentence, you can easily make "the cherry blossoms that bloomed" like this:

Kana: (sa)(i)(ta)    (sa)(ku)(ra)
Romanization: saita sakura
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":

Kana: (sa)(ku)(ra)(ga)    (sa)(i)(ta)    (ko)(to)
Romanization: sakuraga saita koto
Structure: noun
(cherry blossoms)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(bloomed)
noun
(fact)

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

Kana: (sa)(ku)(ra)(ga)    (sa)(i)(ta)    (to)(ki)
Romanization: sakuraga saita toki
Structure: noun
(cherry blossoms)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(bloomed)
noun
(time)


7.6.2. Relative clauses and adjectives


This sentence means "kimonos are beautiful.":

Kana: (ki)(mo)(no)(ha)    (u)(tu)(ku)(si)(i) (period)
Romanization: Kimonowa utukusii.
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: (u)(tu)(ku)(si)(i)    (ki)(mo)(no)
Romanization: utukusii kimono
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: (u)(tu)(ku)(si)(ka)(small tu)(ta)    (ki)(mo)(no)
Romanization: utukusikatta kimono
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:(ki)(re)(i)
Romanization:kirei
Meaning: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: (ki)(mo)(no)(ha)    (ki)(re)(i)(da) (period)
Romanization: Kimonowa kireida.
Structure: noun
(kimono)
topic
marker
adjectival 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 (da) "da" to its special form (na) "na" like this:

Kana: (ki)(re)(i)(na)    (ki)(mo)(no)
Romanization: kireina kimono
Structure: adjectival 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 (da), i.e. when it is a nonpast form of the contracted copula.
Other forms of the copula will not chage, like this:

Kana: (ki)(re)(i)(da)(small tu)(ta)    (ki)(mo)(no)
Romanization: kireidatta kimono
Structure: adjectival 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 (na) "na" but to (no) "no", which is the same as the genitive marker you have already learned.

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

Kana: (ha)(small tu)(pa)(ha)    (mi)(do)(ri)(da) (period)
Romanization: Happawa midorida.
Structure: noun
(leaf)
topic
marker
noun
(green)
copula
(is)

Since (mi)(do)(ri) "midori" is a common noun, the relative clause "a leaf that is green" becomes like this:

Kana: (mi)(do)(ri)(no)    (ha)(small tu)(pa)
Romanization: midorino happa
Structure: noun
(green)
copula
(is)
noun
(leaf)

You may think the (no) "no" is the genitive marker instead of a form of the copula (da) "da".

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



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