Sunday, May 12, 2019

の Particle

WIP: this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, the no の particle has several functions.

Creates Adjectives

The no の particle can create various sorts of adjectives, dubbed no の adjectives.

They're possessive adjectives, partitives, and appositives, created by marking nouns with the genitive case, or by acting as an attributive copula like the na な of na な adjectives.
  • neko no mimi

    A cat's ears. (possessive.)
  • jinrui no go-wari
    人類5割
    Five-tenths of the human race. (partitive.)
  • otouto no Sasuke
    サスケ
    The younger brother, Sasuke. (appositive.)
  • futsuu no hito
    普通
    A person [that] is normal. (attributive copula.)

When it's a copula, it can be replaced by negative, past, past negative variants:
  • futsuu datta hito
    普通だった
    A person [that] was normal.
  • futsuu denai hito
    普通でない
    A person [that] is not normal.

Turns Words into Nouns

The no の particle is a nominalizer, which means it can turn words into nouns. This can happen for various reasons, and from this function of no の others functions are derived, so it's important to understand how it works.

First off, no の can generically replace any other noun, in which case it translates to "one" in English. Due to how plurals work in Japanese, it can also translate to "ones."
  • yasui hon wo katta
    安い本を買った
    [I] bought the cheap book.
    [I] bought cheap books.
  • yasui no wo katta
    安いを買った
    [I] bought the cheap one.
    [I] bought the cheap ones.

To qualify no の with a na-adjective, you need the na な particle, which is an attributive copula, counterpart to the predicative copula da だ.
  • kono hon ga kirei da
    この本が綺麗
    This book is pretty. (predicative.)
  • kirei na hon
    綺麗
    A pretty book. (attributive.)
    A book [that] is pretty. (as a relative clause.)
  • kirei na no wo katta
    綺麗なのを買った
    [I] bought the one [that] is pretty.

When it's qualified by a relative clause with a random verb, it can refer to the action expressed by that clause. In this case, no の can't really be translated to English. At best you can say it means "act," but that stops working with more complex clauses.
  • hashiru hito
    走る人
    A person [that] runs.
  • hashiru no ga tanoshii
    走るが楽しい
    The act [that is] "to run" is fun.
    Running is fun.
  • kimi ga naku no wo mita
    君が泣くを見た
    [I] saw the act [that is] "you crying."
    [I] saw you cry.
  • mono wo kau no ni okane ga kakaru
    物を買うにお金がかかる
    For the act [that is] "to buy things," money costs.
    It costs money to buy things.

When no の is combined with the ni に particle, as the compound particle noni のに, it sometimes expresses a secondary function, translating to "even though."
  • benkyou shiteiru no ni seiseki ga warui
    勉強しているに成績が悪い
    Even though [I'm] studying, [my] grades are bad.

In this case, if you qualify the no の with an adjective instead of a verb, the no の no longer translates to "one." It simply refers to an adjective. Just like when it was a verb it referred to the act.
  • yasui no ni kaenai
    安いに買えない
    Even though [it] is cheap [I] can't buy it.
    • Here, no の isn't translated. Because its function is purely grammatical.

Note that, although the translation changes, the Japanese grammar syntax remains consistent. For example, with a na-adjective you still need the na な copula in order to qualify the no の.
  • kirei na no ni kareshi ga inai
    綺麗なのに彼氏がいない
    Even though [she] is pretty, [she] has no boyfriend.

In some cases, you'll need to say "even though A is N, B." Where N is a noun. Normally, to say "is [noun]" in Japanese you'd use the copula da だ.
  • isha da
    医者
    Is a doctor. (doctor is a noun.)

But the phrase above is predicative. We need to attribute no の, so we need an attributive copula. In which case, normally, when we need to qualify a noun with another noun, we use the no の particle as an attributive copula to create a no-adjective.
  • shokugyou ga isha da
    職業が医者
    The profession is doctor.
  • isha no shokugyou
    医者職業
    The profession [that] is "doctor."
    The doctor profession.

So, normally, we'd just replace that with the nominalizer no の.
  • *isha no no
    医者のの
    The の [that] is "doctor."

However, it turns out we don't do that. Instead, to qualify the no の nominalizer, you need to use the na な attributive copula instead. Even though we have a noun, not a na-adjective, we use the na な attributive copula.
  • isha na no
    医者
    The の [that] is "doctor."

Behold:
  • isha na no ni binbou da
    医者なのに貧乏だ
    Even though [she] is a doctor, [she] is poor.

The same thing principles applies when no の is combined with the particle de で, which then forms the compound particle node ので. This one has the primary meaning of "with," besides other things, and secondary meaning of "because."

To have an idea:
  • kieru inku de kaita
    消えるインク書いた
    Wrote with ink [that] disappears.
  • kieru no de kaita
    消えるので書いた
    Wrote with the one [that] disappears.
    (or...)
    Wrote because [it] disappears.

Normally, however, it's the "because" meaning.
  • furui no de tsukaenai
    古いので使えない
    With the "old," not able to use.
    Can't use with an old one.
    Can't use when, if, it's an old one
    Can't use because it's old.

Note that if the no の particle is after another particle, then it's turning the particle into an no adjective, not into a noun. But then again, no の only turns nouns into adjectives, and particles aren't nouns, I think, so maybe it's doing both things: turning them into nouns, and then into adjectives.
  • shachou kara no messeeji
    社長からのメッセージ
    The message from the company president.
    • Here, shachou kara," from the company president," qualifies meseeji.
  • mirai e no tegami
    未来への手紙
    A letter toward the future.
    • Here, mirai e, "toward the future," qualifies tegami.

The nominalizer no の can also come before the copulas da だ, desu です, dewanai ではない, and janai じゃない. In this case, it changes the meaning of the phrase. It can be used to assert an opinion, to give advice, or to explain something.
  • benkyou suru no da
    勉強するのだ
    benkyou suru no desu
    勉強するのです
    [You'll] study. (that's what you gotta do!)
    • Literally:
    • [It] is the の [that is] "to study."
  • akirameru no dewanai zo!
    諦めるのではないぞ!
    Don't give up!

In this case, the no の particle can contract into the n ん particle.
  • benkyou surunda
    勉強する
    (same meaning.)
  • akiramerunjanai zo!諦めるじゃないぞ!
    (same meaning.)

Furthermore, it's also the source of the compound nanoda なのだ and its contraction nanda なんだ.
  • kirei na no da!
    綺麗なだ!
    kirei nanda!
    綺麗なだ!
    [It] is pretty!

Marks the Subject

In relative clauses, the no の can mark the subject instead of ga.
  • okane ga aru hito お金がある人
    okane no aru hito お金のある人
    A person [who] has money.
  • okane ga nai hito お金がない人
    okane no nai hito お金のない人
    A person [who has] no money.

Asks Questions

As a sentence-ending particle, no の can ask questions like ka か.
  • iku ka? 行くか?
    iku no? 行くの?
    [Will you] go?

The main difference between no の and ka か question markers is that no の is more emotive. It tends to be used when you're asking something out of interest or out of worry. Meanwhile, ka か tends to be used in formal questions, toward customers, rhetoric questions, and so on.

They can be combined into no ka のか, which is used when expressing curiosity or doubt about the reason of something. Note, however, that no ka is not a sentence-ending particle. It works just like ka, and can come at the end of the sentence or in the middle.
  • naze ame ga furu no ka?
    なぜ雨が降るのか?
    Why rain rains?
    • ame
      Rain. (noun.)
    • furu 降る
      To rain. (verb.)
  • naze ame ga furu no ka wo kangaeyou
    なぜ雨が降るのかを考えよう
    Let's think [about] why rain rains.

Furthermore, in the end of sentences, it can also be combined with na な, to express more wonder about the question.
  • nani wo kangaeiteiru no ka na?
    何を考えているのかな?
    What is [he] thinking, [I wonder]?

Note that this na な is a different na な from the attributive copula na な. Both na な can appear at once:

  • baka na no?
    馬鹿の?
    Is [he] stupid?
  • baka na no ka na?
    馬鹿のか
    Is [he] stupid, [I wonder]?


An observation: since you put the attributive copula na な before the sentence-ending no の, this implies that this no の is just the nominalizer no の but at the end of the sentence.

Also, both no の and ka か can list alternative questions in parallel.
  • iku ka ikanai ka?
    行くか、行かないか?
    iku no, ikanai no?
    行くの、行かないの?
    Will [you] go, will [you] not go? (which is it?! Decide already!)

When it comes right after the te-iru form of a verb, it can get contract to te-n-no てんの.
  • nani wo shiteiru no?
    何をしているの?
    What are [you] doing?
  • nani shite-n-no?
    何してんの?
    Wutch[u] doin'?

Asserts Statements

Also as a sentence-ending particle, no の can be used to assert a statement or order. In this case, the pitch tends to be lower.
  • watashi wa kaeru no!
    私は帰るの!
    I'm going home! (I'm leaving! GOOD BYE TO YOU.)
    • Not to be confused with:
    • watashi wa kaeru no!
      私は蛙の!
      I'm a frog!

This can be combined with other particles, like no yo のよ. In which case it can be used to express one's opinion strongly, in order to correct someone about a misunderstanding, for example.
  • neko ga kawaii no yo!
    猫が可愛いのよ!
    [I'm telling you,] cats are cute! (not dogs, cats!)

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