Friday, October 11, 2019

に Adverbial Copula

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, the ni に particle is sometimes an adverbial copula.


The ni に copula is sometimes called an "adverbializer" because it turns words into adverbs. However, it isn't actually a generic adverbializer. It's simply the adverbial form of the da だ copula.
  • hontou da
    [It] is true.
  • hontou ni sou da
    [It] truly is that way.

To elaborate: when nouns and na-adjectives are used as the predicate of a subject, the predicative da だ copula comes after them. (except it's omitted in most simple sentences.)
  • neko wa doubutsu da
    Cats are animals.
  • neko ga suki da
    Cats are liked.
    [I] like cats.
    • neko ga - small subject.
    • suki - na-adjective.
    • suki da - predicate.

With i-adjectives, however, the ~i ~い suffix itself is said to be a copula, and da だ isn't used.
  • neko wa kawaii
    Cats are cute.

Consequently, the ni に adverbial copula can adverbialize nouns, or no-adjectives, and na-adjectives, which take the da だ copula, but it can't adverbialize i-adjectives, which don't take the da だ copula.

For i-adjectives, the adverbial form would be the ~ku ~く suffix instead.
  • {futsuu no} hito
    A person [that] {is normal}.
    A {normal} person.
  • {futsuu ni} aruku
    To walk {in a way [that] is normal}.
    To walk {normally}.
    • futsuu ni 普通に
      Normally. (without alteration.)
    • fudan ni 普段に
      Normally. (often.)
  • {jiyuu na} hito
    A person [that] {is free}.
    A {free} person.
    • jiyuu 自由
      Free. (of freedom.)
    • muryou 無料
      Free. (of charge.)
  • {jiyuu ni} aruku
    To walk {in a way [that] is free}.
    To walk {freely}.
  • {hayai} hito

    A person [that] {is fast}.
    A {fast} person.
    • hayai 速い
      Fast. (speed.)
    • hayai 早い
      Fast. (early.)
  • {hayaku} aruku
    To walk {in a way [that] is fast}.
    To walk {quickly}.

As with everything related to copulas, ni に copula doesn't necessarily come after a single word. It can come after an entire clause, provided that such clause would've ended in the da だ copula predicatively.
  • {{{hontou ni} sugoku} kawaikute kirei na} neko da
    [It] is a cat [that] {is {{really} incredibly} cute and pretty}.
  • {{{{hontou ni} sugoku} kawaikute kirei na} neko ni} naru
    To become {a cat [that] {is {{really} incredibly} cute and pretty}}.

Although the ni に copula can adverbialize most words that take the da だ copula predicatively, there are some exceptions. Mimetic words and taru-adjectives sometimes take the to と particle instead in adverbial form.
  • urouro to aruku
    To walk aimlessly.
  • doudou to aruku
    To walk magnificently.

になる, にする

The greatest hurdle related to the ni に copula is the ergative verb pair naru なる and suru する.

The verb naru なる means "to become," while suru する is, sometimes, the lexical causative of naru なる, meaning "to cause [something] to become."

In English, when you say "I'll become a cat," for example, the noun phrase "a cat" looks like it's the direct object for the verb become. However, "to become" is actually intransitive.

If it was a transitive verb, you'd be able to say the passivization "a cat will be become by me," the same way you can say "I'll drive a car," and "a car will be driven by me." Since you can't do that, the verb isn't transitive, it's intransitive.

It isn't "you become something," with a noun, it's "you become somehow," with an adverb.

Similarly, naru なる isn't a transitive verb in Japanese. So it doesn't take the wo を particle, which marks the direct object. It only, in some cases, takes the ni に particle. Not because it marks the indirect object, but because it makes word into an adverb.
  • *neko wo naru
    (wrong, naru doesn't take a direct object.)
  • neko ni naru
    To become in such way {[you] are a cat}. (literally.)
    To become a cat.

This is evidenced by the fact the same thing happens with i-adjectives: you don't mark them with ni に, you use their adverbial forms:
  • *kawaii ni naru
  • kawaiku naru
    To become in such way {[you] are cute}.
    To become cute.

Some other examples:
  • konagona da
    [It] is in-pieces.
  • {konagona ni} naru
    To become in-pieces.
    To turn into pieces.
  • {konagona ni} shite-yaru!
    [I] will make [you] into pieces!
    • Generally used by evil guys to say they'll murderize someone.
  • shizuka da
    [It] is quiet.
  • {shizuka na} machi
    A {quiet} town.
  • {shizuka ni} naru
    To become {quiet}.
  • {shizuka ni} shi-nasai!!
    Make [it] {quiet}!!

Other Intransitives

The verbs naru なる and suru する aren't the only intransitive verbs to watch out for. Another pair of verbs are mieru 見える and kikoeru 聞こえる, which mean something can be "seen" and "heard" somehow, respectively.
  • {kawaiku} mieru
    [It] seems cute.
  • {kirei ni} mieru
    [It] looks pretty.
  • {uso ni} kikoeru
    [It] sounds {a lie}.


There are a number of suffixes and auxiliaries that make use of the ni に copula in the adverbial form. Some examples include:
  • {{neko no} you ni} mieru
    [It] looks {in a way that is the appearance {of a cat}}.
    [It] looks {like {a cat}}.
    • you 様 - a formal noun.
  • {seiri-teki ni} muri
    {Physiologically} impossible.
    • In anime, generally used when a girl says she will never date a guy because she's disgusted by him at a physiological level.
    • teki 的 - a suffix conjugated like a na-adjective.
  • {oishi-sou ni} taberu
    To eat [it] {like [it] is tasty}.
    • sou そう - a jodoushi 助動詞, "helper verb," conjugated like a na-adjective.

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