Sunday, October 6, 2019

の Attributive Copula

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, the no の particle is sometimes an attributive copula.


Essentially, na-adjectives and some no-adjectives, in particular, nouns, work the same way, but one takes the na な attributive copula, while the other takes the no の attributive copula.
  • {kirei na} neko
    A cat [that] {is pretty}.
    A {pretty} cat.
  • {futsuu no} neko
    A cat [that] {is normal}.
    A {normal} cat.

The distinction above only happens in the attributive. In every other situation, na-adjectives and no-adjectives are conjugated the same.

For example, in the predicative, both kirei and futsuu would take the predicative copula da.
  • kono neko wa kirei da
    This cat is pretty.
  • kono neko wa futsuu da
    This cat is normal.

The negative form and past form of the no の copula is identical to the na な copula.
  • {kirei denai} neko
    A cat [that] {is not pretty}.
  • {futsuu denai} neko
    A cat [that] {is not normal}.
  • {kirei datta} neko
    A cat [that] {was pretty}.
  • {futsuu datta} neko
    A cat [that] {was normal}.

The te て form is also identical: it's the de で copula.
  • kono neko wa kirei de futsuu da
    This cat is pretty and, is normal.
  • kono neko wa futsuu de kirei da
    This cat is normal and, is pretty.

The only difference is that, is the attributive, when they come right before a noun, the na-adjective ends in the na な copula, while the no-adjective ends in the no の copula.
  • {futsuu de kirei na} neko
    A cat [that] {is normal and, is pretty}.
  • {kirei de futsuu no} neko
    A cat [that] {is pretty and, is normal}.

Despite all no-adjectives having a no の particle coming after them, not all of them have a no の copula, specifically.

For example, no-adjectives of possession don't have a no の copula. We know this because we can't replace that no の by da だ in the predicative.
  • {watashi no} namae
    The name {of me}.
    My name.
  • sono namae wa watashi da
    That name is me. (this doesn't make sense.)

Although the above forms a grammatically correct sentence, the meaning isn't what we want. To say that something is "of someone," the genitive no の must be part of the predicate.
  • sono namae wa {watashi no} da
    That name is {of me}.
    That name is {mine}.
    • Note: most of the time, no da のだ is used to assert something, and has nothing to do with no-adjectives.
    • nigeru no da!
      Run away!

On the other hand, any time you have a noun plus the da だ copula, you can convert it to noun plus the no の copula.
  • Sasuke wa otouto da
    Sasuke is [someone's] little brother.
  • {otouto no} Sasuke
    Sasuke, [who] {is [someone's] little brother}.
    Sasuke, the little brother.
    • This is called an appositive.

The most confusing case for many beginners, I believe, happens to be one of the most basic words in Japanese:
  • otoko no ko
    A man's child. (wrong.)
  • {otoko no} ko
    A child [who] {is a man}.
    A {male} child.
    A boy. (right.)

The same confusion described above also leads people to misinterpret the homonymous internet slang otoko no ko 男の娘 as "daughter of a man," rather than "{male} girl."

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