Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

"To show just how complex this can get, let’s take a simple English phrase – “I love you” – and dissect the many ways in which it can be said in Japanese. Spoiler alert: it’s not such a simple phrase in Japanese. One of our course contributors, Sho, estimated and found that there can actually be as many as 248,026 ways to say “I love you” in Japanese!"

These kind statistics are a kind of lie in themselves. You can say something like "omae wo aishiteimasu", but that's no more a normal way to say "I love you" than "I'm bonkers for that shithead". That has nothing to do with the grammar, it's lexical. "omae wo aishiteimasu" has a different meaning from "anata ga suki da yo".




This seems like a modern version of the old claim "Inuit have 100+ words for snow". I've found that's true for most of the claims of "X language has Y words for concept Z!!!" Inevitably it comes down to one of two things: -language X has a slightly different concept of 'word' than English does (such as allowing for conjugations to refer to past or future states) -The english word is question has a variety of context specific meanings or applications (such as 'love'), and each one of those meanings, even though their context-specific meaning would never be misinterpreted by an english speaker, has a different word in language X.


It's a widely known myth, but I'm pretty sure that Inuit absolutely has 100+ words for snow: it's just that's a meaningless and unsurprising assertion. The Inuit languages are polysynthetic and can say in a word what European languages need a sentence for, so Inuit can sidestep Zipf's law on word frequency.

But also, English has plenty of words for snow, here's 50: https://www.thoughtco.com/snow-terms-types-3010117


Yes, I think we agree. Thank you for the additional info / detail.


"I'm bonkers for that shithead" is gonna enter my daily lexicon for sure.


This is pretty close to a direct translation for the feelings I have for my young children.


> "omae wo aishiteimasu" has a different meaning from "anata ga suki da yo"

That's exactly the point being made - that there are lots of permutations whose individual words mean "I" and "love" and "you", but most of them wouldn't convey what the speaker wants to say, so it can be hard for the learner to choose correctly.

I mean, a set phrase like "I love you" is probably a bad example, since it's more or less idiomatic. But for the general case - a learner wants to say something involving "I" and "you" and a copula - I think the point being made in the article is valid.


It can be just as simple in Japanese as in English, and just as complex. They refer to ways of being implicit + grammatically encoded social deixis, which Japanese is good at (not exclusive to Japanese, though). Grammatically it's quite covert.

But on the whole, no. Just no. I think what's said in the article on this is bullshit. As for wa/ga, one can not necessarily replace the other, so you'd lose a few permutations on that alone. Also, there are more personal pronouns to choose from if that's the game.

I also did not know that just because speech level is grammatically encoded in Japanese, one is not allowed to generate similar meaning in other languages.

Or rather: I'm sure I can find 248,026 ways to say "I love you" in some other language as well.

What is it with Japanese that triggers this kind of ignorance and Sapir-Whorf-ism...?




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: