General comments on the adjectives of emotions and sensations

Authored by: Naomi H. McGloin , Mutsuko Endo Hudson , Fumiko Nazikian , Tomomi Kakegawa

Modern Japanese Grammar

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415571999
eBook ISBN: 9780203856628
Adobe ISBN: 9781135151393


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In Japanese, how speakers express their own feelings, sensations, and desires is distinguished from how someone else’s feelings, sensations and desires are expressed. As you can see in many entries in this chapter, one’s own emotions, desires and sensations are often expressed by adjectives (e.g. hoshii ‘want,’ ureshii ‘glad,’ kanashii ‘sad,’ etc.) or adjectival phrases (e.g. V-tai ‘want to V’). These adjectives can be used to express the speaker’s own feelings or to inquire about the addressee’s feelings, but not to state someone else’s feelings. This is because the speaker cannot directly experience someone else’s feelings or desires. In order to express someone else’s feelings and desires, adjectives are followed by expressions such as -garu/-gatte iru ‘to show signs of,’ or evidentials such as yoo da (‘seem’), rashii (‘seem’), and soo da (‘I hear; looks like’), or presented as a quote or hearsay.

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