I’m doing a daily close reading of Murakami with my sweetheart and this came up:
She asks: Why Kyakkanteki Jijitsu, instead of Kyakkanteki na Jijitsu?
To recap: Japanese has two kinds of noun-like words, nouns proper and na-adjectives. These adjectives behave morphosyntactically pretty much like nouns, the main distinction being that na-adjectives modify nouns with na, whereas nouns use no:
(Another major distinction is that na-adjectives don’t take “case particles”; that is, unlike nouns, adjectives can’t work in main argument positions, as subjects (-ga) or objects (-wo).)
Na-adjectives interest me because they have a number of borderline cases:
- There are noun and na-adj pairs that sound identical but mean different things: Heiwa na kuni “Peaceful country” vs. Heiwa no kuni “The country of peace”.
- In some other cases, a word can work both as a noun or as na-adj, with no clear distinction in meaning; Makkura no Kutsu = Makkura na kutsu = “pitch-black shoe”; Tokubetsu na Hito = Tokubetsu no Hito = “special person”. Some words prefer one class, to a greater or lesser degree; others are pretty much 50/50. (I once wrote a script to count this on ja.wikipedia; any of these days I’ll post it here.)
- A few words that we’d expect to be adjectives are nouns: Byōki no hito “sick person” (person of sickness?), Haiiro no kutsu “ashen shoe” (shoe of ashen color?). The weirdness of these is likely an artifact of translation – of coming to Japanese with Indo-European expectations. Formally they’re just nouns.
Let’s get back to Kyakkanteki. -teki is a suffix that transforms nouns into na-adjectives, similar to English “-ive” in “objective”:
|Kyakkan no Jijitsu||Truth of object|
|Kyakkanteki na Jijitsu||Objective truth|
The Digital Daijirin dictionary agrees with this description of -teki, and even lists -teki words (including kyakkanteki) as regular na-adjectives. Which they are.
Except for one detail:
- Kyakkanteki na Jijitsu
- Kyakkanteki Jijitsu
- Inshōteki na Jijitsu
- Inshōteki Jijitsu
- Kantan na Jijitsu
- * Kantan Jijitsu
- Akiraka na Jijitsu
- * Akiraka Jijitsu
- * Kyakkanteki no Jijitsu
The asterisk means that form doesn’t normally occur. My Japanese intuitions are wonky, but a cursory browsing of Google results, and asking a handful of natives, supported the analysis above. If this is correct, it follows that:
- 9 shows that teki-adjectives aren’t dual-class words, like Tokubetsu, nor noun/adjective pairs, like Heiwa; they’re pure na-adjectives.
- But 1–4 show that teki-adjectives may optionally drop the na (cf.). This counts as particle-dropping “headline style” (a native speaker tells me that “it sounds cool”).
- And 5–8 shows that other na-adjectives cannot drop the na, even in headline style.
Therefore: teki-adjectives are a subclass of na-adjectives, distinguished by the fact that they (and only they) can modify nouns directly?…
Could this na-less usage be a direct echo of Chinese grammar, via writing? 的, Jap. -teki, in Mandarin is de, the genitive particle; it has the same function as Japanese no and na (plus a few others). 的 de isn’t the Classical Chinese genitive (zhī 之), but Schuessler says its attributive usage dates as early as Song, so certainly it could have influenced Japanese. One Japanese teacher I know jokingly calls headline-style Japanese “Chinese” (kanji piles with nary a kana particle in between); perhaps she’s onto something…