Read More Japanese with Dazai
A look at という
Season ONE—水仙 (EP.2)
という, EP.2 transcript | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese
So, page one.
In this short paragraph Dazai brings us into his world… and right away gives us a nice little cliffhanger that sets us up for more in the second paragraph.
He doesn’t overwhelm us with difficult structure or vocabulary… of course, there is that hard-to-get-out-of-your-mouth book title he mentions, but other than that…,
—he goes easy on us.
His job is to quickly welcome us as readers to his world—to have us launch into the
And, that’s precisely what we’re going to do for you herein this first spotlight.
No difficult grammar right out of the gate.
So, we’ll start with an expression quite familiar to us… one that Dazai uses in a
way that allows him to reference that specific book he read when he was a boy.
The cool thing about this expression, and why we decided to cover it, is that it can
be traded out for a few others… some you might know, some you may not.
So, let us begin our journey there, and kick things off with… という.
First, a slightly modified version of Dazai’s first sentence.
It was when I was thirteen or fourteen that I read a novel called on the Conduct of Lord Tadanao.
So… meaning. Pretty straightforward, right?
という essentially means “called,” or “termed,” … “named” …
We use it when we want to refer to something we assume to be unfamiliar to the listener or reader when we need to identify something by name. Simple. It’s common, and we hear and see it a lot. But, we don’t always have to be common, and we’ll dip into some more opportunities in a sec.
As far as structure goes, the“name” we’re introducing to our listener or reader precedes という and the category that name belongs to comes after という. The category, of course, would be either a noun or a noun phrase. Let’s have a look at a quick example, and then we’ll get you beyond という.
Alright, so now, let’s stretch beyond the familiar. If you want to get away from using just という to talk about what something is called, give these three a run for their money:
Notice how with these last two, the kanji for the word “name” is embedded smack dab in the middle of the expression? And, that という begins each of those two expressions… neat, right? Lots of logic going on here with these…
And, what about the first? Well, that’s simply a conjugated version of 呼ぶ … to call. (Check out our conjugation lessons if that’s unfamiliar to you.)
Now. Let’s consider an example using each of these three options. Okay… so. What else can we share?
Well, it’s probably worth knowing that という名称の is a bit more formal than each of the others, and as such, it possess a slightly…, stiffer feel. Also, it’s often used to refer to publicly known organizations or groups that are somewhat
universally familiar…, perhaps a government body, a university… laws or acts we’re aware of as a society like the Equal Opportunity Act, that sort of thing…
What if you want to talk about the title of something… just like Dazai is doing here…, and you’d prefer to bring that idea of “title” to the fore? Perhaps your brain has you going more in the direction of the English word “entitled” and you’d rather run with that.
Well, should that be you…, and the rhythm of the sentence allows for it, instead of
using 名 or 名称 you could use 題名 to refer more specifically to the “title” of something, and place it in the という〜の structure.
You could also drop the 名 altogether and just go with という題の. Here’s an example of that in action.
So, that’s our initial take on という. Maybe that’ll help unbridle your writing a bit.
We’ll revisit an additional usage of という later on in episode twenty three where という acts as a function word and doesn’t mean “called” or “named” … good stuff.
Okay, see you in the next video… の is on deck!
Or, return to the Tour page!