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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page Fifteen)


EP15. Spotlight: れる、られる, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP15 transcript, Spotlight: れる、られる | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Soft Jazz Music Bed Playing]

In this final sentence of the third paragraph, we’ll see a little history at play with this
auxiliary verb. Let’s do a little listening first.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

So, a very loose translation of this sentence would be: “In the end, the lord is dispossessed by the family and confined in place.” Here, we’re gonna shine the spotlight on two forms of this particular auxiliary verb. The meaning is “something is done to someone by someone else.” And, it’s a passive voice verb. So, when we get into examples… it’ll sound weird.

Okay, so, this auxiliary verb that has two forms… is: らる… and, られる. Now, られる, you might be familiar with, but this one just prior…らる… might look a little weird. That’s because it’s an old usage that Dazai is employing here. This is something that was used until the early 17th century. And maybe stylistically Da [stuttering] Dazai is kind of feeling… in an old place. And so he uses this word. らる. Nowadays, you’re going to hear this as “れる.”

So, that’s (the) first important note. So, this is an auxiliary verb, right? So, it’s helping this verb that comes just before it. Well, what’s the verb that’s just before these two? It’s する. And it’s する conjugated in the old way as: せ. Maybe you’re catching on to this, but if you need a little bit more insight, let’s explode this out a little bit, okay? And, let’s look at the conjugation.

So, する conjugated to せ. らる conjugated to られ… (in the first example).

In the second example, you have する, again, conjugated to せ. And, られる, just… “boop!” dropped down to… (the same)… られる. How would we conjugate this if it were today? Well, する would be conjugated to さ, and れる would be… (again, kept the same as): れる. So, together this unit would be される.

So, how would this sentence sound if we were not conjugating as if we were in the 17th century?

(Speaking Japanese)

Okay! So, example time. This is where it really gets fun.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Okay, so remember these are gonna… be all passive voice, right? So, something like: “I often have mean things done to me by Kenta, who sits next to me.” That just sounds so weird… Okay, let’s listen to example number two:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Hitting the drum at night, I was given warning by the neighbors.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Robin Williams was a comedian who was loved by many people.” So, if you paid attention at all in English class as a youngster, some teacher drilled it into your head that passive voice is this evil thing, right? —(that) we don’t ever really try to use… But, sometimes it’s fine to use, and very appropriate. But, in most instances we really try to avoid it, right?

We prefer this action…
—action-oriented speech.

So, for example, we wouldn’t tend to say: “I was stabbed by the mugger.”

We would say: “The mugger stabbed me.”

Right? For a gruesome example of this… Um, we prefer this “voice of the doer,” right? Japanese is a little bit different. So, you’ll see that here when I switch things around. So, a different way to say this sentence, again…

In Japanese first:

(Speaking Japanese)

A different way to say it would be: “Kenta, who sits next to me, often does mean things to me.”

Now, another thing I want to point out—because passive voice is very common in Japanese—it kind of forces the sentence to include this relative clause… this: “who sits next to me,” or, “where I learned,” or…, that sort of thing. “Who,” “what,” “where…,” right after the subject. And it’s a very, kind of, icky and annoying thing to hear… and, have to translate… [clearing palate]

I do this a lot in Japan. Uh, but, that’s why you’re gonna see that. If you see Japanese translated into English. And you often see these relative clauses… passive voice is going to be driving that that clause to appear. Let’s listen to the second one, and then an active voice version of that sentence…

(Speaking Japanese)

So, here we might say something like: “The neighbors warned me about hitting the drum at night.” Simple, right?

Number three:

(Speaking Japanese)

So, here there are maybe two options.

We could say: “Robin Williams, whom many people loved, was a comedian. But again, I’m not a big fan of these clauses.

So, I would probably say: “Robin Williams was a comedian whom many people loved.”

And there you go. So, you probably can hear this difference, right? It’s very, very, very clear between the two “voices.”

And just to wrap things up, note that in the first example we’re dealing with present tense, and in the second and third example we’ve got this “た” at the end… so, these are both past tense examples. Not so bad, right?

[Soft Jazz Music Bed Playing]

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