Maplopo Presents:

Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page twenty nine)


EP.29 Spotlight: そうだ, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

そうだ, EP29 transcript | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Quiet Piano Jazz Playing]

All right. So, let’s finish this sentence from Dazai.

Today, we’re going to be talking a little bit about ぞうだ. This auxiliary verb… and let’s hear the rest of the sentence:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“I hear from time immemorial geniuses have been utterly ignorant of their real worth.”

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Victor, I hear, is not from New York but from New Jersey.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“I hear the pizza place—by the station—is gonna hand out half price coupons for all pizza next month.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“I hear Springsteen ran last year’s entire ‘Lap Lake Biwa Marathon.’ “

Today we’re shining a little spotlight here on this expression: そうだ.

Now, Dazai is not using that, he’s actually using a more literary expression… he’s using: そうである. Okay? They’re interchangeable. Um, if you were to say そうである, it would sound a little stiff—and maybe even in his day if he were to say it (and he probably wouldn’t)—it would sound kind of stiff. But, そうだ. What does it mean?

This usage of そうだ is an auxiliary verb. So, as with so many of these that we’ve covered to this point, it’s assisting that verb that comes just before it, right? Now, you might have heard this sound before out on the street when people are just kind of like affirming something… basically a “yes” statement. But, it’s a totally different expression that we’re talking about today—sounds the same, but totally different.
Okay. And what it means is… basically, it means, um… that you’ve “heard something,” right?

So, a very useful expression.

You’ve heard something from someone else, or you’ve read something about a thing, something has been communicated to you, (or, reported to you)—as we described this technically in grammar— something’s been reporting [Stuttering] reported to you, and you’re now relaying that information to somebody else. But you have not experienced this thing for yourself to be able to talk about having seen it, or experienced it with your own eyes, or felt with your own senses. Somebody else told you. That’s what this means.

The structure here is pretty instructive, so let’s take a look at it.

Uh… and, it’s a very simple structure, right? So, you have a subordinate clause and you’ve got your そうだ, basically. And, inside the subordinate clause is what’s been communicated to you and what you’re reporting to someone else. Pretty straightforward, right?

With そうだ (at the tail end of this subordinate clause) there’s going to be a verb. Because そうだ is an auxiliary verb, and it’s following a verb just before it, right? So, if we take a look at Dazai’s sentence, he has the dictionary form, linking verb, in there: だ.

In our first sentence about Victor, we have the same sort of setup: だ (linking verb, dictionary form). (In) the second sentence… my favorite… the pizza sentence… is dictionary form. And, there we’re talking about, uh, handing something out… so, it’s an action verb there.

In the third sentence, we have another action verb…, and here we don’t have dictionary form we have a past form, right? One of the unique aspects of being able to place a past form verb, uh, just before そうだ being an auxiliary. Now, when we use そうだ, we can use it to describe all sorts of different timelines, right? Just like we can in English.

So, with Victor’s sentence we’re basically talking in present tense. With the pizza sentence, uh, we’re talking about the future. And, with the Springsteen sentence (he’s a mad runner did you know that?) we’re talking about past tense. He’s running around Lake Biwa… [makes fast running sounds] that’s, that’s a lot of running by the way… that’s something like 200k or something.

There’s a neat little thing that might be going on in this sentence that’s worth, maybe, talking about for a moment, and that’s Dazai’s use of “I hear” at all. Now, uh, to a Japanese reader the use of “I hear” does a really good job at distancing the, uh, writer (or the speaker) from the idea of being kind of… linked to geniuses in this context, or, affiliated with geniuses.

So Dazai doesn’t HAVE to include “I hear,” but seems as though he wants to include it so as to say: “Look, I’m not a genius, but I hear this thing about geniuses being ignorant of their real worth…” and, it’s very likely that he’s doing that intentionally. And, it’s even more noticeable as you continue reading… (and we won’t pull apart [stuttering] this further sentence that mentions it but…) Dazai very specifically says: “I’m not a genius at all.” But yet he continues to kind of talk about it (in a way). And, so… worth mentioning. And, um, you know you can interpret it any way that you want as well. But, there’s very likely, uh, that going on in that sentence.

Okay, so, a pretty straightforward lesson, right? And something very, very… um, useful to use. Another great auxiliary verb. Now, we talked today about “I hear” … but, you could say a lot of different things, right?

You could say “they say,” or “according to,” or “researchers say,” or… this sort of stuff. The idea of “say” or “says”— again, something you’ve heard from somebody else—and you’re telling to somebody else. That’s it in a nutshell.

[Quiet Piano Jazz Playing]

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