Maplopo Presents:

Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page forty one)


EP.41 Spotlight: 〜て, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

〜て, EP.41 transcript | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Cool, chill music]
Hello…, everybody.
How ya doin’ out there today?
We have a new conjunction particle for you, that’s not so new—
we actually covered it back in episode 38—the lovely and friendly て.
It’s very versatile—as far as conjunction particles go—it can collect a lot of different
things together: words, phrases, clauses… and, result in a lot of different meanings.
So, you’ll find it very, very useful and we’ll cover a lot of that stuff today. Um…
Here are five meanings (or, usages) you’re gonna run into, but, there are more, of course.
Let’s show you these first five in play through some examples.
(Speaking Japanese)
“I heated up the skillet and started making pancakes.”
(Speaking Japanese)
I’ll get home by taxi.
(Speaking Japanese)
“I’m sorry I’m late.”
(Speaking Japanese)
“…white, fluffy hair…”
Like, Chipopo.
(Speaking Japanese)
“The teacher broke up a quarrel.”
So, what sort of meaning is the particle lending in these five examples we just gave you?
Well, in the first one, basically, you’re dealing with a sequence.
This, uh, “me making pancakes…” (which were delicious by the way)—
—this [stuttering] this morning…[laughing]
Uh, that’s the sequence
Number two, is more of like a method.
So, how are ya’ gonna get home?
By taxi.
Number three, is a reason… or, some sort of cause as to why something has happened.
Uh, the fourth one… you’re adding additional information, or listing something:
white, fluffy hair.
And, in the fifth one, you have kind of a… what you might call, in English…
…a verbal phrase, basically.
And, that’s those five.
Like I said, there are more…
…we just wanted you to know about those five.
And, the one we’re going to focus on today is a little different.
Our focus today is this particular meaning of て, which is basically connecting two things
together that coexist at the same time, or run concurrently, let’s say.
Examples are always good, right?
So, let’s take a look at Dazai’s sentence first.
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“I’m concerned about being insulted by others;
I feel tense, contending with life, like a dead leaf about to fall,
constantly trembling.”
Let’s hear two example sentences of this particular usage, and then we’ll get into the whole nuts and bolts of things.
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“Hey, stop driving while you’re distracted and not looking at the road.”
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“Chiro chased after a little spider, his tail wagging the whole time.”
There’s another conjunction particle that works fairly interchangeably with て…,
that is, ながら.
Let’s hear how it sounds in those two example sentences you just heard.
(Speaking Japanese)
(Speaking Japanese)
So, it works pretty nicely, right?
That’s not always the case, though, and you’ll see a little bit more, later, as to how that works…
if we want to consider what makes て unique, …
…it helps to think of it as setting up, or presenting, a “scenic condition.”
If you go back to the old idea of blocks, and we have block one and thenて, and block two.
In block one, we would have Chipopo wagging his tail. That’s this condition… this state that he’s temporarily in.
And, then in block two, you would have the main action—him chasing, right?
So, while he’s wagging his tail…, while he’s in this condition…,
…the sentence structure the way it is, then, shows us what happens,
and what unfolds at the same time that that wagging is taking place.
So, you have two actions that are happening in unison with one another.
They’re quite harmonious.
If you were to step back and look at the scene of Chipopo running around in the foyer chasing the spider,
you wouldn’t see his tail moving as an independent…
…aspect of his motion, it would be just part of him moving around in the room chasing the spider.
Two things happening, but two things happening that kind of complete the way you look at him in that moment.
That’s kind of what’s going on with て.
So, what about ながら?
What’s the difference there, and why is it unique?
Uh, you can almost think of these things as also happening in unison…
…you’ve got two things happening at the same time… block one looks the same, Chipopo is wagging his tail…
block two looks the same… he’s in motion.
But, when you use ながら to describe this situation, you’re seeing those two things
as happening somewhat frenetically and almost independent of one another.
He’s he’s “multitasking” as he runs through the foyer chasing the spider now.
He’s less than harmonious.
And, these two actions, uh…
…(while occurring at the same time), are independent of one another,
…and that’s the difference that you have with ながら.
On the whole, what’s happening with the usage of these two words or when you decide to use them…
…particles, rather… is it’s how you are visualizing the scene.
Um…, (it) a lot of times, comes down to you.
And, what it is that you want to choose. Sometimes there’s inherent structural
aspects that over time have kind of cemented themselves to be,
…and, uh, swapping one out with the other doesn’t really work.
But, in a lot of other instances, you can also, uh, use them interchangeably.
To flesh this out a little bit more for you, let’s take a look at some examples of て and ながら.
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“With no place to sit down, we ended up talking while standing for about an hour.”
This, by the way, is one of those cemented phrases that you’re really not going to hear using ながら.
A ながら example:
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“I’m in a little bit of a rush, could we walk’n’talk?”
And that one is pretty much just a ながら phrase.
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“Chiro is sleeping with his eyes half open.”
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“Katie is watching a movie while playing around with her phone.”
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“The knocked out boxer is sprawled on his back spread eagle.”
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“My husband is hanging out the laundry while whistling.”
Let’s wrap the lesson up today again by bringing you back all the way to Dazai’s example.
Because it’s a wonderful instance of this other really cool thing about て.
—Which is that you don’t actually have to be describing two things that are in motion…
(two actions that are in motion…) you can actually use it to describe something
that’s fairly static. And, that’s what he does here, right?
So, he says that he feels tense contending with life.
So, if we stuck these into our little blocks, our Lego blocks,
“contending with life” would be this condition that he is in—
—it’s been happening for a while, right? We talked about
things that are already happening as part of this one quality of て.
So, “contending with life” is in our first block.
And, then て. And then, “I feel tense” is this main action, right?
It’s a kind of perfect summation of this, um, application of て right here in Mr. Dazai’s sentence.
And, then our two meager examples achieve the same effect.
So, Chiro is sleeping, his eyes are half open.
Not a lot of motion going on there with those eyes, but, it is an action, if you will.
And, the poor boxer who’s been splayed out on the ground
(this guy definitely lost the match I would think, wouldn’t you?) …
Uh, he’s not moving a whole lot, but he is participating (in some way) in an action.
So. That’s it. Pretty cool stuff, right? We will see you in the next one!
“My husband is hanging out the laundry while whistling… [ laughing] That sounds funny “My husband…” [Doc and Reiko laughing]
[Cool, chill music outro]

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