● Back Numbers 001〜004 

 No. 001〜002では、英語の「文法比喩」について解説して頂きます。

No. 001  Grammatical metaphor (part 1) 

Is, "I think it is going to rain" about "thinking" or about "raining"? In fact, it is about "raining", as the tag shows us: "I think it is going to rain, isn't it [don't I] ?" In other words, the tag is picking up the main part of the sentence, namely the "it is going to rain" part. However, "John thinks it is going to rain", is certainly about "thinking", as the tag shows: "..., doesn't he [isn't it] ?" The tag here is picking up "John thinks".

"A flood of emotion" is an example of a metaphor -- in which "a flood" is used in an extended, non-literal, sense to mean "a lot".

In the same way, "I think it is going to rain" is an example of a metaphor, but a metaphor within the grammar of the language. It really means: "It is probably going to rain." Such metaphors are called "grammatical metaphors", and play a very important role in language. I will take up this idea in my next Column.

● Words & Phrases ●
  • In fact 実際は
  • tag(=tag question)
  • a flood of
  • non-literal
  • in ... sense
  • metaphor 比喩
  • play a very important role in
  • take up 取り上げる

(帝京大学教授 Christopher Barnard)


No. 002  Grammatical metaphor (part 2) 

In the last Column, I introduced the idea of grammatical metaphor. Here is another example of grammatical metaphor: "Can you open the door?" This is certainly not about asking someone if he has the ability to open a door. In this sentence, the grammar of "ability" and the grammar of the question-form are used to tell someone to do something.

The fact that we can make jokes by pretending not to recognize the grammatical metaphor is in itself a hint that it is a metaphor. For example, the following are all kinds of jokes:

Can you open the door? -- Yes. [followed by silence and no action]
Can you open the door? -- Yes, but I won't.
Can I open the door? -- You can, but you may not.

In these cases, the difference between the "real meaning" ("can" = ability) and the grammatical metaphor allows us to make a joke. We could not make such jokes if these sentences had been used:

Please open the door.
May I open the door?

Of course, Japanese also has grammatical metaphors, but not in this kind of case. If you want someone to open the door, you do not say 「ドアを開けられますか(??)」. You perhaps say 「ドアを開けてください」-- which is not a grammatical metaphor. If you learn at school that 「ください」= "please", you are likely to say, "Please open the door". In English this usually sounds rather rude. Therefore use the grammatical metaphor instead.

● Words & Phrases ●
  • pretend to do
  • The fact ... the metaphorまでがこの文の主語
  • in itself
  • a hint that ...
  • allow ... to do
  • not in this kind of case
  • rude 不作法な、失礼な
  • therefore 従って

(帝京大学教授 Christopher Barnard)



No. 003  Recent trends (part 1) 

One trend which seems to be spreading at great speed in modern English is to say things like: "There is two apples on the table." Readers, if they keep their ears and eyes open will perhaps hear this pattern.

Of course, the "correct" sentence is "There are ...". Traditionally, "there" is not the subject of the sentence, but a sort of "flller", and the subject of the sentence is "two apples". But there seems to be a trend to thinking of "there" as the singular subject of the sentence and thus putting the verb in the singular. Since in speech "There is" is generally pronounced "There's", perhaps this is increasingly being looked at as an unanalyzed unit of language, and there is no feeling that it contains the verb "is".

You will hear and read this usage especially with "a lot of", as in: There's a lot of apples on the table. Also, "there's a few...", instead of "there are a few..." is very common.

In such cases, it seems as if the presence of the article "a" makes it more acceptable to use a singular verb.

● Words & Phrases ●
  • keep one's ears and eyes open
  • traditionally 従来は
  • filler 詰め物、埋めくさ
  • think of 〜 as ...
  • put 〜 in the singular
  • increasingly
  • look at 〜 as ...
  • unanalyzed
  • it seems as if ...
  • acceptable 容認可能な

(帝京大学教授 Christopher Barnard)


No. 004  Recent trends (part 2) 
      ----"happier"か"more happy"か

Short adjectives make their comparative forms with "-er" (big > bigger). Long adjectives use "more" (difficult > more difficult). A trend that is spreading very fast is to use "more" with those adjectives which are traditionally "-er".

I have not noticed this with very basic adjectives of one syllable (e.g., big, small, deep, low, high). But less basic adjectives, especially of more than one syllable, are these days often seen and heard with the "more" comparative. Among examples I have noticed recently are the following: more clever, more shallow, more high, more happy, more strong, more smooth.

With the English language (and of course the Japanese language) changing so quickly, I cannot help wondering if the people who set school and university entrance exams should not be very careful about the kinds of questions they ask in these exams.

In school, "happier" should be taught, since this is the traditional "correct form". However, it is difficult to say that "more happy" is incorrect, given that many native speakers say it.

● Words & Phrases ●
  • comparative forms
  • traditionally 従来は
  • syllable 音節
  • these days 最近
  • the following
  • With the English language ... changing so quicklyは、「〜が...して」という付帯的な状況を表す分詞構文
  • cannot help -ing
  • wonder if ...
  • given that ...

(帝京大学教授 Christopher Barnard)


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