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What is the meaning of あくまで in the sentence あくまで私個人の意見です ?

ALC: back and edge, consistently GJiten: to the end; to the bitter end; to the last; stubbornly; persistently; to the utmost

What nuance is added, compared to saying just 私個人の意見です ?

  • Is it more humble? (it's only my opinion)
  • Does it express a more persistent opinion?
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2 Answers 2

Essentially it's emphasis, and while it is often used to express opinion, it isn't always. J-J dictionaries will give the definition as 徹底的 or something. So in general it's a very neutral word that I don't think changes the tone too much. Rather it's what it's connected to that determines the tone.

In the example that you give, I don't think that it necessarily makes the sentence more humble as much as it is trying to make oneself not appear arrogant or overly assertive. Maybe this is a small distinction, but given the nature of あくまで I don't think we can say it makes something more humble. Like you say, it's very similar to saying, in English, "It's only my opinion," and I think it carries the same nuance in this situation. That is, you're offering up an opinion that could potentially be controversial or seem overly assertive, so you try to distance yourself from that interpretation by emphasizing the fact that it is, in the end, just your personal opinion, and not necessarily the opinion.

Here are some examples from alc that show some of the different uses:

あくまで迷信だ

be all just superstition

This one is a more neutral one that just has the meaning of "to the end"

あくまで〔that以下〕と主張する

consistently maintain that

This one would be the opposite of what your example is, mostly because it's connected to 主張, an explicit statement of assertiveness and 'persistence.'

So to address your two points once again, in the context of your question, it has an effect like making the sentence more humble, but it can be the opposite as well depending on the context. With regard to persistence, it doesn't necessarily mean (in your example) that this person is strongly suggesting this or that it's a long-held belief or anything. It's just an emphasis on the fact that it is a personal opinion rather than fact.

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あくまで comes from the verb 飽{あ}く plus the particle まで. The verb 飽{あ}く became 飽{あ}きる in modern Japanese, so if you can understand 飽きる and まで, then you can understand how it came to describe doing something "to the end; persistently; thoroughly" as in the edict gloss you gave above. This sense can be seen in the example 「あくまでもがんばる」 "to persist until the bitter end".

From here, we can make a small leap to "thoroughly; completely". In the phrase 「あくまで青い」 "thoroughly blue", あくまで doesn't describe any action being carried out to the very end. It just means thoroughly or completely, which is a slightly more figurative sense.

Now, let's look at your example, 「あくまで私個人の意見です」. There's no action being described, so it can't be "to the end; persistently". You could say it means "[it's] entirely my personal opinion", but what does entirely mean here? It's unlikely it means "entirely, as opposed to partially", because "it's partially my personal opinion" doesn't make much sense.

Instead, we can conclude あくまで has made one more figurative leap: it's being used as an intensifier (a word that shows emphasis). Therefore, we can probably translate it as "[it's] only my personal opinion" or "[this is] purely my personal opinion", because in these sentences only and purely function as intensifiers in much the same way as あくまで does in Japanese.

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This is just my opinion but good answer Snailplane! Interesting. –  Tim Mar 2 '13 at 11:41

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