Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

People are equal.

Why the use of に after 人間? Are we treating 人間 as a "location" where 上下 is absent?

share|improve this question
I don't think of it as a completely unrelated usage, に indicates some sort of actual or metaphorical direction/location/act towards: 東京に行く to Tokio (I) go; 人間に上下は無い to humans there is neither up nor down – blutorange Sep 8 '13 at 13:32
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think there are several ways to analyze this construction, so this answer isn't supposed to be in contrast to the other answers.

One way that ある and ない (and いる and いない respectively) can sometimes be translated is "have" and "not have" with the subject of "have" being marked with に

he has a house

That person doesn't have kids

Similarly for the example sentence:

Humans do not have hierarchy


This seems to be called a dative construction and is featured in several languages. Thanks to snailboat for the info.

share|improve this answer
This is the so-called dative subject construction, right? – snailplane Sep 12 '13 at 3:02
@snailboat, interesting!. I only knew of this term in the context of German (mir ist kalt), but it's obviously a parallel phenomenon. Have you encountered it in a Japanese context before? – dainichi Sep 12 '13 at 3:21
I think that Kuno talks about it in The Structure of the Japanese Language (1973), and Shibatani talks about it in Grammatical relations and surface case (1977) and again in Dative subject constructions twenty-two years later (1999). The Shibatani 1999 paper is available online. – snailplane Sep 12 '13 at 4:03

I actually think "among(st)" sounds better than "for". It could be replaced by の間に or の中で. But pick your poison.

share|improve this answer

It most likely means "for" in this context. One might think of it as において. And 上下 is probably 上下関係.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.