Take the 2-minute tour ×
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. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I frequently hear 「あれ?」 when people find something that catches their attention, often even when a listening party is not present. It seems to have a similar function to "what?", "what's that?", or "huh?".

Since あれ isn't a "question word" itself, was this あれ contracted from a longer sentence? The closest I could think of is 「あれはなんだ?」, but I'm unsure. If it isn't from a longer sentence, is there an explanation behind あれ as a question?

I am also interested in if it was historically contracted from something.

share|improve this question
1  
What is "what?!?!" contracted from in English? Why do you think using "that?!?!" makes any less sense than "what?!?!"? Both seem to make zero logical sense; they are simply idiomatic expressions. –  user54609 Dec 4 '13 at 21:07
1  
I don't think I ever think of 「あれはなんだ?」 when I say あれ;in fact, あれ rarely, if ever, even means "What is that?". –  非回答者 Dec 5 '13 at 0:20
    
Unlike what you seem to think, we say あれ or あら to ourselves much more often than to others. –  非回答者 Dec 5 '13 at 2:04
1  
「あら」とか関係あるんですか? –  nkjt Dec 5 '13 at 12:51
1  
@user54609 meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/a/982/1478 –  snailboat Dec 6 '13 at 2:15

1 Answer 1

I think it's less a question than it is a way to show surprise or confusion. Also I don't think it's contracted from anything, this dictionary defines it as a [感動詞]{かんどうし} or interjection which would hint that it's not a contraction of a larger sentence.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

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.