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There's already a question that discusses にかんして vs について but I found more terms that are more or less the same to me. All phrases seem to be some kind of topic marker that can be roughly translated to "regarding" or oftentimes "in" but I couldn't find a dictionary that discusses nuance or usage.

Sample sentences from Tatoeba/EDICT:

に関して

  • 心理学に関しては、彼は専門家だ。

    In the matter of psychology, he is an expert.

  • 私たちはこの問題に関して合意に達することが出来るだろうか。

    Can we reach a consensus on this issue?

に対して

  • 彼は私の質問に対してうなずいた。

    He nodded in response to my question.

  • 彼はまだあなたの行為に対して腹を立てている。

    He is still angry with you for your conduct.

において

  • 復讐において、恋愛において、女は男よりも野蛮である。

    In revenge and in love, woman is more barbarous than man is.

  • 教育において試験が大きな役割を果たしている。

    Examinations play a large part in education.

について

  • 法廷は彼のその殺人容疑について無罪とした。

    The court acquitted him of the charge of murder.

  • 過去の動作については過去形を用います。

    "Past tense" is used in connection with actions in the past.

における

  • 中東における現在の情勢は、緊迫した政情不安となっている。

    The current situation in the Middle East is a time bomb of tensions.

  • 彼の発見は輸送における革命をもたらした。

    *His discovery gave rise to a revolution in transport. *

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All the phrases are very similar to each other, but I'm quite sure there's an emphasis on "response to what someone did to you" if you use 「に対して」. –  Greek Fellows Apr 15 at 11:29

2 Answers 2

における is the attributive form (連体形) of において. Both mean roughly "in". Note that in the における examples the expression relates to the nouns 情勢 and 革命. In the において examples, the expression relates to the finite predicates (野蛮で)ある and 果たしている. The expressions に関して and に対して also have attributive forms: に関する and に対する. The former means "in relation to", and it is neutral. に対して・に対する can express an orientation (your first example), or imply a negative attitude "towards" someone or something (your second example). With に関して・に関する no such emotion is implied. Finally, について is different from the rest because its attributive form is についての as in

彼の行動についての質問
the question(s) about his behavior

について means 'about' as in

何について話そうか?
What should we talk about?

について is thus on par with として 'as', which also has the attributive form with の. について and として have grammaticalized to a higher degree than the other forms here.

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Not exactly interchangeable, though similar. Since I lack a formal linguistics background to offer a more grammatical/technical response, I'd like to attempt a layman's explanation:

  • に関して "relating to"
    The character 関 indicates that the topics have a connection/relationship, that they are tied/locked to one another. Can refer to 1 or a collection of topics related to the subject.

  • に対して "in response to"
    The use of 対 (as in 反対 (opposite)、対策 (counter-measure)) implies a 1:1, more direct (oppositional) response; that you're referring to the other side of the same coin.

  • について "regarding"
    The concepts of "connections" and relationship are still there, but perhaps the situation is in flux. The kanji 就 in Chinese can mean "moving towards" a topic, so there's a sense of fluidity, transition, or motion in the conversation.

  • において "in/at/by"
    Tends to refer to specific locations, times, participants or state of being. The kanji 於 is a preposition in Chinese indicating these same topics. Can be used for abstract concepts like being "in love" but that's still a state of being.

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Thanks so much, I've always wondered as well –  Aki Jun 20 at 6:47

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