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I've got a question about the two instances of の in 君が代:


First, is さざれ石の巌 to be interpreted as a boulder made of pebbles (analogous to, say, 木製の槍)?

Second, is the の in 苔の生すまで essentially が, akin to the が/の alternation in relative clauses:

太郎の焼いた魚 / 太郎が焼いた魚

If so, at what stage of the development of Japanese was this alternation possible outside of relative clauses?

(Bonus: what stage of Japanese does 君が代 even reflect and why? I know it was cobbled together in the Meiji period; the Wikipedia article says it's based on a waka from the Heian period, but doesn't provide the original text.)

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「さざれ石(=細かい石)が[巌]{いわお}(=大きな岩)になって、(それに)[苔]{こけ}が[生]{む}す(=苔が[生]{は}える)まで。」って意味です。 –  user1016 Jul 9 '14 at 16:56
I know in Old Japanese (pre-790s) の could mark the subject of basically any non-main clause - I know for sure it could appear with conditionals (with -ば), and IIRC with quotations (with と) at least also, as well as with まで. Not sure when this stage ended, though, so I can't answer the OP's whole question. –  Sjiveru Jul 9 '14 at 18:10
@Choko: Thanks. Okay, so both the instances of の are actually subject markers. –  jogloran Jul 10 '14 at 3:18
Is the fact that が=の in this text commonly known to ordinary Japanese speakers? –  jogloran Jul 10 '14 at 3:30
I suppose most Japanese students grasp the basic meaning of the lyrics usually somewhere in their teens. –  naruto Jul 10 '14 at 16:28

2 Answers 2

Turning comments into an answer. Credit should go all to the commenters on original question!




Is the fact that が=の in this text commonly known to ordinary Japanese speakers?



College students that went to private junior and high schools often aren't aware of it...

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The lyrics is written in Classical (Heian-era) Japanese, where the が/の alternation is known to be 180 degree inverted than today, that is, 君が代 is あなたの代 in today's language, so さざれ石の巌となりてさざれ石が巌となって and 苔の生すまで苔が生えるまで. I'm not sure about the origin of the alternation, since the usage is attested in earliest documents.

The original text has multiple variations. One of them is here (fullscreen recommended). It reads わがきみはちよにましませさゞれしのいはほとなりてこけのむすまで.

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