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There is a question in my Japanese book to translate a sentence. This is how I translated it:

わたし の てがみ の うえ の つくえ を よまないで。

But, this is how my book translated it:

つくえ の うえ の わたし の てがみ を よまないで。

Are there any differences in meaning or nuance? Or is it acceptable to use either one?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The direct object particle を stands next to the word of phrase that is the direct object in your sentence. This phrase in your translation is 「わたし の てがみ の うえ の つくえ」.

To analyse the meaning of this phrase, let's look at its parts:

「わたし の てがみ」 - My letter.
「わたし の てがみ の うえ」 - Above my letter.
「わたし の てがみ の うえ の つくえ」 - The desk above my letter.

So the direct object phrase is then "the desk above my letter" and your sentence is "Don't read the desk above my letter".

See how を stands next to the direct object "desk" and the rest of the phrase is used to further describe the desk. In your sentence, を stands next to the letter and makes the letter the direct object while the other part of the phrase describes the letter. So the book's translation sentence is "Don't read my letter on the desk" or in better English "Don't read my letter which is on the desk".

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In the first sentence, you are talking about the desk, specifically, "don't read the desk." The rest of the sentence describes more about the desk (on top of the letter of mine).

In the second sentence, the letter is marked as the object, and is the thing that is not to be read.

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