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Children should obey their parents

What I got from ALC is that a child isn't fit, unqualified, to be one's child if it disobeys its parents. Or is it just "Those who are children..."?

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Nitpicking: 子 is read as こ, not as こども. The meaning is almost (if not completely) the same in this context, though. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jul 25 '11 at 19:32
Good eye, thanks. – Louis Jul 25 '11 at 20:06
up vote 6 down vote accepted

H'm, I dunno. たる is actually not the classic form of the copula である; it is most likely from とある (quotative particle + aru). なる describes what someone/-thing is (essential nature), but たる describes how someone/-thing appears, or acts, or should act (assigned role, etc.). There is often an implied judgment (nowadays it is often paired with 〜すべきである or 〜てはならない, etc., and used to prescribe behavior to people in certain positions). I would say that Louis's sample sentence does indeed imply that a child who disobeys their parents is in that way unfit to be their child -- it's not an uncommon idea at all in Confucian thought.

So, as sawa says below, you might say that a more "literal" translation would be "Whoever is supposed to be a child should obey their parents," or "A person in the position of a child should obey all of their parents' commands," etc. For a more natural translation, just "Children" might work in many cases (especially if you believed that たる者 was just being used to add archaic flavor), or you might say "All children" to emphasize that you are prescribing behavior required of anyone meeting the description "child", not just suggesting a general rule. You might even use a word like "duty" to bring the prescriptiveness out: "Obeying one's parents is one's duty as a child." There are many possible translations that would be more or less appropriate depending on context, translation philosophy, etc.

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たる was actually derived from とある, but how far back are you going for the etymology? Why are you denying that it is the classic form of the copula? And, what would your translation be? – user458 Jul 25 '11 at 23:56
How far back? Late Old Japanese, I suppose, but why does it matter? Nor will I argue that たる was a copula in older forms of Japanese; I just wanted to point out that (1) たる is not an ancestor of である, (2) たる can have a slightly different implication from である (such as prescriptiveness), and (3) knowing that たる comes from とある can help make that difference clearer. It's not that "whoever is a child" is wrong, it's more that it doesn't add any information that "children" doesn't. (I will change my comment to clarify this a bit.) – Matt Jul 26 '11 at 1:20
By the Heian period, たる was used, and if you are going to claim the etymology of it, you are going even further back. You are right that たる is not etymologically related to である, but what I meant was the function of it as the copula. By prescriptive implication, you mean something like: 'Whoever is supposed to be a child should obey the parents'? If so, I agree with that, and you should have made it clear by adding that kind of translation to the answer. But it is still not clear how knowing that something is a "quotative particle" will help in interpretation. – user458 Jul 26 '11 at 1:42
Sorry, "late Old Japanese" is unclear, isn't it? I meant the late stage of Old Japanese (pre-Heian), not Early Middle. Re the prescriptive implication, sure, that is one way of putting it; I will add it to the answer, thanks. Re the quotative thing, all I can say is that there are people who find information like this useful when learning -- I am one of them. – Matt Jul 26 '11 at 1:51

Your translation is right. たる is the classic form of the copula である. 子たる is is a relative clause. So 子たる者 means 'whoever is a child'.

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Then it's not 足る, is that right? – Louis Jul 25 '11 at 20:09
@Louis Right. It's not 足る – user458 Jul 25 '11 at 20:18

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