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In the following, I feel it should be 会話が出来どころか.

Jim is not only unable to converse in Japanese; he cannot even make simple greetings.

I was expecting the sentence to end talking about how well Jim can speak Japanese. If this is a valid usage, can you please give a more literal translation?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is not unseen, but it is incorrect, or at least different from the traditional usage of どころか. As you said, the correct expression is


Another correct way is


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@sawa: No. Traditionally, どころか itself includes negation. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 16 '11 at 14:59
Sorry, you are correct. –  sawa Sep 16 '11 at 15:11
I suppose you are correct, but I am wondering where the negation comes from within どころか. どころ < ところ is 処, simply meaning place or situation, and か is a particle with several meanings. I cannot think of any morpheme responsible for negation. Do you have any idea? –  sawa Sep 16 '11 at 20:15
@sawa: I have no idea why どころか is used in the way it is used. I am curious to know, too. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 16 '11 at 20:23
@sawa: か in どころか may be 反語. If this is the case, the first example in my post is ジムは日本語で会話ができるどころか (いやできない)、簡単な挨拶もできない with the parenthesized negation is omitted. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 17 '11 at 12:52

Edit I changed my answer after considering Tsuyoshi Ito's answer. As he says, having an affirmative should be preferrable as given in his answer (But that was a different point from your question).

It is grammatical, but may not be completely natural. It is ungrammatical to end it without the latter part. A literal translation is

As for Jim, not to mention whether he is not able to converse in Japanese, he cannot even make simple greetings.

which reflects the unnaturalness in the original Japanese. See Tsuyoshi Ito's answer for the correct sentence, which I translate as

As for Jim, not to mention whether he is able to converse in Japanese, he cannot even make simple greetings.

As the example


shows, the construction does not depend on the existence of a negation in the latter part, so the feeling of denial against the first part seems to come from どころか. However, also in the makeup of どころか, there is no morpheme you can attribute the meaning of negation. I take it that the first part of this construction is not negated, but is a neutral proposition, and is excluded from consideration. The English translation will include whether. Since negation under whether is redundant, that causes the unnaturalness Tsuyoshi Ito points out.

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I do not know why you claim that できるどころか vs できないどころか is different from the point of the question. I think that できるどころか vs できないどころか is exactly the point of the question. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 16 '11 at 17:17
@TsuyoshiIto They are the same. That is why I am saying that できないどころが is redundant. For example, since you can say できるかどうか, the negation in できないかどうか is redundant. –  sawa Sep 16 '11 at 18:30
I am talking about what the point of the question is, not what the answer to the question is. (Moreover, できるどころか and できないどころか are different as I stated in my answer.) But I do not feel that it is constructive to continue this discussion. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 16 '11 at 18:41
@sawa, thanks for adding to your answer. You've answered my question. But with Tsuyoshi's assertion that it's actually incorrect, I'm gonna give the check to him. Since this phrase currently used in opposite senses, in a way, I guess it's less work for me parse it. I wonder if this is an example of evolving language. –  Louis Sep 17 '11 at 0:27
@Louis Yes. His answer is more accurate. I concentrated on the point that you mentioned in the question: whether it can be ended after どころか, and missed the point he mentions. –  sawa Sep 17 '11 at 2:00

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