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Consider these stanzas taken from the opening song of Aria the Animation: Undine.

Translations taken from this site

Background information:

  • An Undine as a mythical concept is a female water spirit or nymph. In the anime "Aria", they are what gondola operators are called. (In layman terms they are boat rowers)

  • Vocative case: the case used for a noun identifying the person or thing (animal, object, etc.) being addressed.

さあ 漕ぎ出そう 光る波へ

笑顔が すぐ こぼれる (Come, let us row towards the shimmering waves, our smiles will soon overflow.)

ねえ 伝えよう このときめき (Hey, let us impart the feelings of our beating hearts. )

風にのって あなたのもとへ

行くわ ウンディーネ (Riding the wind, I will return to you as an Undine.)


さあ 漕ぎ出そう 遥か未来へ

水面に 夢 広がる (Come, let us row towards that distant future; our dreams will spread out over the water.)

ねえ 見つけよう まだ知らない

宝物を あなたと一緒に (Hey, let us discover yet unknown treasures.)

探そう ウンディーネ (Together with you as Undines.)

I disagree with translation in the highlighted parts above.

(Question) Can it mean "Riding the wind, I will return to you, my Undine" and "Together with you, my Undine"? Treating ウンディーネ as vocative case?

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I hadn't thought about the possibility of vocative case in Japanese, and your question provides an interesting point. The usage in your examples are clearly vocative, but it may not be that clear whether these expressions actually bear vocative case.

There is a group of particles called 間投助詞 (, , ), which might be candidates for vocative case particles. Assuming that case cannot be stacked in Japanese (which is not necessarily true in other languages), the fact that you can stack and with excludes the possibility that they are vocative case particles.

彼がさ、...
彼がね、...

We are left with , and you can attach to the relevant phrases in your examples. I suppose this is the vocative case particle. When there is no explicit case particle following a vocative phrase as in your examples, there should be several possibilities:

  1. It is not vocative case. It simply lacks case. Since it is not an argument, a caseless noun phrase is possible.
  2. There is underlyingly some other (default) case such as nominative, and is omitted.
  3. There is underlyingly vocative case (which we can assume ), and is omitted.

I don't think there is a consensus on the answer for this.

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How did that website translate my highlighted portion to "as a Undine" and "as Undines". Did they treat it as nominative case? There seems to be some elision that I cannot figure out. –  Flaw Sep 21 '11 at 10:48
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The song lists a lot of things that the singer will do, things that an Undine would do. Then it finishes off with the single word "Undine". If the word is just there, entirely disconnected from the other sentences, purely so that the word "Undine" can be associated with the actions listed earlier - then it might come out as a "The above is who I am and who we are, Undines" kind of thing. From that, you get the "as Undines" wording. I'll leave it to someone else to decide if this is plausible. –  Hyperworm Sep 21 '11 at 12:14
    
@Hyperworm I think your theory is plausible, especially since it's a song and not just a plain sentence. There is some poetry involved. –  Flaw Sep 22 '11 at 4:56
    
So for Hyperworm's theory, it would be a caseless noun instead of vocative. But it could go either way and there would be no way to be sure unless the lyricist explicitly says so. –  Flaw Oct 1 '11 at 3:04
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