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The linguistics text I’m reading has a sentence with this fragment: 「動詞の表す動作・作用が[…]」。 Consulting dictionaries just made me more confused; what’s the contrast between the two in this context? “Action” vs. “effect”?

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perhaps the [...] in your question could provide more contextual clues? – Flaw Sep 25 '11 at 22:59
Here you go: 「金田一春彦は動詞の表す動作・作用が時間的にどのように捉えられているかによって、次の4類が立てられることを説いた。」 The title (and topic) is 『アスペクトによる動詞の分類』. – leoboiko Sep 26 '11 at 10:59
It is often stated that in the Japanese grammar, verbs signify 動作, 作用, and 存在. (There are variations of this statement with more options or less.) But I do not know why 動作 and 作用 are often both listed. In general, 動作 (motion, workings) and 作用 (action, effect) mean different things, but I do not know which verbs describe 作用 without describing 動作. – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 29 '11 at 20:07
Have you seen an answer to this question here: okwave.jp/qa/q2439819.html ? I'll try to write more about it later if you are still looking for an answer. – summea Feb 27 '12 at 19:07
up vote 3 down vote accepted

動詞 in Japanese can represent 3 different things, 動作、作用 and 存在. An example will be easier to understand.


歩く is categorized as 動作をあらわす動詞, because when you walk, you move your legs, in other words "movement" or "action".


かける is categorized as 作用を表す動詞, here 壁にかける is having an "effect" on the wall.


ある is categorized as 存在を表す動詞, here ある indicates "existence".

So back to your question, "動作" doesn't directly place any influence on other "things" whereas "作用" directly "effects" other things.

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