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目立つ事を恐れ、一緒でなければいけないという日本人が確実に減ってきているのです。

The strong feelings that Japanese have of being afraid of standing out and everybody having to do things together are starting to become less prominent.

To better understand this sentence, I tried to translate it myself more literally, and came up with this:

The "being afraid of standing out, always having to do things together " kind of Japanese person is definitely starting to decrease.

I am wondering if my interpretation of 確実 is correct. I usually know it as "certainly" and I guess in the original translation it kind of got spread towards "prominent". I'm also wondering if the 減ってきているのです could have been written as 減ってきています。Does the のです add meaning to the sentence? I'm not sure if these kind of questions are discouraged on this site, so please tell me if I'm out of line.

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確実に in this context is ambiguous as to what it is modifying. In one interpretation, as in your translation, it modifies the writer's judgement ('definitely'). In another interpretation, it modifies the manner of decrease ('steadily/monotonic decrease'). –  sawa Oct 2 '11 at 5:50
    
    
I asked a native speaker this and they said the のです didn't change the meaning, it just was more of a literary device to avoid ending with ます, in the same way that an English essay might not want to continually begin a sentence with I. –  yadokari Oct 2 '11 at 6:23
5  
That is not accurate. のだ puts emphasis on the statement, Most often (but not always) it implies that it is an explanation to what was said in the preceding context. A good translation is It is the case that .... You definitely need to choose the right informant. Just being a native does not ensure they can give you the right information about Japanese. –  sawa Oct 2 '11 at 6:28
    
thqnk you for the explanation –  yadokari Oct 2 '11 at 14:08
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1 Answer

up vote 9 down vote accepted

According to Haomi Hanaoka McGloin んです・のです functions to mark information as known in the context of the discourse. のです allows the speaker to present information as if it were shared information. Depending on the context and type of sentence, the specific meaning varies however. There seem to be at least five different ways it can be used. In this instance I think the sentence is stated as an explanation.

  1. Explanation type of usage:

    すみません、でも私たちも急いでいるんです。
    Please excuse us. However (it is that) we are in a hurry as well. (T)

    アップルパイでもどうですか。あなたのために焼いたんです。
    Wouldn't you like some apple pie? (It is that) I baked it for you. (T)

    おれはただ、友達を待ってるんです
    (It is that) I'm just waiting for a friend. (T)

    Especially if you include the sentences that precede the one of the question (which comes from http://www.alc.co.jp/), it seems to fit the pattern:

    それでは、ここ数年“イケてる女子高生”が異常発生した背景について説明します。まず日本全体が変わってきているのだと思います。目立つ事を恐れ、一緒でなければいけないという日本人が確実に減ってきているのです。

    So, I'd like to explain the background behind the epidemic of "stylish high school students" of these last few years. First of all, I think (it is that) Japan has started to change. (It is that) there are definitely fewer and fewer Japanese who are afraid to stand out and must do things together.

    Other forms of usage that Hanaoka McGloin mentions are the following.

  2. Conjecture: used in questions or with でしょう. It is used when there is reason to assume that something is the case:

    トナーが切れてるんですか?
    (Is it that) we have run out of toner? (T)

    Hanaoka McGloin gives:

    雨が降ってるんですか。
    Is it that it is raining? (someone thinks it might be raining).

    And contrasts it with:

    雨が降っていますか。
    Is it raining? (neutral question)

    And she warns that in neutral information questions with no hint as to what is the case, ん・のです is wrong:

    「もしもし、田中さんはいますか。」

    can not be asked as

    *「もしもし、田中さんはいるんですか。」

  3. If there is no explanation, or conjecture, it might be rapport. It might resemble English "you know" or show an emotional involvement:

    そうなんです。
    That's right.

    電話中なんですよ。
    I'm on the phone! (T)

  4. In sentences with から it can have a reproachful tone:

    彼は、まだ新人なんだから大目に見てやれよ。
    Since he is new, do go easy on him. (T)

  5. In んですが or んですけれど it can be "back-grounding" of information, introducing useful information for what follows:

    最初は別々だったんですがある日一緒行き帰りするようになりました。
    At first we used to go separately, but one day we started going and returning together. (T)

Finally Hanaoka McGloin warns that んです・のです can be offensive, because of the possible suggestion that the other should have known, as in point 4 for example, or in Hanaoka McGloin's example:

A: 私がやりましょうか。
A: "Shall I do it?"

B: いえ、私がやるんです。
B: "No, I am going to do it" [and you should have known that]

Most examples (T) from http://tatoeba.org/. Explanation adapted from Naomi Hanaoka McCloin's /A students' guide to Japanese Grammar/ (Taishukan Publishing Company, 1989).

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