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I noticed in songs, there are lyric lines that push the demonstrative adjective (*) この, その etc to the middle of sentences by switching it with an adjective/verb that describe the subsequent nouns. For example:

この小さな 街{まち}で becomes 小さなこの街で

あの 戻{もど}れない日々 becomes 戻れないあの日々

Is there any difference between the two sentence structures? Or is it just to make the latter sound more poetic?

(*) Thanks repecmps for providing the correct English term there

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As far as I know, it's just a more poetic word order. And the most accurate term form この・その・あの is a probably demonstrative determiner, since it's neither an adjective nor a pronoun. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 3 '11 at 8:34
この小さな街 is この+小さな+街、小さなこの街 is 小さな+この街。 –  YOU Jun 3 '11 at 8:39
@YOU I still can't see the difference. Mind explaining in a full-blown answer below? ;) –  Lukman Jun 3 '11 at 8:40
I can't find any references yet to prove この街 as a combined Noun. I think the different is この+Adj+Noun and Adj+Noun. –  YOU Jun 3 '11 at 8:44
@YOU I see. I wish you good luck finding the reference. But what I am more interested in is whether the two structures give difference meanings or emphasis or nuances. Or whether they can be used interchangeably, so that maybe I can say "分からないこの問題を教えてください" :) –  Lukman Jun 3 '11 at 8:51
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

At the risk of going slightly off-topic, I'm going to agree 100% with Kentaro and say that putting the demonstrative determiner (learned a new term today!) in the middle sounds more literary. But there are cases where you can (and indeed must) use this "literary" form in everyday Japanese to avoid ambiguity. Take the following examples:

絵を描いたあの子供 (えをかいたあのこども) - That child who drew the picture.

あの絵を描いた子供 (あのえをかいたこども) - The child who drew that picture.

So when the relative clause (小さな and 戻れない in your examples) begins with something that the demonstrative determiner could modify (like a noun), you have to choose where you put the demonstrative determiner based on what you want to convey.

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is it possible that あの[space]絵を描いた子供 could mean That child who drew the picture? –  Pacerier Jun 30 '11 at 4:42
@Pacerier: Yes, if there was a pause between あの and 絵, the あの would usually be interpreted as applying to 子供 and not 絵. –  Derek Schaab Jun 30 '11 at 12:20
ok thanks ! –  Pacerier Jul 1 '11 at 0:15
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There is no difference. And they have the same meaning. Personally, 戻れないあの日々 and 小さなこの街で sound more literary than the others to me.

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Absolutely no difference? Not even in the emphasis? So, can I use both structures interchangeably? –  Lukman Jun 3 '11 at 10:01
@Lukman: no. 小さな子の町で is a markedly literary form, and it's rare to find it (if you can find at all) in everyday speech. It's great for songs, but you can't use the two forms interchangeably since it would just sound strange in normal speech. As for the emphasis, I'd say it puts an extra emphasis (focus) on the descriptive clause (小さな, 戻れない, etc.), but that's a bit hard to prove with such a limited usage. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 3 '11 at 10:14
@Boaz Yaniv: It's この as in 此の, not 子の, though I'm sure that's a typo. –  flamingspinach Jun 3 '11 at 16:49
@flamingspinach: Sorry, IME conversionpo indeed. I can't edit that now though. :( –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 3 '11 at 16:51
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