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I find it difficult to translate Japanese indirect quotations into my own language partly because of different grammatical patterns and verb conjugation altogether; for example, what about this sentence:

(お見舞いかたがた) 久しぶりに故郷の話でもしてこよう思い立った.
???? 'It sprang to my mind/I decided to speak about my hometown after such a long time'

I have tons of phrases with such construction. How do you guys go about figuring out the meaning?

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3 Answers 3

The most literal translation that I can surmise is

"After such a long time,'I will speak about my hometown' is what occurred to me."

So the と translates to "is what", "is the thing that" or just "that" in almost all situations. It can be loosely considered a subordinating conjunction that connects an independent clause to a dependent clause functioning as a noun. This is the same function that the word "that" has in English. If you absolutely must compare it to English grammar, it is best thought of as the subordinating conjuction "that". But strictly speaking, there is a crucial difference that makes it best described as a particle/postposition that follows a quotation. As there are no postpositions in English, there is no direct English equivalent.

The terms "direct" and "indirect" quotations don't really hold the same syntactical distinction in Japanese that they do in English. In English, a direct quotation has two criteria:

  1. It is (or is intended to be by the speaker) someone's exact words.
  2. It is delimited by quotation marks.
  3. It does not use a subordinating conjunction.

Look at the following sentences:

先生は「漢字を練習しなさい」と言った。
The teacher said "study kanji".

先生は漢字を練習しなさいと言った。
The teacher said to study kanji.("Study kanji" is what the teacher said.)

The first sentence is a direct quotation. In Japanese, it is delimited by quotation marks, but still has a と functioning as a subordinating conjunction. The conjunction is omitted in English because it is not considered a clause--just a long predicate consisting of several words. In Japanese the と is always there, whether the quotation is direct or indirect.

So summary: the と resembles "that" in English, but is actually a postposition following a quotation, with no English equivalent.

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The way I understand it is that the here is similar to English quotation marks, except it can also be used with thoughts etc:

(お見舞いかたがた) 久しぶりに故郷の話でもしてこようと思い立った.

My somewhat literal translation attempt: (When I was calling on someone who was ill, while I was at it) it came into my mind to "resolve to go and have a talk about my hometown and whatnot for the first time in ages".

My attempt at a more natural translation: When I was visiting someone who was ill, it occurred to me that while I was at it, I could go and talk about my hometown and whatnot for the first time in a long time.

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I don't see a question in this quotation. Here is a translation attempt, but without context there are sure to be misunderstandings on my part, especially with what the words in parentheses refer to:

(while incidentally calling on someone who is ill/visiting a sick person) After not having done so in a long time, it occurred to me to relate the story of my hometown. / I got the idea to go with that old story of my home town/ It occurred to me to go ahead and talk about my hometown or something that I hadn't talked about in a while.

Your question is very unclear, perhaps you can reformulate it.

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You took かたがた wrong. It does not mean a person. It means "on the opportunity of". Synonymous to "ついでに". –  sawa Jun 12 '12 at 17:46
    
thank you i'll change it –  yadokari Jun 12 '12 at 17:49
    
is it 旁旁? i guess incidentally; at the same time would be better –  yadokari Jun 12 '12 at 17:51
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Yes. It can be written that way, but it can also be written 方方. You can translate it "incidentally", but the important nuance is that it is something that would not be done by itself but is only done as a secondary event on the occasion of the main event. –  sawa Jun 12 '12 at 17:55
    
thanks that is very informative –  yadokari Jun 12 '12 at 17:59

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