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While reading some lyrics online, I stumbled upon the following phrase:

これ以上何を失えば 心は許されるの

Which I could myself losely translate as following:

If I lose what more (than I already have), will my heart be forgiven?

And this is a translation I found on the internet:

If I lose any more than this, will my heart be forgiven

Now I'm wondering why これ以上何 means "Any more than this" rather than "What more than this"

Thanks

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Hi. I might try and make an answer when I have some more time, but upon asking a few friends, it seems that the lyrics are pretty confusing in meaning, even to my Japanese friends (see comments to answer below) –  yadokari Jan 7 '13 at 16:37
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Their translation is wrong. Yours is accurate.

If I lose what more (than I already have), will my heart be forgiven?

= My heart will be forgiven if I lose what? (on top of what I already lost)

= What else must I lose for my heart to be forgiven?

(As an aside, I'm not sure whether or not "heart being forgiven" is the best interpretation for the second part... it seems like it could have some other possible meanings, e.g. related to 心を許す? ...Not sure)

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No offense, but i think an accurate answer to this question would be better formed by understanding the whole sentence. (I don't understand it myself) –  yadokari Jan 6 '13 at 0:41
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I don't think the second half's meaning impacts the understanding of the grammar, but yes -- a better answer could be written by someone who had that understanding >_< Sorry this is all I could manage. (However, it's part of a song (the first line), so I'm not even sure that its meaning is unambiguous in the first place. Here's a link to lyrics if anyone wants to look for more context.) –  Hyperworm Jan 6 '13 at 1:44
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I hesitated about putting "must" in for the same reason, but I don't see another way. The most literal translation that's grammatical in English is the translation (I'll call it "2") immediately below my quote block, but it is unnatural. I think, despite the appearance of the word "must", the final translation(3) is as close as you can get to the 2nd translation in natural English. For instance, "What 'will' I lose before my heart is forgiven"(4) doesn't work; translations 1 and 2 ask about consequences of possible events, whereas (4) says that events WILL actually happen. –  Hyperworm Jan 6 '13 at 4:05
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@yadokari, I fully agree with Hyperworm's analysis. Japanese allows question words in dependent clauses, but in English the rules for wh-extraction from dependent clauses are more complicated. You might be able to get away with "What will my heart be forgiven if I lose (on top of what I already lost)", but it sounds rather awkward, and it's not easy to see where the "what" was extracted from. –  dainichi Jan 7 '13 at 1:37
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@yadokari, Hyperworm's "What else must I lose for my heart to be forgiven" seems like the best translation to me, since it's an accurate translation and natural English. Of course, this is poetry, so as long as you're willing to relax the accuracy constraint, "best" can be highly subjective. –  dainichi Jan 8 '13 at 0:43
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