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広間の中では、ゴーストとダンブルドアの白髪だけが同じようにキラキラ輝いているだけだった。
Dumbledore's silver hair was the only thing in the whole hall that shone as brightly as the ghosts. (original Harry Potter text)

I'm having trouble parsing this sentence.

  1. Does the と in ゴーストと mean 'and' or is it marking the target of comparison, "with"?

[ゴーストダンブルドアの白髪]だけが同じようにキラキラ輝いている "only the ghosts and dumbledore's silver hair are shining in the same way.

Or,

ゴーストと[ダンブルドアの白髪だけが同じようにキラキラ輝いている] "only Dumbledore's silver hair is shining in a way similar to the ghosts.

Maybe the distinction isn't that great and it doesn't really matter but I'd like to know if it's better to think of it one way or the other.

  1. What is the だけ at the end adding to this sentence? My understanding is that だけ after a verb means that the verb is performed and nothing else. To me this means that there is nothing happening in the hall except the glowing of the ghosts and Dumbledore's hair. That's not what the original text says. In fact I'm struggling to see how this sentence reproduces the meaning of the original at all.
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    I think it's a train wreck collision of "X and Y's hair were the only thing in the hall glowing brightly" and the original sentence, but in Japanese. Jul 24, 2023 at 1:20

2 Answers 2

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The second interpretation is impossible in practice. If that と was meant for the target of comparison, it would have been placed right before 同じように.

ダンブルドアの白髪だけがゴーストと同じようにキラキラ輝いている

I would like to believe even this translator with their poor reputation knows that much.

Your understanding of the second だけ is correct. The sentence doesn't reproduce the meaning of the original English.

It would have sufficed to say:

広間の中では、ゴーストとダンブルドアの白髪だけが同じようにキラキラ輝いていた。

or

広間の中では、ダンブルドアの白髪だけがゴーストと同じようにキラキラ輝いていた。

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1. "and" vs "with"

When I read the Japanese, the と in ゴーストとダンブルドアの白髪だけ means "and".

This is because 同じようにキラキラ輝いている in English can be read as "similarly glitter shining" in a literal sense. Also the が, which marks ゴーストとダンブルドアの白髪だけ as what is "similarly glitter shining", gives backing to the と being intended as "and".

That being said, there might be some ambiguity where と could be treated as "with" instead. However, I feel like the Japanese's sentence composition or structure would be different in order for the "with" to be more apparent for English.

2. Use of だけ

When it comes to だけ, it simply means "only; just; nothing but; etc" here. ゴーストとダンブルドアの白髪だけ can literally be read as "the ghost(s) and only Dumbledore's silver hair".

You mention:

To me this means that there is nothing happening in the hall except the glowing of the ghosts and Dumbledore's hair. That's not what the original text says. In fact I'm struggling to see how this sentence reproduces the meaning of the original at all.

In my opinion, translations can be dangerous and often a trap because they are interpretations at the end of the day. Let me try and illustrate this:

Japanese text:

広間の中では、ゴーストとダンブルドアの白髪だけが同じようにキラキラ輝いているだけだった。

Original English from Harry Potter:

Dumbledore's silver hair was the only thing in the whole hall that shone as brightly as the ghosts.

My translation of the Japanese:

Within the hall, the ghosts and only Dumbledore's silver hair glittered similarly.

Your "and" version:

Only the ghosts and Dumbledore's silver hair are shining in the same way [within the hall].

When looking at our interpretations, they have the same meaning and are just worded differently. Additionally, I agree that you could also say our interpretations could mean "there is nothing happening in the hall except the glowing of the ghosts and Dumbledore's hair" even though it's not explicitly stated, which is all thanks to the number of ways the Japanese can be interpreted into English.

And that is the key thing to realize here, we are both interpreting the Japanese, which is an interpretation of the original English.

This leaves a lot of room for things to get lost in translation. And why "that's not what the original text says. In fact I'm struggling to see how this sentence reproduces the meaning of the original at all." becomes very apparent and getting back to the original meaning from the Japanese is impossible in this case.

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