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I've found this sentence

百獣の我を見て敢へて走らざらんや。

and I'm trying to understand what it means. Searching on Google, it seems that ざらんや belongs to Kobun language and is paired with 敢へて as explained here.

https://www.try-it.jp/chapters-14482/sections-14486/lessons-14901/practice-3

According to this website, it is also told that 敢へて~ざらんや can be interpreted as「どうして~しないことがあろうか、いや必ず~する」. However, I must say I don't understand either this interpretation in modern language, so the meaning of

百獣の我を見て敢へて走らざらんや。

or

百獣の我を見てどうして走らないことがあろうか、いや必ず走る。

is still not clear to me. Could you please explain to me 敢へて~ざらんや and 「どうして~しないことがあろうか、いや必ず~する」and tell me the meaning of this sentence?

Besides, is ~ざらんや always paired with 敢へて, so that I will always see it as 敢へて~ざらんや, or can it be used alone as well? If so, how would its meaning change from 敢へて~ざらんや?

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  • It's 走らざらん. It's an inflection of 走る.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 13:20

3 Answers 3

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走らざらんや is an archaic version of 走らないだろうか. It corresponds to the modern version word-by-word:

  • 走ら:
  • ざら: negation marker (ない)
  • : inference marker (だろう)
  • : question marker (か)

敢えて is an adverb meaning "daringly" or "dare to (do)". It's still in use in modern Japanese.

So the original sentence can be literally translated as:

百獣の我を見て敢へて走らざらんや。
≈ 百獣の私を見て、敢えて走らないだろうか?

Upon seeing me, (the king of) 100 beasts, would one dare not to run?

This of course is a rhetorical question, and the intended meaning is "anyone would run away from me".

"どうして~しないことがあろうか、いや必ず~する" is taught to Japanese high school students as a common technique to verbosely translate this as a rhetorical question (or 反語疑問文 in Japanese). But if it's clear from the context that it's a rhetorical question, you don't necessarily have to say the "いや必ず~する" part explicitly.

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  • Thank you very much for your answer. The parsing of 走らざらんや as well as the whole explanation has helped me a lot.
    – kanachan
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 17:22
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This is offered as an expansion on the other fine answer posts already offered by @naruto and @sundowner, further expanding a couple elements of this conjugation / phrase.

  • The ざら~ negative ending is a contraction or fusion of older negative suffix ~ず + あら~. In turn, あら~ is from classical Japanese copula ("to be" verb) あり (modern ある), where あら~ is the 未然形【みぜんけい】 ("irrealis form", the conjugation form used for negatives with ~ない, ~ず, etc. and conjecturals like ~む).

  • The ~ん is a contraction of the conjectural / suppositional / hortative suffix ~む. This ~む suffix is phonetically unstable through history, often shifting in a couple different directions.

    • One shift is to become a nasalized "U" sound //ũ//, then just the //u//, and then for that //u// to fuse with the preceding vowel (always //a// for 四段活用動詞【よだんかつようどうし】 ["quadrigrade conjugation verbs", the classical precursor to modern "type 1" verbs]). So the -amu ending changed to -aũ, then to -au, then to -ɔu (where //ɔ// is a bit like in English "aww"), then to the long ending we're used to in the modern Japanese language.
    • The other is to become just the nasal ~ん, as in this word 走【はし】らざらん, or in certain set phrases still used in the modern language like 言【い】わんとする ("to try to say", contraction / shift from 言【い】わむとする, equivalent to 言【い】おうとする).
  • For the specifics of the -aran ya construction, see this older post.

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    The first point here is exactly the follow-up question I wanted to ask/confirm. Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 2:09
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I assume it as the subject and ignore 百獣の我を見て since it is not clear to me what it means, which does not affect the answer anyway.

ざらん is

打消の助動詞「ず」の未然形「ざら」+推量・意志の助動詞「

や is a question marker, So, ざらんや itself means will not ...? As such, ざらんや appears alone or combined with other adverbs/adverbial phrases.

敢えて means dare; combined with ざらんや, it means literally how/why will Subj. dare not to Verb?


敢へて走らざらんや is どうして走らないことがあろうか、いや必ず走る, as you thought. It means verbosely why will it dare not to run?, no, it won't (dare). It will run.

It's a rhetorical question, where the answer is obviously no (similar to why don't you.. in English).

Basically it expresses the speaker's opinion it will naturally run (away upon seeing me).

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  • Thank you very much for your answer. It helped a lot.
    – kanachan
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 17:20

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