This is a grammar question.

When looking for “悲惨” in the Kenkyusha’s dictionary (5th ed), there is the following example sentence:

内戦の続くソマリアで見た光景は実に悲惨であった. Somalia, with it’s ongoing civil war, was a truly pitiable sight.

I’m having a hard time with the grammar of the first part: “内戦の続くソマリア”

I understand that Japanese is a left branching language: data is added to the left of the object to which I want to add more information. Thus, I see that in the above “ソマリア” is the theme of this part of the speech to which I am adding the information that there is a civil war going on.

What I don’t understand is the exact grammar being used.

First approach: I tried by applying the relative clause construction (here in reverse, deductively), as shown in the DoBJ (entry: relative clause, page 377):

A) ソマリアに内戦が続く B)ソマリアで見た光景…

=> 内戦が続くソマリアで見た光景…

However this already changes the original sentence. Had I followed it, sentence a) would have been “ソマリアに内戦の続く”, which doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Therefore I conclude that the relative clause construction is not the one being used.

Second approach: I try with の. However I have to take care of nominalization (DoBJ の(3)) and adding the proper の(DoBJ の(1)). I end up with: “内戦の続くののソマリア…”.

I may accept that one の drops for stylistic reasons, but why both?

Question: What grammar construction is being used in the selected sentence above? And also, why was the plain form used and not the ている-form? It follows the first approach above but I (with the limited knowledge of Japanese I currently have) would have done: “内戦が続いているソマリア…”

Note (probably irrelevant but included for completeness): I am interpreting the で above (of “ソマリアで”) as the で of means that allowed to have the given 光景.

  • 1
    Why can't the original sentence in your relative clause approach be ソマリア内戦が続く?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented May 17 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


内戦の続く is a relative clause describing ソマリア.

Somalia, whose civil war continues,...

Somalia, where civil war continues,...

The trick with relative clauses is trying to figure out the relation of the noun modified to the entire sentence. There isn't necessarily only one correct answer; there can be ambiguity.

There are actually two relative clauses in this sentence (one embedded within another)

  1. 内戦の続く modifying ソマリア

  2. 内戦の続くソマリアで見た modifying 光景

The unadorned sentence is:


The scene was truly tragic.

Which scene?


The scene we saw in Somalia

What's special about Somalia?


Somalia, where civil war continues

If you want to create separate sentences for each relative clause,








Notice how が, marking the subject in the sentence, becomes の in the relative clause.

Regarding the use of で, this marks the location of the action.

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