I mean I understand all the parts separately but I can't lay my finger on the core meaning of the sentence.

Whole message:

Hi I'm maho !
17years old, from Japan.
your Japanese is good !
my English is poor.


I want to be your pen pal.
Good bye



istrasci’s first translation is good:

(Even) If I send the (mail) in Japanese, will you be able to read it?

(It is a little silly to ask this question in Japanese, because if the answer is “no,” you are not expected to understand the question….)

The で in the sentence is a case marker which signifies place, time, means, cause, and so on, and in this case, it signifies means.

istrasci raised an interesting point: 日本語で (in Japanese) does not state a means of sending a mail. Means of sending a mail include “by air mail,” “by sea mail,” “electronically,” and so on, but “in Japanese” is a means of composing a mail, not a means of sending a composed mail.

However, (手紙を/メールを)送る does not always refer to the mere action of sending an already composed mail. It can collectively refer to the action of composing and sending a mail. In this sense, 日本語で indeed describes a means of this broader action.

As an aside, I note that case marker で etymologically arises from copula. Slightly more precisely, case marker で originates from にて and copula だ originates from にてあり, and these にて are the same thing (the combination of case marker に and particle て). But we usually distinguish case marker で from copula when we talk about the Japanese grammar. As dainichi wrote, this で is no more a connective form of copula than all で particles are.


"(Even) If I send the (mail) in Japanese, will you be able to read it?"

Note that although "in Japanese" (日本語で) is not a method of sending something (such as air-mail, ground-mail, carrier-pigeon, etc. are), @TsuyoshiIto points out that it's (become?) acceptable for 送る in this case to mean not just the sending of the mail, but the entire process of composing and sending the mail (a "shorthand" for メールを書いて送る). In reference to this entire process, then 日本語で can be used to describe the means of this broader action.

  • 2
    "Sending a letter in Japanese" [sic] sounds like good English to me. Similarly, "I will reply to you in English". My point was that, in my opinion, で is not limited to "methods of conveyance" as you call it.
    – Earthliŋ
    Feb 20 '13 at 22:58
  • 6
    You have the point that technically, we do not send it in some language, but we write it in some language and send it. Similarly, technically, 日本語で送る does not describe the means of sending a letter. Yet, we sometimes consider writing a letter as part of the action of sending a letter and say 日本語で送る to mean what would be 日本語で書いて送る if we made a distinction between the actions of writing and sending, and this で is still the case particle which describes means. Feb 20 '13 at 23:23
  • 2
    This で is no more a connective form of copula than all で particles are. Sure, in "Sending a letter in Japanese" you can consider "in Japanese" part of the NP "a letter in Japanese", but how about "Can I send it in Japanese"? You won't convince anyone that "it in Japanese" is a NP.
    – dainichi
    Feb 21 '13 at 5:21
  • 4
    @ssb: No, で is a particle in both sentences. Feb 21 '13 at 12:28
  • 1
    In this context 日本語 in 日本語で could mean the specific encoding method that the sender used. If so, the expression 日本語で送る completely makes sense as well as "send it in Unicode" and it definitely should be just 日本語で送る, not 日本語で書いて送る.
    – Gradius
    Feb 21 '13 at 15:26

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