In 上を向いて歩こう Kyu Sakamoto says しあわせは, why doesn't he says しあわせさは? How do you know which 形容動詞 can be written as nouns without さ?

  • Off-topic but the singer's name is Kyu, not Ryu. – l'électeur Nov 17 '13 at 22:23
  • @TokyoNagoya Noooooo I'll change it. Darn it I feel bad now. – user3457 Nov 17 '13 at 22:51

Although the suffix -さ does turn adjectives into nouns, it also changes the meaning:

  幸せ    happiness
  幸せさ   the degree of happiness

Since the suffix changes the meaning, 幸せさ isn't interchangeable with 幸せ. Presumably, the songwriter wrote しあわせ rather than しあわせさ because it had the meaning they wanted to express.

But meaning aside, how can you tell whether a 形容動詞 can also be a noun?

Generally speaking, if a 形容動詞【けいようどうし】 can also be used as a 名詞【めいし】, dictionaries will list them as both. Look for the abbreviations 名 (for 名詞) and 形動 (for 形容動詞), which are used by most monolingual dictionaries. If you're using a dictionary that marks them another way, it should say so somewhere--for example, EDICT uses the abbreviations "adj-na" and "n".

The entry for 幸せ in 大辞林【だいじりん】 says:


That means 幸せ can also be a 名詞.

You can also look at actual usage, for example by searching a corpus such as the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (BCCWJ). When I search for 幸せ, I find 5384 results, some of which appear to be using it as a noun. You can use this tool yourself to try to answer this question, if you're still uncertain after consulting a dictionary.

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  • 幸せさ is indeed said commonly to mean "the degree of happiness" though it is not interchangeable with 幸せ. – l'électeur Nov 17 '13 at 22:27
  • @TokyoNagoya Thank you for the comment! I've tried to fix my answer. Do you still see any problems that need to be addressed? – snailplane Nov 17 '13 at 22:39
  • Looks all good now. – l'électeur Nov 17 '13 at 23:02
  • Could you list some examples of 幸せさ which cannot be replaced by 幸せ? Almost all examples I can find on Google seem to be replaceable. – dainichi Nov 18 '13 at 1:08
  • @dainichi 「Bさんの手紙からは幸せさが伝わってきた。」、「『幸福度』とは『幸せさ』のことである。」、「今回のボランティア活動では辛さと幸せさの両方を感じることができた。」、「預金額とその人の幸せさは正比例する。」、「結婚して欲しいと言われたら、幸せさのあまり心臓が止まるかもしれない。」, etc. Same thing for the lyrics for the song in question. One CANNOT say 「幸せさは雲の上に」; It needs to be 幸せは雲の上に. "Replaceable" does not mean "interchangeable". – l'électeur Nov 18 '13 at 8:19

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