In the lyrics of a song by Utada Hikaru I came across two lines (starting from 0:40) saying:



My questions:

  1. How to explain the 「の」 in the second line?
  2. I guess the 「かな」at the end is sort of an exclamation, then how can the 「遣る瀬無き」right before it be not modifying any noun phrase as in 「遣る瀬無き恋」? Why was「遣る瀬無し」or「遣る瀬無さ」not opted for here?

In classical Japanese, the 終助詞 「か」 and 「かな」 are always preceded by the 連体形. E.g.,


(Side note: The classical meaning of 「かな」 is slightly different from the modern one. It is more like 「だなあ」.)

So, parsing those lyrics:


That final の is actually a GA-NO converted が, which is allowed because the clause is in its 連体形.

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  • Thanks for the answer! A doubt regarding「の」: Kojien explains the use of 「の」denoting possession with 「前の語句の内容を後の体言に付け加え、その体言の内容を限定する」. However, in this case I can't find any 体言 after the 「の」. In introducing another usage of「の」,Kojien says「疑問・反語・詠嘆の文で、もたらした主体を示す」. Does that apply to this case? And a further question: can「遣る瀬無き」be replaced with 「遣る瀬無さ」here? If so, what difference will that make? – null May 18 '14 at 4:17
  • I understand your gripe with 「の」, and don't have a satisfactory answer. Somehow the syntax is working out here for it to have possession semantics (which I'm considerably sure of). Perhaps it comes down to the 連体形 being "nominal enough", but that's just speculation on my part. Regarding your latter question, I do think that 「遣る瀬無き」 can be replaced by 「遣る瀬無さ」 here, and the meaning is essentially the same, just less old/poetic. But getting a native speaker to verify that might be wise. – Darius Jahandarie May 18 '14 at 4:57
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    The 体言 after that second の is the 瀬. Just as in 俺の持っている本, a verb can come between a possessive の and the possessed noun. – Eiríkr Útlendi May 18 '14 at 6:10
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    木立の遣る瀬無きかな translates into 木立のなんとやるせないことよ, which is "How pathetic the tree is!". On the other hand, 木立の遣る瀬無'さ'かな is "(It is) patheticness of the tree, indeed". – user4092 May 19 '14 at 16:14
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    木立のなんとやるせないことよ is the same as 木立が… – user4092 May 19 '14 at 16:21

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