In the novel I'm reading now (「キッチン」 by 吉本{よしもと}ばなな), there's this section where the protagonist is talking about her boyfriend's brother for the first time, introducing him to readers and giving his description. There's also a sentence which gives the brother's name:


I have a problem understanding grammar in this sentence:

  • What is the purpose of 「を」 in this sentence? I guess the predicate is implied but I cannot figure out what it could be.

  • The sentence ends with 「という」. Should I interpret it as 「と言う」?

Let me know if more context information is required.

  • 2
    @非回答者 - If you could explain that a bit deeper, that'd be great ^_^ I don't really understand what you mean by that.
    – Sjiveru
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 3:19
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    I think the いう is ・・・ meaning 1-3 "名づける。称する。…と呼ぶ。「一一月三日を文化の日と―・う」" dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/9767/m0u
    – user1016
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 7:13
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    @Sjiveru Consider the common phrases such as 「大阪という街」、「お前という女」 and 「そういう店」. In any of these phrases, no one is really "saying" anythng, correct? Those just mean, respectively, "a town called Osaka", "a woman like you" and "a store like that". Educated writers would definitely use 「いう」 in kana in those. If you, however, write a phrase like 「さよならを言うために、この手紙を書いています。」 or 「非回答者さんってステキ~って、みんな言ってますよ!」, you would be expected to use 「言う」 because these are about someone actually "saying" something. Finally, OP's phrase is not about someone saying something; therefore, the author uses 「いう」.
    – user4032
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 13:24
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    @Sjiveru I wasn't the downvoter, but your grammatical explanation is not how I would have done it. I think this いう is simply a verb which takes both an accusative and a quotative. It seems related to the "raising to object"/"exceptional case marking" construction (though not the same thing, since I don't think anything is actually being raised here). I have a partially written answer explaining it like this, but have been trying to do some extra research to validate some of my thoughts before posting it. Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 22:12
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    @DariusJahandarie Standard or not, I'd really like to see your analysis :)
    – Szymon
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 2:20

1 Answer 1


The simple answer

This いう, which you could gloss as "call", simply takes two arguments. You can call it a "accusative-quotative construction" (which is just a fancy way of saying that there is both an を-marked thing and a と-marked thing).

The actual answer

To learn more about these so-called accusative-quotative constructions, let us play with this sentence:

tyoko-ha [[hikaitousya-ga kawai-i] to] omot-tei-ru
"Choko thinks that 非回答者 is cute."

Another way to say this is by lifting 非回答者 outside of the downstairs predicate and marking it with を:

tyoko-ha hikaitousya-wo [kawai-i to] omot-tei-ru
"Choko considers 非回答者 to be cute."

Note: I will be alternating "thinks" and "considers" in English because "considers" sometimes allows me to build a sentence with similar syntax to the Japanese in English while "thinks" doesn't always work as smoothly.

Another way to say it is by using a complex predicate 可愛く思う:

tyoko-ha hikaitousya-wo [kawai-ku omot]-tei-ru
"Choko considers 非回答者 cute."

In the previous sentence, 非回答者 is not "lifted" out of a downstairs predicate, because 「ちょこは非回答者が可愛く思っている」 is not grammatical. 非回答者 is simply at the top level.

The same sort of thing also works for other predicates, such as

tyoko-ha [[hikaitousya-ga human da] to] omot-tei-ru
"Choko thinks that 非回答者 is dissatisfied."

tyoko-ha hikaitousya-wo [[human da] to] omot-tei-ru
"Choko considers 非回答者 to be dissatisfied."

You can also kind of get rid of the inner predicate like we did with 可愛いと→可愛く, but it doesn't work out perfectly:

tyoko-ha hikaitousya-wo human-ni omot-tei-ru
"Choko considers 非回答者 dissatisfactory."

Namely, the "experiencer" of 不満 is now Choko, not 非回答者.

However, this does not hold for all semantically similar sentences. For example, 次郎はその仕事が楽だと感じた→次郎はその仕事を楽に感じた works just fine (i.e., they have the same meaning).

This is totally my own interpretation, but I think when this transformation takes place, the "experiencer" of the verb switches to the nominative. Sometimes, this can result in a different interpretation, but sometimes, it results in the same interpretation.

In fact, I think the same happens with 可愛く, it's just "experiencing" 可愛い means thinking that someone is cute -- there is no other way to experience it. (For the few others I've thought of, this type of argument seems to hold for all i-adjectives, but obviously not for all na-adjectives as evidenced by 不満).

Anyways, after taking you on that long linguistic journey, I'm basically going to say that a lot of that isn't really relevant. I just wanted to introduce that there are some verbs which seem to accept を and と simultaneously, and those are the verbs that allow what has historically been described as "raising-to-object" or "exceptional case marking" (which means there are many sentences which you can use to get a feel for how the を-marked thing and と-marked thing interact).

Finally, to answer the actual question, this いう is one such verb that accepts both an を-marked thing and と-marked thing simultaneously:

名を柊という。 "(He) says (his) name as Hiiragi."→"(He) calls himself Hiiragi."→"His name is Hiiragi."

彼を柊という。 "(I/we) call him Hiiragi."→"His name is Hiiragi."

In this case, と is not really compartmentalizing a predicate, but instead acting quotatively. Either way, it's the same thing as we saw before.


Unfortunately, I could not find a reference which exactly discusses things using the perspective I gave, but these are in a very, very close ballpark. They discuss the syntax and semantics of these accusative-quotative constructions in great detail without getting too technical and were very fun for me to read.

  • Your post is great, but the subject of the sentence 名を柊という is 柊 him/herself. i.e. その人は名を柊という
    – user4092
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 5:21
  • Thanks. I guess the reason for that is because the implicit underlying sentence is (彼は)名を柊という。, and if it was something like (私は)名を柊という。 then the 名 would obviously be referring to 私's 名. You'd need to say 彼の名を柊という explicitly for the implicit topic I originally gave. Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 5:28

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