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In this thread on appositives, @OskarLindberg had mentioned that けれども could be used as a neutral connector. My understanding up until now was that it presented contrasting ideas, being translated as "however", "but", "although", or "even though". I'm trying to understand more of this neutral connector role of けれども. If you could give examples with the corresponding English translation, that would be very helpful.

These are the examples Oskar had given thus far, but their translations confuse me a bit:

犬がほえているけれども、だれか外にいるんじゃない?
The dog's barking, isn't there someone out there?

I would translate this as: "The dog is barking, but someone is outside, right?" In this case, I would think けれども shows the contrast between what you expected (the dog normally barks when someone is outside) and what is actually occurring (it seems that maybe no one is outside, but the dog is still barking anyway).

この地方は寒いと聞いたけれども、本当に毎日冷え込むね。
I had heard that it was cold in this region, and it's truly quite chilly every day.

I would have translated this as: "I had heard that it was cold in this region, but it really does get very cold every day." I thought that the けれども here was showing the contrast between what you had heard and what you had actually experienced, but it seems that is not the case based on the translation.

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As I mentioned before, those examples that I gave you, and that you're using for your question here, are from the Japanese grammar book Particles Plus by Atsuko Kawashima (Harcourt, Tokyo 1992).

About your first alternative translation:

The dog is barking, but someone is outside, right?

In the original Japanese sentence 犬がほえている is merely a justification for asking the question that follows, as in "Do you think there may be someone outside? - Why do you ask? - Because the dog is barking" reversed. In your translation though, you introduce a slightly different relationship between A and B, and the "is" to me underlines sort of an inversion of the relationship between the clauses; The main topic should remain "is there someone outside", but becomes more of "why is the dog barking", like "The dog is barking, but I think there's a reason (that being someone prowling outside)".

Your second alternative translation:

I had heard that it was cold in this region, but it really does get very cold everyday.

I think this one is acceptable, even using "but". If you do choose to use "but" though, it's in the context that the speaker did not really believe it when he or she was told about the cold, or at least that he or she didn't think it would be that cold, so there's surprise. It's hard to argue that this is not the case, but it doesn't have to be so (I'd hazard, it's most likely not); If not, "but" is not the best translation.

I constructed a few more sentences, just off the top of my head, to try and add some more variety:

ね、ミキちゃん、喉{のど}乾{かわ}いたけど、水{みず}ちょうだい。 Hey, Miki, I'm thirsty - give me some of that water.

この説明書{せつめいしょ}って結構{けっこう}曖昧{あいまい}だけど、よくわからないよね。 This manual is quite ambiguous, it's really hard to be sure, don't you think?

健一{けんいち}君{くん}病気{びょうき}だと聞{き}いたけども、車{くるま}を借{か}りてもいいですか。 I heard Kenichi is ill, so would it be alright if I borrowed the car?

In all of the above examples, translating けれども with "but", "although" or something similar (implying contrast) would though grammatically correct make little sense, or would drastically change the meaning from the original. The second sentence is a good example, as statement A and B actually convey the same sentiment (that the manual is hard to understand), despite being connected through けれども.

In the next example, けれども helps introduce a topic:

お父{とう}さんがぼやいていたけど、最近{さいきん}ガス代{だい}はたかくなってきたって。 My father was complaining that recently gasoline has become more expensive.

In colloquial speech, adding a さ to けど (giving けどさ) may in some contexts even more clearly imply that statement A preceding けど just contains some most likely non-vital background information (like how @Yang Muye explained it in his comment on my other reply), or is just a "set-up" for B:

ビール買{か}ってきたけどさ、飲{の}まない? I bought some beer, you want some?

In this example, the fact that the speaker bought the beer (did not steal it), and in all likelihood did so not very long ago (rather than store beer in vast quantities just in case) is not so important. The question of whether to drink it or not is really what matters the most.

  • Thank you! These examples are great. Replacing けれども with either a semicolon or a dash helps it make perfect sense in my mind. They seem to allow a more "loose" or "neutral" relationship than what I typically think of for "and". I now understand the relationship you're conveying with the dog example. – Marnell Sample Oct 19 '14 at 0:11
  • Would the following be proper usage of けれども for this neutral connector? I want to say: "Tokyo is a beautiful city; I am thinking of going there next year." 「東京はきれいな都市ですけれども、来年そこに行こうと思っている。」 – Marnell Sample Oct 19 '14 at 0:36
  • I'm so happy you think so :) Yes, I think you nailed it. (I added another example in my answer for how けれども can be used to introduce a new topic.) – Oskar Lindberg Oct 19 '14 at 10:19
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    All of your example sentences sound unnatural except for the last one about beer. It is 曖昧だけど, not 曖昧けど. – l'électeur Oct 19 '14 at 23:03
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    I created a new question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/19170/…. – Oskar Lindberg Oct 20 '14 at 6:19
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The other person is correct on this. We use 「けれども」 as a neutral connector rather frequently for simply connecting two (mini-)statements. I have no idea what bilingual dictionaries would say about this as I almost never use them myself, but a simple search in a monolingual dictionary will reveal the definition in question.

For instance, see here (一 - ➂): https://kotobank.jp/word/%E3%81%91%E3%82%8C%E3%81%A9%E3%82%82-257355#E5.A4.A7.E8.BE.9E.E6.9E.97.20.E7.AC.AC.E4.B8.89.E7.89.88

To use the examples from there,

「[本]{ほん}が[届]{とど}いているけれども,[支払]{しはら}いはすんだの。」

means "A book has arrived; Has the payment been already made?"

「[日本]{にほん}の[象徴]{しょうちょう}というけれども,[富士山]{ふじさん}はほんとにすばらしい。」

means "They say it is the symbol of Japan, (and they are right) Mt. Fuji is really wonderful."

Finally, my own example senence as an おまけ,

「[今日]{きょう}は[晴]{は}れてて[気持]{きも}ちのいい日だけれども、さて、何をしようかなあ。」

= "It's such a sunny and pleasant day today and I wonder what I should be doing."

  • Kotobank was actually one of the dictionaries I consulted, but I only looked at the bi-lingual portion of it; there were no examples of the neutral connector usage. I didn't even think that the monolingual part would have more. Your examples actually help a lot, especially the first one. In my mind, this neutral connector usage of けれども makes the most sense to me if I replace it with a semicolon rather than "and". Thank you. – Marnell Sample Oct 18 '14 at 23:56
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Like Oskar Lindberg perhaps, I think that the use of けれども is not entirely "neutral" in the above examples.

The phrase following the けれども is not negating truth value of the phrase proceeding it but I think it is negating (in the sense of changing) the objectivity-subjectivity-type/ discourse-field/ brain-side(?!) (I am failing to find a proper expression) of the prior phrase.

This change might be rendered by "but hey,"

The dog is barking, but hey, someone is outside right?
I had heard that it was cold in this region, but hey, it's truly quite chilly every day isn't it.
They say it is the symbol of Japan, but hey, Mount Fuji is truly wonderful.
It's such a sunny and pleasant day today, but hey, I wonder what I should be doing.

Often the けれども seems to be changing from something that is rationally judged to a direct experience or vice versa.

The dog is barking (direct subjective experience), someone is outside (rational judgement)
I had heard that it was cold in this region (rational judgement) it's truly quite chilly every day isn't it (direct subjective experience).
They say it is the symbol of Japan (rational judgement), but hey, Mount Fuji is truly wonderful(direct subjective experience).
It's such a sunny and pleasant day today([pretty undeniable] rational judgement), but hey, I wonder what I should be doing(direct subjective experience/felt-quandary)."

To me it is like the けれども is changing the side of the brain-side from linguistic to non linguistic that speaker is using in each of the two phrases. This is suggested by the fact that one or other phrase is often reported speech or writing but not always, such as the person being outside, which while not reported speech, is a rational judgement of something that is not directly experienced but inferred.

My only 根拠 is that I have lived more than half my 49 years in Japan.

  • Yes, I agree that けれども is not completely "neutral" in all the examples. (I think you should interpret the question as "doesn't けれども always imply contrast between A and B", which is what I tried to show is not the case.) However, I disagree that "but hey" would be a very good general translation. It may work for some cases, but in your "barking dog" translation for example, it changes a lot in comparison with the source (see my answer before). I think you're focusing on how けれども can be used to introduce a new topic (added yet another example), but that is not all it does. – Oskar Lindberg Oct 19 '14 at 10:30
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    "but hey" seems to be an odd word to use for this sense of けれども – 3 to 5 business days Oct 19 '14 at 10:42

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