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何【なん】人【びと】も触れる【ふれる】こと能わぬ【あたわぬ】才媛【さいえん】

I'm having trouble with this sentence. I'm just confused as to whether '能わぬ' counts as a negative verb that affects 何人も or not.

Since I know 何人も means everyone/all unless there's a negative verb attached in which case it becomes nobody/no-one, and I'm wondering if the negative verb would be considered attached to this, because there's the presence of こと. It suggests to me a meaning more along the lines of "a talented woman for who can't get close to everyone" or, to be more literal "a talented woman [for whom the matter of] becoming close to everyone is impossible"

So would this be more along the lines of "to let everyone near her is impossible for her" or "it is impossible for her to let anyone near her"?

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The sentence looks old. In modern Japanese, it would be:

だれも触れることのできない才媛

Here, “何人も” is translated into “だれも”, and “する [こと] 能わぬ” into “することができない”.

This phrase is a derivative of the following sentence:

その才媛にはだれも触れることができない。

Now, does this mean “No one can” or “Not enveryone can”? The answer is “No one can”. Why? “だれも” is usually used as an adverb. Thus, the sentence can be analysed as:

だれも (その才媛には 触れることが できない)。

This means:

One cannot touch the talented lady. This applies to everyone.

Therefore the original phrase means:

a talented lady who no one can touch

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It literally means "a talented woman whom no one is able to touch". 能わぬ would mean "not be able to". But, I would personally translate this to "a talented woman whom no one can get close to" or something similar.

  • Ah, thank you for that. But the thing that's bugging me is whether 能わぬ's negative term applies to 何人も here or not. Since I know 何人も means everyone/all unless there's a negative verb attached in which case it becomes nobody/no-one, and I'm wondering if the negative verb would be considered attached to this, because there's the presence of こと. It suggests to me a meaning more along the lines of "a talented woman for who can't get close to everyone" or, to be more literal "a talented woman [for whom the matter of] becoming close to everyone is impossible". Sorry, I should've specified this. – user7541 Nov 4 '14 at 19:33
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    能わぬ applies to the whole clause "何人も触れられること". The こと is there in order to apply the word 能わぬ on that clause because it wouldn't be grammatically correct to say 何人も触れられる能わぬ. This sentence is deliberately made a bit verbose, I believe. You could also say "何人も触れられない才媛" to mean exactly the same. – CookieMonster Nov 4 '14 at 19:45

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