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For a research project in artificial intelligence, I investigated parsing Japanese. There was major problems with ambiguity in the mentioned type of sentence; in most cases the ambiguity is obvious to resolve, but I kinda need the opinion of a native speaker in this case.

My theory is that the 、 is enough to disambiguate between:

「君の声が聞こえなくて逢えると信じる。」

I believe that I would be able to [meet you without hearing your voice]. (Perhaps meet while bound and gagged in a prison?)

and

「君の声が聞こえなくて、逢えると信じる。」

Even without hearing your voice, I believe that I am able to meet you. (not hearing goes with believe, not meet)

Or maybe both sentences are wrong...they feel awkward to me :/

Am I correct in assuming the comma is crucial there?

  • 1
    What if there's context where like, two people are on the phone and someone's silence implies that they will be able to meet, so it becomes "because I can't hear your voice, I believe we will meet"? – ssb Nov 28 '14 at 4:29
  • 5
    With or without a comma, that sentence makes no sense if you want an honest comment. – l'électeur Nov 28 '14 at 7:20
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These two examples sound kind of weird, so let me add a particle も to make them sound natural and understandable.

A. 君の声が聞こえなくても逢えると信じる。
B. 君の声が聞こえなくても、逢えると信じる。

Now the two meanings:

  1. (I believe) I can meet you without hearing your voice.
  2. I believe without hearing your voice (that I can meet you).

I think in most cases B means 2. But I can't say for sure that B never means 1. Punctuation is sometimes arbitrary.

As for A, it seems completely ambiguous to me. In fact, I find this sentence somewhat hard to understand.

In order to make it mean 1, inserting a comma like 君の声が聞こえなくても逢える、と信じる may also be possible.

  • Would using brackets like "I believe [I can meet you without hearing your voice]" help with what you were trying to show in meanings 1 and 2? – Darius Jahandarie Nov 28 '14 at 8:08

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