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I saw this on the cover of a book about trains that was at least similar to a magazine:

N700系とはどこが違う?

N700Aに搭載された性能

This is a little confusing:

  1. とは is used to define things. It is often used either in a question asking for a definition or a dictionary entry that actually gives a definition. どこが違う? does not sound like a question asking for a definition.

  2. As for the second sentence, it almost looks like "The ability by which it was loaded by N700A." That is obviously not the meaning of the sentence.

Maybe this is something vaguely in the ballpark of the meaning of that phrase?

What's new and different in the N700 series [of train models]?

The N700A, which is superior in terms of capacity

What is the translation, and in particular, what am I missing here?

3
  1. Don't treat 「とは」 as a single unit.

    「〜と違う」 means "different from". This 「と」 is the one normally glossed as "with", although I can't think of a way to use that gloss here.

    When 「〜と違う」 is used in the outermost layer of the sentence, it is normally becomes 「〜とは違う」. While I can't give a technical explanation of why this is the case, I'd say the hand-wavey one is that 「違う」 is a "semantically negative" predicate which is normally not true of most things, so it is natural to use 「は」 for the same reason it is natural to use 「は」 with syntactically negative predicates.

  2. 「〜に搭載する」 approximately means "to build into" or "to load onto". When you change it to the passive 「〜に搭載される」 you get "to be built into" or "to be loaded onto". Literally, 「N700Aに搭載された性能」 ⇒ "The capabilities built into the N700A."

What's different from the N700 model?

The N700A's built-in capabilities.

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Here, とは is just pointing out that we're defining a characteristic of the N700 group. (The と is the quotative particle, but I don't think that really helps in parsing this.) どこが違う? is not asking for a definition per se, but for defining a characteristic.

Your translation is pretty close. Literally, I'd translate it as something like:

Where is the difference from the N700 line [of trains]?
The performance (or efficiency) that was equipped by the N700A.

Or, more naturally:

What's different from the N700 train models?
The N700A's performance levels.

  • 1
    The main topic of the book is N700A, not N700. – naruto Mar 26 '15 at 19:16
  • @naruto Perhaps so, but the first sentence makes it pretty clear that this particular statement is related to the N700 series. The second sentence talks more specifically about the N700A. – Eric Mar 26 '15 at 19:38
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    I'm afraid I can't logically explain the function of this は for now, but the real topic of both sentences is N700A series. The first sentence basically says "What's new since N700?" or "What makes N700A different from N700?" – naruto Mar 26 '15 at 19:49
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    @naruto I see what you're getting at, and I've edited the answer to be a bit clearer about it. – Eric Mar 26 '15 at 19:58
  • Perhaps the dictionary entry helps to explain the particle(s):と-は:《格助詞「と」+係助詞「は」》「と」の働きを強めた表現。「予想—違う結果が出た」 Ie, と mainly carries the meaning and は isn't doing much. And と might be easier to understand uf you consider its usage in 〜と比べて, 〜と同じ (?) – blutorange Mar 26 '15 at 21:20

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