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I encountered a short sentence that I'm having trouble understanding completely.

なにも遊ぶのは人間だけじゃない。

The context is, a young girl is playing with a dog for the first time.

I'm pretty sure I at least understand the basic meaning and a very literal translation might be:

Regarding the act of playing, it isn't just humans.

And put into more reasonable English:

(I see), Humans aren't the only ones who play.

My question lies with the use of なにも. I can't seem to fit it into the translation and was wondering if anyone could explain its meaning in this sentence and perhaps suggest a better translation.

I assume it modifies じゃない since じゃない is the only negative verb (which also makes me wonder why it's placed in front of the sentence) but in that case, why are people being described as "things"?

Thanks for reading and I appreciate any help!

  • Albeit the context you've given, I think that your reasonable English is still the correct translation. Could you give the surrounding sentence? – Yuki Inoue Aug 21 '15 at 18:15
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That なにも is a Guiding Adverb that leads partial negation. It means nothing by itself but functions as a sign that tells that partial negation is following. It's different from normal なに+も ((not) anything) in the point of pitch accent. [なにも{HLL} vs なに{LH}+も{H}]

e.g. 何も、急がなくてもいいじゃないか You don't need to hurry, do you?

Other examples of Guiding Adverbs are もし(も)…(conditional clause) or どうやら…ようだ / らしい.

  • Although it's common, that accent notation is inaccurate. – user4092 Aug 23 '15 at 6:55
  • Thanks. I'm curious, is there a more correct way to denote pitch accent that you're aware of? – G-Cam Aug 24 '15 at 12:21
  • A more correct way should indicate position of downstep only and should not contain information about intonation. e.g. なにも(1) and なにも(0) – user4092 Apr 17 '16 at 14:00
  • Another example is なぜなら・・・から. – user4092 May 28 '17 at 4:16

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