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I understand that the meaning is loosely something along the lines of "Asking me so suddenly... I don't know!".
But I want to understand the function of も here.
I thought for a time that it is concession e.g.
食べてもいいよ,
先生でもたまに勉強する、
高くても買う!
But in this case it doesn't make sense. Something was asked a question he doesn't know the answer to or doesn't understand, the more time you give him, the probability that he won't know or understand is lowered, thus the highest probability of him not knowing is you ask him いきなり.
But if we understand the も to be concession then it translates as: "Even if you ask me out of the blue, I do not know/understand!".
But asking out of the blue is harder than giving him 4 hours to think about it.
So I think that "Even if you gave me 4 hours to think about it, I wouldn't have known!" makes more sense for a concession than out of the blue.

So given that line of thought, which function does も serve here? Is it も of emphasizing? Like 三時間も待ってたよ!
Or is it's use as an emphasizer is limited to emphasizing quantities?

Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  • Is interpretation of concession that strange? – user4092 Sep 22 '15 at 7:17
  • Yes, very much so. "Even if you ask me out of the blue, I wouldn't know!" But wait? Asking you out of the blue would make it harder for you to answer, not easier! For example X asks Y a question, Y has a phd in mathematics. Then Y could say "Even if that was a mathematical question, I wouldn't have told you (bearing a grudge for X)" Concession here is possible, because a mathematical question is EASIER for Y. – PsyFish Sep 22 '15 at 7:38
3

This question is really interesting. I never thought about it that way.

First of all, I'd like to suggest 〜ところで as the equivalent conjunctive particle:

  • いきなり言われたところでわからない (= いきなり言われても〜)
  • 急に来られたところで会えない (= 急に来られても〜)
  • ぜんぶ頼まれたところでできない (= ぜんぶ頼まれても〜)

I tried to reverse engineer a catch-all translation that is better than even or although, and I think it's but:

  • いきなり言われても〜 Tell me out of the blue, but I wouldn't know.
  • 急に来られても〜 Come unannounced, but I wouldn't be able to see you.
  • ぜんぶ頼まれても〜 Ask me to do everything, but I wouldn't be able to.

Try it out with more examples here and here.


Side Note: To stretch it a bit, you can maybe even rephrase the other sentences to fit this conceptual mould, too:

  • 食べてもいいよ → 食べたところでかまわないよ

    Eat it, but I wouldn't mind.

  • 先生でもたまに勉強する → 先生であったところで勉強はする

    Being a teacher, but still study.

  • 高くても買う → 高かったところで買いはする

    Be expensive, but I'll still buy.

  • Thanks for the elaborate answer! ところで is a useful way to emphasize that it's concession. Regarding the side note, I gave them as examples that are clearly concession-related so naturally they fit. 1.Even if you eat it, it's fine 2. Even teachers (or the relevant teacher) studies from time to time. 3. Even if it's expensive, I'll buy it. <br> Translating the も in this case to but certainly works, just like ては works as user 4092 mentioned. – PsyFish Sep 22 '15 at 10:32
  • I wonder how does one go about finding out what it really is? I'd bet even some Japanese people wouldn't be able to answer that. Which makes me ponder philosophically about whether it's necessary to even know if it means but, `ては‘ or some expression that works just as fine... – PsyFish Sep 22 '15 at 10:32
  • IMHO I think ては is more exclusive than ても, and the two aren't interchangeable. 泣いても変わらない (Cry, but it won't change) vs. 泣いては変わらない (It won't change if you cry). You would never say どんなに泣いては変わらない or いくら泣いては変わらない. – mirka Sep 22 '15 at 10:59
  • @PsyFish Philosophically, yeah, it isn't like you have a dichotomy and actively choose which one applies. I think it's faster if you broaden the concept of も and treat it as a whole, rather than branch it out into sub-definitions, multiple-choice style. But, what do I know… – mirka Sep 22 '15 at 11:11
  • You're right on both points. – PsyFish Sep 22 '15 at 11:36
2

How about thinking it's for avoiding ては? Which highlights いきなり, when the speaker would not know it either it's sudden or not.

  • Avoiding ては seems plausible in this case, I need to check other cases to see if its there as well. But what do you mean by "Which highlights いきなり, when..."? – PsyFish Sep 22 '15 at 7:35
  • I don't know what do you mean by "plausible". いきなり…ては can imply that if it's not いきなり, it's not necessarily the case, in other words, if it's not いきなり, the speaker could understand it. – user4092 Sep 22 '15 at 7:47
  • Yep. Just like you say. What I mean by plausible, is that in this example, your suggestion is correct, but I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or not, therefore I'll check a couple more examples where this usage appears, and see if this substitution works. – PsyFish Sep 22 '15 at 7:51

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