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In a fictional story about yakuza member Sahei there was a scene of a duel and the following phrase was used:

まさかこんな相手に斬られるような左兵衛ではございません。

Clearly it means "Sahei wouldn't lose to such an opponent". However when 〜ような modifies a proper name, to my ears it sounds like "he is not one of those named Sahei who would lose to such an opponent". Effectively splitting the 左兵衛-named people into two groups: one that would lose, one that would not.

I find the word order in the above sentence somewhat unusual and wonder if there was an implicit subject involved modified by 〜ような. I would write it:

まさか左兵衛はこんな相手に斬られるような人間ではございません。

Are the two sentences equal? Does the original make grammatical sense in contemporary Japanese? Is there any explanation for such word order (other than literary style, like the rhythm of a fight)?

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The thing is, 〜ような is actually optional.

こんな相手に斬られる左兵衛ではない
Sahei is not one to lose to such an opponent.

is basically the same, and just as correct. Does that make “one” the implicitly involved subject? I don't know.

This construct, with or without 〜ような, is still used in contemporary Japanese. Here are some things I found on Google:

  • こんなことであきらめる俺じゃない
  • それで怒るような近藤さんじゃない
  • 突き飛ばされたくらいで、体勢を崩すような相良さんじゃない
  • そんなことぐらいでメゲるあゆみさんじゃない
  • Leaving ような aside, how do you render the phrase? Is there an implicit subject like そんなあきらめる《(人間/者/の)と》俺じゃない ? Is there a difference between the two sentences I included in the question? – macraf Nov 10 '15 at 12:35
  • @macraf (Yeah, I just realized the 〜ような issue isn't that relevant to your question. Sorry!) In my head, it feels like first constructing a noun phrase “こんなことであきらめる俺”, and then negating the whole thing. (And it definitely refers to one specific 俺, not a group of 俺s.) So, no, I don't think it's inserting and then omitting an implicit subject. The meaning turns out about the same though. – mirka Nov 10 '15 at 12:53
  • Hmm... Seems that's determiner that is implicit, not subject. Do I understand correctly that こんな百姓に斬られるような左兵衛じゃない might be interpreted as こんな(百姓に斬られるような)左兵衛じゃない? – macraf Nov 10 '15 at 13:54
  • @macraf I guess that's technically possible, but the vast majority would think こんな goes with 百姓. – mirka Nov 10 '15 at 15:20
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They are equivalent in meaning, though I find the first one more natural. まさかこんな相手に斬られるような is basically a long phrase that is being used as an adjective. In the first sentence, the adjective describes the noun 左兵衛. In the second sentence, the adjective describes the noun 人間, which is the object of the sentence.

Granted the sentence is very old school way of talking, but you can think of it like I am handsome vs. I am a handsome man.

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