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In English if someone asks a question in a narrative it would go something like:

"Where are you going?" he asked.

but rarely, if ever:

"Where are you going?" he said.

Is the same true in Japansese? For example:

「根っからのほめられ好きだね」まる子はあきれたように言った

"At heart, you're a fan of being praised aren't you?" said Maruko disgustedly.
*"At heart, you're a fan of being praised are you?" asked the astonished Maruko.

I'm pretty sure my first translation is the correct one. But my question is can you still use 言う if the part in quotes is a question? Is my second translation a possibility?

I fear my use of a tag question (ね) might confuse things. Just noticed that both my translations actually have questions in the quotes and yet in English the second would definitely take "asked". The first could either take "asked" or "said" depending on the intonation of the quote. If you could give an answer that covers both normal questions and tag questions that would be great. Thanks.

  • All depends on what kind of translation you're going for. As you said, in English we typically don't use "said" with questions. So, if your goal is to keep the translation in natural English then go with "asked". If you feel inclined to be true to the Japanese, then go with "said". – Miss Lavelle Dec 27 '15 at 0:08
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In general, "(と)~は言った" is also natural after a question, and people often use it randomly to avoid monotonousness. FWIW, in novels, some writers prefer 訊いた instead of 聞いた. (訊 is a non-jōyō-kanji which is specifically used for きく in the sense of "asking a question".)

In this case, まる子は言った would be better, because 「根っからのほめられ好きだね」 was probably said with a falling intonation, and does not sound like a true question. まる子は聞いた implies "~, aren't you?(↗)" (rising intonation).

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