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The linguistics text I’m reading has a sentence with this fragment: 「動詞の表す動作・作用が[…]」。 Consulting dictionaries just made me more confused; what’s the contrast between the two in this context? “Action” vs. “effect”?

  • perhaps the [...] in your question could provide more contextual clues? – Flaw Sep 25 '11 at 22:59
  • Here you go: 「金田一春彦は動詞の表す動作・作用が時間的にどのように捉えられているかによって、次の4類が立てられることを説いた。」 The title (and topic) is 『アスペクトによる動詞の分類』. – melissa_boiko Sep 26 '11 at 10:59
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    It is often stated that in the Japanese grammar, verbs signify 動作, 作用, and 存在. (There are variations of this statement with more options or less.) But I do not know why 動作 and 作用 are often both listed. In general, 動作 (motion, workings) and 作用 (action, effect) mean different things, but I do not know which verbs describe 作用 without describing 動作. – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 29 '11 at 20:07
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    Have you seen an answer to this question here: okwave.jp/qa/q2439819.html ? I'll try to write more about it later if you are still looking for an answer. – summea Feb 27 '12 at 19:07
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動詞 in Japanese can represent 3 different things, 動作、作用 and 存在. An example will be easier to understand.

動作:
道を歩く

歩く is categorized as 動作をあらわす動詞, because when you walk, you move your legs, in other words "movement" or "action".

作用:
壁に絵をかける

かける is categorized as 作用を表す動詞, here 壁にかける is having an "effect" on the wall.

存在:
机に本がある

ある is categorized as 存在を表す動詞, here ある indicates "existence".

So back to your question, "動作" doesn't directly place any influence on other "things" whereas "作用" directly "effects" other things.

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