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Context: Grandad was bought food as a gift for looking after Maruko. Maruko apologises to grandad because dad has just eaten it all. Then Grandad says:

「いいんじゃよ、まる子。おじいちゃんは別にただまる子をかわいがっているだけじゃ」
Grandad (I) just cares for Maruko.

I'm familiar with 別に when used in a negative clause to mean "(not) particularly". I can't understand what it means in this sentence.

Also a bit confused about the placement of だけ. If it's at the end doesn't it mean that he does nothing but care for Maruko i.e. "All I do is care for just (ただ) Maruko".

If it helps, the previous sentence is

「おじいちゃん、おばあちゃん、ごめんね」

which is said by Maruko.

  • Out of context, I'm not sure, but I think the 「じゃ」 here is 「じゃない」. I would interpret it as "It's not that grandpa's simply just favoring まる子." – seafood258 Jun 3 '16 at 16:39
  • It's probably negating something that came in the previous sentence: おじいちゃんは別に(そんなことしてないし・そう思っていないし)、ただ… – Brandon Jun 3 '16 at 17:01
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    What's the previous sentence?? – ishikun Jun 3 '16 at 17:07
  • I don't think the previous sentences help at all. I've added the context though. – user3856370 Jun 3 '16 at 17:29
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    I'm guessing it is from "Chibi Maruko-chan" which is an anime series. – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 4 '16 at 7:17
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「いいんじゃよ、まる[子]{こ}。おじいちゃんは[別]{べつ}にただまる子をかわいがっているだけじゃ。」

There is nothing wrong or unnatural about this as a casual spoken line. You really should not apply the rigid grammar required for formally written Japanese.

That said, I am actually "seeing" physically the negative element with which 「別に」 can be used quite naturally. This might surprise you, but I see it in 「いいんじゃよ、まる子。」 = "No problem!" That was said in response to something Maruko had done or said, correct? Grandad has negated Maruko's apology, and he now has all the reasons to use 「別に」.

"No problem, Maruko! I just adore you for who you are. (It is as simple as that)."

(A literal TL is difficult as the line is completely colloquial.)

Finally, regarding the use of both 「ただ」 and 「だけ」, it is not uncommon that we use them together in informal speech.

  • Way cleaner than my answer, +1. I'd just add that if ただ="simply" and だけ="just/only", the use of both exists in your translation as well ~ although their meanings are similar they're not completely redundant. – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 4 '16 at 5:58
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I think I was over-complicating my earlier attempts at an answer.

別に does not have to be with an explicit negative.

For example: 「別にいいけど」 might be roughly "different from (what you might expect I don't have any strong feelings).. but it is okay (I guess)".

It's role is to separate and contrast. 別 means "different"/"separate" after all. In particular, 別に often means "different from what you might be expecting". It often denotes a level of indifference. ("maybe you expected me to have a strong opinion, but different from your expectation, I actually feel meh about it"). The following link has a more detailed explanation, and many examples (some with no explicit negative)

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/blog/2006/09/01/i-was-going-to-make-a-better-title-but-eh-whatever/

In this case, maybe the most straight-forward reading is "It is okay, Maruko. (I don't particularly mind about that), I am simply (happy to) just dote on you."

  • 「(私は)別にただ~してるだけだよ。」ってことじゃないんですかね・・・ – Chocolate Jun 3 '16 at 18:05
  • そうですね。考えすぎて複雑すぎにしてしまいました。chocolateからいただくコメントはいつも勉強になります、ありがとうございます。 – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 3 '16 at 18:54
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This 別に still implies "not in particular", "nothing special". By saying 別に, basically おじいちゃん wanted to say that she had no particular reason to feel sorry, that there was nothing particularly wrong among them, etc.

I don't want to call this sentence perfectly well-formed, but such a sentence can be heard in speech.

Aside from the meaning of "separately" which is totally different, you will sometimes encounter 別に without explicit negative expressions. Depending on the context, 別に implies various things, for example, "it's not a big issue, but ...", "nothing special, but ...", "I'm not particularly interested, but ...", "meh", "no problem", "don't take it too seriously", etc.

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I am not going to go into the grammar etc, but will try to explain why and what it does for statement.

「いいんじゃよ、まる子。おじいちゃんは別にただまる子をかわいがっているだけじゃ」

The 「別に」in this sentence really is not needed, but from the statement from Maruko that she was sorry, it seems like the writer put it in to convey or add some more feeling to Maruko that an apology is not necessary. Eg,

「別にいいよ」 Loosely translated as [Its Ok, I don't mind]

This part where 「ただ」is used.

「おじいちゃんは別にただまる子を」

Could be written like this and serve the same meaning, even without the 「別に」

「おじいちゃんはただ

Translated, [I (Granddad) just....... (Maruko)]

So with the 「別に」in or out of the sentence the later part of the translation is really much the same.

I [Granddad] just adore you.

「いいんじゃよ、まる子。おじいちゃんは別にただまる子をかわいがっているだけじゃ」

So the overall translation to get the feeling of what Granddad is saying even though the first part basically just says [its OK, Maruko], adding the really inputs the feeling of what the「別に」adds to the sentence.:

Really, its OK, Maruko. I [Granddad] just adore you.

The 「別に」just adds that feeling that Granddad really doesn't mind in the Japanese version and really is quite hard to convey that feeling into a literal English translation.

EDIT, I wrote this a few hours ago, but had a work issue to deal with, even with all the good answers I will post anyway.

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