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I have a question about the meaning of these two "words" [あまりこない] and [全くこない].

The complete sentence was

この美術館[あまりこない]ではなくて[全くこない].

The brackets were also in the original text.

This is from an internal monologue of a women during her job. She also complained that she had not much to do.

For the first part あまりこない, it consists of two sub parts あまり and こない.
As I understand, あまり means "not much / not very" since こない is a negative verb.

For the second part 全くこない, it consists of two sub parts 全くand こない.
全く means some thing like "not at all" since こない is also negative.

While I have a basic understanding of these words, I struggle to comprehend their meaning in the sentence. Why was the negative form of くる used twice, and I also do not understand why they were placed in brackets.

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    I think it probably said ではなて, right? – snailboat Jun 27 '16 at 22:35
  • Oh yes sorry for the mistake. – sinara Jun 28 '16 at 8:13
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I think there is a く missing and it should be ではなて, otherwise I would not understand.

If that's the case, given the context I think that the woman is just saying "It is not that (people/visitors) seldom come, (they) don't come at all!". I think you analyzed the sentence quite well after all. Here the speaker just wants to express a contrast between "not coming often" (あまりこない) and "not coming at all" (全くこない).

Another thing. You use square brackets but I think you mean these brackets instead 「」. These ones are usually quotation marks, so it might be that someone in a previous conversation mentioned that "(people/visitor) seldom come" 「あまりこない」. Therefore, in her sentence the woman somehow wants to emphasize that it should have been "do not come at all" 「全くこない」 instead (maybe in a sort of sarcastic way).

全く+ない expresses a very strong negation (which answers your question about why 来ない is in negative form). You can see some explanation here.

Just for reference, 全く can also express a strong agreement (for example if saying something like "We have exactly the same opinion (about something)" you could say 全く同じ in this case, to express a strong emphasis).

  • Thank you very much for the explanation. Yes there was a く missing sorry for that mistake. You were also right with the brackets I mistook them due to their similar look. – sinara Jun 28 '16 at 8:26
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The braces are being used to indicate a quote, in this case they are not genuinely quotes but something which would be said in response to someone.

  • あまりこない = Rarely come
  • 全くこない = Completely not come

the use of なくて ties the first part of the sentence to the second. Meaning that meaning of the sentence is something like "When it comes to this art gallery, it's not that people rarely come, they never come at all!"

In Japanese it is quite common to leave the subject(that which performs the verb) out of the sentence, in this sentence the subjects who are not coming to the art gallery are the 客(kyaku, visitor; customer) this is simply to be inferred by the reader.

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The use of brackets here is nearly identical to the use of quotation marks in this English sentence I just found on the internet:

He was one of the "it'll never happen to me" kind of guys.

Basically these are imaginary quotes of what someone could have said about that art gallery. In this case she is most likely expressing her own opinion on the gallery this way.

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