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I came across this Japanese sentence:

男の子の顔は父親より母親ににるという話を聞いた。

But am not really sure about its meaning in English.

My translation will be "The man heard that his face resembles his mother more than his father".

But then, I don't quite understand why and how いう話 is being used here. I know that "どういう意味ですか" means "what does it mean" in English. But I can't seem to understand how いう is applied in both sentences. Can someone help me here?

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という is a very common construction which has many meanings and causes me endless confusion. But in this case it's straightforward.

という in this context simply means "saying that".

xxxという話
story/conversation saying that xxx

I heard a story saying that boys' faces resemble their mother rather than their father.

  • Your English translation is for "男の子の顔父親より母親に似てい". – naruto Jul 6 '16 at 19:10
  • @naruto I've fixed the verb tense but I'm afraid the は/が distinction is too subtle for me to understand. – user3856370 Jul 6 '16 at 20:35
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    @user3856370, I'm not a native either, but I believe the sentence expresses a general rule rather than a particular man's face. I.e. が+似ている would refer to a particular face that resembles ("is resembling") as we speak, while は+似る implies that any boy's face will resemble... – kroki Jul 6 '16 at 21:40
  • @kroki Sounds convincing. I've adjusted accordingley. Thanks. – user3856370 Jul 6 '16 at 22:02
  • Sorry I didn't explain. Just as kroki said. – naruto Jul 7 '16 at 2:35
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“という(話、こと)” is one of the most frequently used turn of Japanese phrases you come across everyday, and its verbatim translation is “the story to the effect of ….” You can simply apply a relative pronoun, “that” to “という〈話、こと〉”

It can be used as in the following examples:

  • 彼、会社を辞めるっていう話、本当かい?- Is it true that he is leaving the company?

  • 彼がそんなに金に困っていたという話、初めて聞いたよ。信じられない - I heard it for the first time that he's been in such a financial trouble. It's incredible.

  • 今度の人事異動で、田中が製品開発マネージャーに抜擢されるという話だ – I heard that Tanaka is gonna be promoted to the Product Development Manager in the next personnel changes.

  • そういう話は聞きたくない – I don’t want to hear that kinds of story.

  • そういうことだ。これ以上は言うまい - That’s it. I won’t say any more.

  • あの会社は潰れるという噂が飛んでいる - The word is that that company is gonna be bankrupt.

  • 工場を来年3月末までに福島に移転させるという趣旨の通知を受け取った - We received a notice to the effect that the company will relocate the plant to Fukushima by the end of March next year.

  • 要するに、僕の話は聞けないということだね - In short, you're saying that you don't agree with me, hah?

  • いったい何と言うことだ! - What is this? How could it be?

  • 「You can simply apply a relative pronoun, “that” to “という〈話、こと〉”」 >> 文法的には、「Is it true that +文」「I hear that +文」「You're saying that + 文」等のthatは、関係代名詞(relative pronoun)ではなく、名詞節を導く接続詞です – Chocolate Jul 8 '16 at 5:58
  • Thanks for your usual comment. I wanna tell you that I'm not a grammarian nor English language teacher. I am just an average or possibly below-average level native Japanese speaker, who happen to be dawn to this site and ammused. How you take "that" in gamatical terms is all up to you. – Yoichi Oishi Jul 8 '16 at 6:51
  • それでは、そこはそのままにして、タイポとフォーマットだけ直させてくださいね。 – Chocolate Jul 8 '16 at 6:54
  • @chocolate. Please do it. I'm an awfjul writer and speller, and appreciative of your corrections. – Yoichi Oishi Jul 8 '16 at 10:33

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