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This might be a lot to ask for one post, I apologize if it is.

So I'm translating a sentence. I want to make sure I fully understand the nuance and that I don't make any assumptions. I'm not trying to translate it into "perfect" or "eloquent" English, just to where I can fully grasp the grammar.

Here's the sentence in question:

もうそんな寒さかと島村は外を眺めると、鉄道の官舎らしいバラックが山裾に寒々と散らばっているだけで、 雪の色はそこまで行かぬうちに闇に呑まれていた。

And what I've translated it to:

When "was it already that cold?"-thinking Shimamura gazed outside, (she saw) railroad residence-looking barracks just bleakly scattered at the base of the mountain(s), and before the snowy hues could fall there, (they were) swallowed in darkness.


First: I'm using a thought as an attribute, is this the wrong way to picture it? There is most likely a verb omitted after the と, likely 思う, and it's obvious by the context that Shimamura is thinking something. In English this would be translated to "Shimamura, thinking X," as putting an attribute in front of a name or a specific animate noun is degrading.

But take the sentence: あのネズミを食べたネコはあそこにいる。

The cat that ate the mouse is over there. The that mouse-eating cat. . .

Now if we alter the sentence: ネズミと思っているネコはあそこにいる。

The cat thinking "mouse" is over there. The "mouse"-thinking cat. . .

From how I see it, the attribute in front is more accurate for literal translation, because its more consistent when the noun becomes plural or inanimate as opposed to how English restructures the sentence (the mice-eating cats, the "mouse"-thinking cats). So I ask:

  • Is this accurate in terms of literal translation?
  • How is it thought of to native speakers? Is it degrading as it is in English?
  • If I'm wrong, how would a thought as an attribute be structured?

Second: For だけ, does this have similar nuance as in English? As in emphasis? Or is it more strict, closer to saying 'at best'?

And Lastly: For the transition into the last clause, the word and feels a little incorrect, and words I might use were I writing a similar sentence in English like but or where add nuance I don't think was intended.

So I'm thinking I should simply imagine the connection as being much more abstract, saying simply "This clause, and the following clause are intertwined," rather than implying a subset of transition words in English; which means this is somewhere translation might get muddied.

Am I wrong to assume this?


That's pretty much all the things I'm unsure about off the top of my head. If there's anything else I might be wrong on please bring it up.

I'd also love to hear any perspectives. I'd appreciate any response, thanks!

Edit: Made the first question a bit more clear and added detail to better explain what I'm asking.

  • 「鉄道の官舎らしいバラック」should be like "railroad-residence-looking barracks" rather than "barracks-looking railroad residences". "Barracks-looking" would be「バラックらしい」. – sazarando Jul 22 '16 at 1:22
  • @sazarando I'll fix that. Thank you! I think I read it backwards because "barracks-looking" made more sense as an attribute than "railroad residence" to me, my bad. – user16225 Jul 22 '16 at 2:09
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First Question

That part is usually translated as "When Shimamura gazed outside, thinking もうそんな寒さか, ...". See: verb+ようにと、 or verb+かと、

This pattern is super common. In this construction, I feel some verb (感じて, 思って, 願って, 言って, etc) is omitted after と.

Second Question

Simply, that だけ was used to mean there were only barracks in sight. Note that this だけ is attached to 散らばっている, not 寒々と.

Last Question

I feel simple "and" is just fine here. The middle part essentially says "He could see only barracks", and the last part essentially says "He could not see the color of snow around the barracks". They can be safely and simply connected with "and", and there is no reason to use "but" here.

  • The second and last I understand now, but for the first answer I don't feel that properly addresses my questions. There IS a verb omitted, and that probably is how it would be translated, as saying "X-thinking Shimamura" sounds degrading in English. But I'm asking is this the more literal way to view that construction? Take the sentence "あのネズミを食べたネコはあそこにいる。" The cat that ate the mouse is there. But what if it was changed to "ネズミと思っているネコはあそこにいる。" ? Wouldn't that be: The cat thinking (the word) "mouse" is there, which could be synonymous with: the "mouse"-thinking cat. – user16225 Jul 22 '16 at 15:10

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