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The kids are expecting a trainee teacher. Their normal teacher comes in and says:

「みなさん、席について静かにしてください」
Everyone please sit down and be quiet
戸川先生は教壇に立ち、みんながあわてて席につくのを待った。
Teacher Togawa stood on the platform and everyone got confused and waited to sit down.

I'm confused about who is waiting for whom as regards sitting down.

The topic of the sentence is the teacher 戸川先生は so I think he should be the person waiting to sit down.

The children seem to only be the subject of あわてる (the meaning of which I'm not clear about).

I see three possibilities:

  1. The children are waiting to sit down because they are confused (they were expecting a different teacher)
  2. The children are waiting for the teacher to sit down first (politeness).
  3. The teacher is waiting to sit down (because he is about to introduce the trainee teacher).

Note that if it is the children that are waiting to sit down, the teacher does not correct their behaviour in the later sentences.

Can you please untangle this for me and help me to understand why the correct scenario is obvious and how the sentence would change for the other scenarios?

  • 2
    "Who is waiting for whom?" Yep, I'll be that guy. – istrasci Aug 11 '16 at 18:44
  • 2
    Quick answer: minna is the subject of seki ni tuku; togawa-sensei is the subject of both tatu + matu. Parse like this: [ 戸川先生は教壇に立ち、 [みんながあわてて席につくの] を待った ] – oals Aug 11 '16 at 18:45
  • 1
    @istrasci 'That guy' is normally me. Shame on me. – user3856370 Aug 11 '16 at 18:58
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    @oals Thanks. Is this correct then? "Teacher stood on the platform and waited for the children to hurriedly sit down". – user3856370 Aug 11 '16 at 19:00
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I would translate it as something like:

Teacher Togawa stood behind the podium, and waited while everybody hurriedly sit down.

慌てる{あわてる} means to get flustered or even slightly panic. In this case, the opposite of everybody walking directly to their desk if not there already and calmly sitting down.

Strictly grammatically speaking I'd say the sentence is ambiguous and it could either be interpreted as the children waiting (flustered) for the teacher to sit down, or the teacher waiting for the children to sit down (in a hurry).

However since the teacher had just asked the students to get to their seats it would make more sense for the teacher to wait for the students to finish doing that.

Additionally the podiums Japanese classroom teachers use (教壇) are usually made for standing use and sometimes there isn't even a place to sit down. Even if there is a chair, teachers tend to stand while speaking to the class. Therefore it's likely the teacher is going to remain standing.

3

Just for people who are curious how the sentence would change for the other scenarios...

Here are some examples:

  1. The children are waiting to sit down because they are confused (they were expecting a different teacher)

    戸川先生は教壇に立ち、みんなはあわてて席につくのを待った。(this can still be ambiguous)

    戸川先生は教壇に立ち、みんなは席につくのを待った。

    戸川先生は教壇に立ったが、みんなは席につかずに待った。(this would be clearer)

  2. The children are waiting for the teacher to sit down first (politeness).

    戸川先生は教壇に立ち、みんなは先生が席につくのを待った。

  3. The teacher is waiting to sit down (because he is about to introduce the trainee teacher).

    戸川先生は教壇に立ったまま、(座らずに)待っていた。

  • The important thing to note here is that みんなが changed to みんなは for it to apply to 待った – oals Aug 12 '16 at 7:07
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According to the dictionary あわてて can be used as an adverb to mean "in a hurry","hastily".
http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/je/2163/meaning/m0u/%E6%85%8C%E3%81%A6%E3%82%8B/

So literally it becomes:
戸川先生は教壇に立ち、みんながあわてて席につくのを待った。
Teacher Togawa stood on the platform and waited for everyone to sit down hastily.

It means that everyone was going to their seats in a hurry.

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