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I know that もはや+negative verb means "no longer", and しか+negative verb means "only", "nothing but". But seeing them used together, as in the following sentence, got me a little confused.

多くの帯刀者はもはや脅威でしかありません!

Does this translate as:

Many taitosha are no longer only a threat!

or

Many taitosha are only a threat by now!

Thanks for your help!

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    is nothing but (でしかない) + anymore (もはや) -> "is nothing anymore but" <- Does it not make sense? – Chocolate Sep 9 '16 at 4:00
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X でしかない === . . . has the only value (usefulness) of X

帯銃者は, もはや 脅威でしかありません

Gun-carriers are now nothing more than a threat.

Gun-carriers now constitute nothing more than a threat.

Gun-carriers now don't mean [ anything other than a threat ].

A gun-carrier now represents [ nothing but a threat ].

A gun-carrier now doesn't represent [ anything but a dangerous threat ].

I know that もはや+negative verb means "no longer",

Yes, that's right.

もはや doesn't have the meaning of NOT built into it.

もはや means that [something that was true] is not true (no longer true) after time T.

[something that was true] == carrying guns around (on one's person) had some value to society.

But this explanation doesn't match the following definitions completely. Or maybe it does.

dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/220077/meaning/m0u/

もはや【最早】とは。[副]

  1. ある事態が実現しようとしているさま。早くも。まさに。「―今年も暮れようとしている」

  2. ある事態が変えられない ところ まで進んでいるさま。今となっては。もう。「―如何ともしがたい」「―これまで」


i wanted to add that ...   (for the 2nd sense just above) it seems that もはや is used only when there is a negation (in the text) or there is a negative sense (to describe the current state).

もはや自由な時代になったんだよ    is uncommon or impossible.

今や自由な時代になったんだよ    is much better.

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  • So もはや can be translated as "now" (and not "no longer"), implying that in the past it wasn't like it is now? – Marco Sep 9 '16 at 20:21
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This sentence means "Many taitosha are nothing more than a treat". It's confusing because "しかありません" becomes affirmative when translated on western languages, but it's still a negative in the sense of Japanese grammar.

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多くの帯刀者はもはや脅威でしかありません!
With so many swordsmen out there now, it is impossible not to consider them a threat!

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