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I was studying the usage of ところ with particles and came across the following sentence and translation (linked at the bottom):

駅の近くでケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然{ぐうぜん}会った。

I met her by chance when I just bought some cakes near the station.

The article does not explain it very well but from what I gather (from other sources), ところで can be used to show circumstances surrounding the main clause. So the sentence above could perhaps be more elaborately (and robotically) understood as (please correct me if I'm wrong):

"I met her by chance. It happened when I (was out buying/just bought) a cake near the station."

My first question is, Is the translator's use of the word "just" justified? (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun). I understand that 「~た形」+ところ shows that the action happened in the very recent past and is commonly translated as "just" but is that meaning carried through when ところ is used as above? Stated another way, does the sentence imply that I just bought the cake (giving ところで a "time" nuance) or that I was out buying the cake (giving ところで a "circumstance" nuance) ?

Second, if I had seen this sentence out of the context of the article, I would have translated it:

I met her by chance at the place by the station where I bought the cake.

Is this also a valid translation or is there a reason that this can't be correct?

Article source

  • I'd like to tell you that theoretically, both interpretations are possible. – Faily Feely Oct 6 '16 at 14:17
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駅の近くでケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然会った。

The sentence doesn't sound ambiguous to me. It means "I met her by chance right when I bought a cake near the station."

According to 明鏡国語辞典:

ところ【所(処)】〘名詞〙
⑥-㋒《「・・・(ようと)するところだ」「・・・ているところだ」「・・・(てしまっ)たところだ」などの形で、現在または現在に近い過去を表す語を伴って》動作が、直前・最中・直後にある意を表す。「今手紙を書いているところだ」「書き終わったところでベルが鳴った」

「~するところだ」「~ているところだ」「~たところだ」 indicate that an action is about to happen, is now happening, or has just happened, respectively. So the ~たところで in your example means "Right after (I) did~~" "Right when (I) did~~". For example:

  • [夢の中で] 食べたところで目が覚めた。
    [In a dream] Right when I ate, I woke up.

Compare:

  • 食べるところで (≂ 食べようとしたところで) 目が覚めた。
    When I was about to eat, I woke up.
  • 食べているところで目が覚めた。
    While I was eating, I woke up.

I met her by chance at the place by the station where I bought the cake.

For the ところ to mean "place", you'd say:

駅の近くケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然会った。

×「~の近く~した{ところ・場所}
⇒ ○「~の近く~した{ところ・場所}」(avoiding repeating the locative case で)

So, if the sentence was 「ケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然会った」 without 「駅の近くで」, then it would be ambiguous between "at the place I did..." and "right when I did..."

  • 1
    I might slightly prefer "I met her by chance right when I bought a cake near the station." Maybe it's just my AmE but I prefer that right/just adverb to be before the "when." – virmaior Oct 6 '16 at 13:36
  • @chocolate To make sure I understand correctly, could you please verify my parsing of the sentences (if indeed my English parsing makes sense in Japanese)? 駅の近くでケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然会った。 -> 駅の近くでケーキを買ったところで is an entire clause where the first で marks location of action and the second で is the te-form of だ. 駅の近くのケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然会った。 -> ところで shows the location of 会った and both 駅の近くの and ケーキを買った modify ところ. – G-Cam Oct 6 '16 at 17:39
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    駅の近くでケーキを買ったところで is an entire clause where the first で marks location of action <- Yes, the 1st で marks location. The entire 駅の近くでケーキを買った modifies ところ. the second で is the te-form of だ <- Yes, I think so (but I'm not 100% sure so I might be wrong...) 駅の近くのケーキを買ったところで彼女に偶然会った。 -> ところで shows the location of 会った and both 駅の近くの and ケーキを買った modify ところ <- Yes, it marks location. it's almost the same as ~場所で…会った (met at the place). Yes, grammatically both ~の and ~た modify the noun ところ. (or, you could also think of it like: 駅の近くの(near the station) modifies ケーキを買ったところ(the place I bought cake). ) – Chocolate Oct 7 '16 at 8:00
  • @virmaior ありがとうございます!(編集しましたが、これであっているでしょうか・・・間違っていたら、またよろしくお願いします。) – Chocolate Oct 7 '16 at 8:04
  • @chocolateさんそれが当ています! – virmaior Oct 7 '16 at 8:06
2

駅の近くでケーキを買ったところで彼女に​偶然​会った。

  1. Is the translator's use of the word "just" justified? [ --> Yes. ]

  2. Can ところで be ambiguous (time vs. location)?

Yes, I think so. ( That's an interesting point. I did some searching, but couldn't find a Web page discussing or explaining it. )

In that example ... Maybe 60%-40% (or even 80%-20%) in favor of location. But for location-use, it's more correctly:

駅の近くのケーキを買ったところで彼女に​偶然​会った。

  • 伊勢崎花火大会があります。見るところでオススメな場所はありますか? ... - Yahoo ... detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp › 地域、旅行、お出かけ › 国内 › ここ、探してます

  • モンストのバックアップができません。電波のいい場所いろんなところでためしましたが、失敗ばかりです。 ... detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp › インターネット、通信 › スマホアプリ

  • ... 昔の山師の方が山奥で怪我や病気で倒れた時のために、非常食としてそういうところでも生きていけるイワナを水溜りへ移植していたんです。

  • テレビ朝日の場所がよくわかりません! 六本木ヒルズのところですか? ... detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp

Here are samples of time or situation.

~ところだった | 日本語の例文 -- j-nihongo.com › 文法
例文

  • 道を歩いていたら、急に車がきて、危なかった。 死ぬところだった。
  • 終電を逃がして家に帰れなくなるところだったけど、なんとか間に合った。
  • 仕事で失敗して、会社をクビになるところだった.

So maybe ~ところだった is more often for situation, not time.

Time example : 「私も丁度 あなたにメールしようと思っていたところでした」

1

does the sentence imply that I just bought the cake (giving ところで a "time" nuance) or that I was out buying the cake (giving ところで a "circumstance" nuance) ?

No, you don't know at the time they two have eye contact (if you understand meet this way), it was after "I" bought cake or what, by reading this sentense.

http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/158645/meaning/m0u/ I think you can understand it as "at this situation" or "at this senario".

We just put "at the time" or "at that position" for convenience when we translate.

As for why not

I met her by chance at the place by the station where I bought the cake.

You know, "at the time" better match the idea that "I" met the woman in that situation.

You can think it as a comedy show to get a better feeling: at the stage, a man and a woman meet, at that time, the man was buying cake. But it is not important that at what moment the man met the woman, no, just think about what's in the scene when those two met.

The use of ところ here doesn't have any special meaning, as far as I can see, it's just natural to phrase it this way. So take it easy, you know the man and the woman both know the man bought cake, usually that's all you need to know from this sentense even if it's from a detective novel.

So, the sentense is ambiguous in a way that you cannot tell which action was before which action. In English people don't (or can't?) phrase it in such ambiguous way, I guess.

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