Surprise surprise, I have another scene from Death Note:

じゃあその中学チャンピオンと互角{ごかく}に戦ってる流河{りゅうが}君ってなんなの? [episode 10, 3:55mins] Context: The speaker is talking about people playing Tennis. And is comparing Ryuuga [流河] to the other player, trying to point out that he's quite good as well.

Edit: I figured out by listening to audio that 君 = くん, i.e. the suffix. My mistake.

って is giving me trouble here, as って seems to take a variety of different meanings, and it's hard for me in general to pinpoint which meaning it takes at any given time.



って is a particle that connects 流河君 to 何なの. It has the same grammatical structure as 流河君とは何なの or 流河君は誰.

This particle puts an emphasis on the previous word. Here, the nuance is that the speaker actually already knows 流河君, at least cursory, and asking a deeper question about who he really is. That is, how come he can compete so well with a champion. I think this is the common underlying theme of this particle across all its usage, but I'd love to see if you have other examples that doesn't fit this explanation.

In speech, this kind of emphasis is often used to set a context, so that it becomes clear what the following sentences are talking about. For example, 健太ってさ、明日暇?

って is also a fairly informal word, so you will almost never see it used in writing, and it's also inappropriate to use this to someone else who you need to show some respect.

  • Can you explain the nuance of とは in yout example and how って can be traced to either it or は誰. I'm a bit confused where this nuance is comply from – Delectable Tea Nov 5 '16 at 22:17
  • とは has the same role as って, but it is more formal word, where って is informal. So you see it more in written Japanese. I don't know the origin/root of って and how it has evolved. – Kohsuke Kawaguchi Nov 10 '16 at 17:21

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