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この間もちょっと畳で爪を磨いだら細君が非常に怒ってそれから容易に座敷へ入れない。 The other day when I happened to be sharpening my claws on some straw floor-matting, the mistress of the house became so unreasonably incensed that now it is only with the greatest reluctance that she’ll even let me enter a matted room.

台所の板の間で他(ひと)が顫えていても一向平気なものである。 Though I’m shivering on the wooden floor in the kitchen, heartlessly she remains indifferent.

I'm reading through I am a cat by Soseki and I came across this use of the word 他 which had the reading as ひと. I'm having trouble understanding how this word is being used in this sentence and would appreciate some enlightenment.

  • They stated that it reads as ひと? If it was the plain ほか which means other, it would make sense IMO. EDIT: it could mean "He/She" so I'm guessing it has something to do with 人(ひと)since it could mean a guy or a girl, it's a person... therefore 人 – Felipe Oliveira Jan 2 '17 at 2:11
  • that's just a guess though – Felipe Oliveira Jan 2 '17 at 2:14
  • The book's a hundred-ish years old so I'm assuming it's some old school use of the kanji. – his holiness Jan 2 '17 at 2:15
  • It says 他(ひと)が顫えていても so I guess the 他 is referring to the cat. – his holiness Jan 2 '17 at 2:16
  • ohhhh if it's so old it might be closer to the chinese "kanji" I guess, en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E4%BB%96 I was looking here. Soon enough, someone more informed on the matter will come and answer for sure – Felipe Oliveira Jan 2 '17 at 2:20
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This Japanese sentences are highly literary expression. These are quoted from "吾輩は猫である(夏目漱石)." Some of them are entirely not modern expression. I can't read "他" as "ひと" without the furigana.

We can't find "他(ひと)" in modern leterature. In meiji period highly sofisticated perple like 漱石 wrote this kind of expression.

Anyway I associate "他人(たにん)" with "他(ひと)."

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  • Good point; if this is from Meiji period then definitely there's some people who will still be familiar with classical Chinese. – virgil9306 Feb 12 '17 at 1:12
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「ひと」 is a literary reading of 「他」.

It means "another person", "a third person", "someone", etc.

In other words, 「他{ひと}」 here means the same thing as 「ほかの人」, 「誰{だれ}か」 or just plain 「人」.

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  • If the author meant 「ほかの人」, 「誰だれか」or「人」 then why is 台所の板の間で他が顫えていても translated as Though I’m shivering on the wooden floor in the kitchen? – his holiness Jan 2 '17 at 15:13
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    ^ @hisholiness 「一向平気な」の主語は「細君」ですよね。この文の主語は「細君」だから、「細君」から見れば猫も含めて誰でも「他の人」なので、「(細君から見て) 他人・ひと・他の人・誰かが震えてても、(細君は)一向に平気だ。」ってことです。 – Chocolate Feb 12 '17 at 2:50
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I'm not sure if everyone is misunderstanding the origin of this but in olden times Chinese was the language of literature.

The answer to this is nothing more than the person decided to use the (now archaic) way of writing it with the Chinese character. It is strange but, it makes sense if you think of it in this way.

In Japanese you could read this as

ほか

But if it were Chinese this is quite obviously just

(he/she; singular).

The meaning as you can see is different, but so it is at times when Chinese and Japanese use the same kanji.

If it were an old, old text this might make more sense but I have no idea of the original source you are referring to. @Sonny suggested this text was Meiji period, so some upper-class people might still be familiar with classical Chinese.

(More info about the Chinese character: http://dictionary.hantrainerpro.com/chinese-english/translation-ta_he.htm )

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  • tā (he/she/they) ←(細かいことをお聞きししてすみませんが)they って「他们」tāmen(か、女なら「她们」)じゃないんですかね・・・ – Chocolate Feb 12 '17 at 3:00
  • そうですね。theyなら必ず複数形とは限らないのですが、ちょっと分かりづらいので編集させていただきました・・・( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they )コメントはありがとうございました! – virgil9306 Feb 12 '17 at 4:44
  • 単数にtheyは私も使うことあります、someoneを受けるときとか、性別不明のときとか。SEプロフの固定文「Apparently, this user prefers to keep an air of mystery about them 」もそれですよね。中国語は基本的に「他=3人称単数男性、她=3人称単数女性、他们=3人称複数男性(または男性と女性)、她们=3人称複数女性」ですが、イレギュラーな用法として「他」が単数女性や複数に使われることはあるんでしょうか。日本語だと「彼」を「彼女」や「彼ら」の意味では使いませんが、中国語の場合はどこらへんまで厳密なのかな、とちょっと思ったんです。 – Chocolate Feb 13 '17 at 0:18
  • 返事はありがとうございます!そうですね。確認したところ、やはり中国語では「他」は性別不明の場合でも使えるらしいです! – virgil9306 Feb 14 '17 at 3:30
  • わ、確認してくださったんですか、わざわざすみません!ありがとうございました。:) – Chocolate Feb 14 '17 at 3:32
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There's a lot going on with the word 他{ひと} here.

First, the assigning of the reading of ひと(人) to 他 (or substitution of the kanji 他 for 人) is an instance of a creative author exercising his literary license.

Second, here, as he sometimes does elsewhere in the book, the Cat is (despite his titular/opening declaration) describing himself as 人 (person). This is not so much because this sapient feline identifies himself as a homo sapience as because the word is being used loosely, to mean not a human being but any individual being possessing person-ness, which he is.

Third, I think this 人 can said to be an indefinite noun phrase (though the Japanese lacks such marking here) having a specific and identifiable referent. Plus, this is also a case of referring to oneself in the third person. But with the word 人 it's a common practice, to which fact the presence of the eighth definition of in this dictionary attests:

8 話し手が自分を第三者のようにいう語。わたし。「人のことも少しは考えてくれよ」

So the quote may be more literally rendered: "Even when a person/man is shivering on the wooden floor of the kitchen, heartlessly she remains indifferent," where it is clear by convention and from the context that by "a person/man" the Cat himself is referred to. Hence their decision to translate the 他{ひと} as "I"

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