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If its original meaning is "that kind of", which is what I think it is, why is it used to say "it can't be"? Is that the same word or is it just a coincidence?

  • If you want this reopened, could you edit the title and the content accordingly, so that it doesn't look like a duplicate? – naruto Mar 3 '17 at 22:08
  • I think this was already answered in kabichan's answer (and Nothing at all's comment) on the "duplicate"... – Earthliŋ Mar 4 '17 at 6:22
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It is the same word used differently.

The "dictionary" meaning of 「そんな」 is "that kind of", "such (a)", etc. as you stated.

When 「そんな」 (very often pronounced 「そんなあ」 for this) is used as an expression on its own as in a reply or reaction to a statement, it can correctly be translated as "It can't be!", "I don't believe this!", "Oh, no!", etc.

But why, you wonder. That is because when we say 「そんなあ」 as a reaction, what we actually mean is "It can't be like that!", "I don't believe something like that!", etc.

In other words, you could say that the expression is the extremely shortened form of sentences such as:

そんなこと、信{しん}じられない!」 ("I can't believe something like that!")

そんなこと言{い}われても困{こま}る。」 ("I'm troubled by a statement like that.")

そんなこと言わないでよ。」 ("Please don't say something like that!")

By not saying the rest of the sentence, we can maintain our national obsession for ambiguity. Just kiddin'. Among us, 「そんなあ」 is a long enough sentence. It conveys exactly what we mean to say. We do not need to add the words when the native speaker listener/reader is already actually "hearing or seeing" them quite clearly.

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