3

What is the significance of the usage of の in these nominals?

  1. 東京からの手紙

  2. 東京から手紙

The latter is how I was taught to formulate this nominal form, but I came across a source that uses the first form. I'm unsure if there is nuance I am missing, or if these are just different ways of saying the same thing.

EDIT: This is from the textbook ("Basic Connections: Making Your Japanese Flow", pg. 21) which brought this to my attention:

"When の follows a noun and a particle, it is generally not translated. Note that a phrase with a particle or with a -て form is considered to be a noun phrase."

I don't know from the examples how the -て form factors into this, as it only uses から, まで and へ.

Thank you!

  • I apologize for that. This is from the textbook which brought this to my attention: "When の follows a noun and a particle, it is generally not translated. Note that a phrase with a particle or with a -て form is considered to be a noun phrase." I don't know from the examples how the -て form factors into this, as it only uses から, まで and え. – Michael Allen Jun 15 '17 at 20:51
  • Related (or duplicate?) japanese.stackexchange.com/q/27363/9831 – Chocolate Jun 15 '17 at 22:50
  • in these clauses -- but your book says "a phrase with a particle ... is considered to be a noun phrase." – Chocolate Jun 15 '17 at 22:54
  • Sorry for the confusion! – Michael Allen Jun 15 '17 at 23:51
5

Why the の is not translated has more to do with English grammar than Japanese grammar.

Consider the following two sentences in Japanese:

(A) 友達から手紙はぬすまれた。

(B) 友達からの手紙はぬすまれた。

The first one can be translated "The letter was stolen from my friend".

The second one can be translated "The letter from my friend was stolen."

The の allows 友達から to modify 手紙, otherwise there is nothing to connect the two--essentially 友達からの is a relative clause modifying 手紙. Without the の, 友達から cannot be construed as modifying 手紙.

In English we can get away with saying "The letter from my friend" and everyone understands that we mean "The letter which is from my friend". If you speak (or read) French, you'll be aware of the degree of parsimony English can get away with and expect to still be understood. Similarly in Japanese, if we want a prepositional phrase to modify a noun, we have to create a relative clause. (I wrote prepositional phrase in italics because I think it's a bad idea to conflate Japanese particles with prepositions in English; they don't really behave the same way though they are often similar.)

1

I'm curious where or from whom you learned that 東京から手紙 is the nominal form of this phrase, as から alone does not function to do that. Which is to say, there is actually a significant distinction between the two phrases. Specifically, 東京から手紙 (the/a letter from Tokyo) is a noun phrase, whereas 東京から手紙 (From Tokyo a letter...) is a prepositional phrase and thus needs a verb (and possibly a subject) for it to make any sense.

So while you can say:

これは東京からの手紙です。 This is a letter from Tokyo.

You cannot say:

これは東京から手紙です。

Again, this is because から does not produce the nominal form. The correct usage would be in conjunction with a verb as follows:

東京から手紙が来ました/届きました。A letter came/arrived from Tokyo.

Of course, you can use the nominal form to say basically the same thing:

東京からの手紙が届きました。A letter from Tokyo arrived. (Same meaning but with a slight nuance)

So in short, the two phrases are not, in fact, interchangeable.

  • I would say that の isn't nominalizing anything (if it were, you'd have two bare nouns up against each other which wouldn't be proper Japanese). Here, の is acting more like the copula だ whose form has been changed to make it a relative clause. – A.Ellett Jun 15 '17 at 22:51
  • You're right. I was confusing nominal form with nominalization. Will edit my post to reflect that. Thanks. – TFlo83 Jun 15 '17 at 23:23
-1

There are several interpretations for the の particle. Here, the の particle plays the role of issuing correspondence. Oftentimes we can say that it demonstrates correspondence by belonging, but in this case we can also say that it demonstrates correspondence by origin.

友達{ともだち}の本{ほん} = My friend's book
Conceptually speaking: "The book that belongs to my friend"
or in other words: "The book that corresponds to my friend"

With this kind of contextualization, think of the English pattern "The X that corresponds with/came from/belongs to" and it should make sense why that works. If what precedes it is treated as a (thing/complete thought) "noun":

東京{とうきょう}からの手紙{てがみ} = The letter from Tokyo
盗{ぬす}んだ宝石{ほうせき}の泥棒{どろぼう} = The burglar that stole the jewels
魚{さかな}が嫌{きら}いの猫{ねこ} = The cat that dislikes fish
自由{じゆう}への旅{たび}立{だ}ち = The journey (that is) towards freedom

  • 2
    盗んだ宝石の泥棒 -> なんか不自然ですよね・・普通は「宝石を盗んだ泥棒」とか・・・(「宝石泥棒」でもいいかも)魚が嫌いの猫 -> 「魚が嫌い猫」では?(もしくは「魚[嫌]{ぎら}いの猫」) – Chocolate Jun 16 '17 at 7:36

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