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The position of 「なんか」 in a sentence to emphasize a feeling got me mixed up. I've seen this placed in two different ways, however I don't know if there is any difference. Here there are two examples:

あなたなんか失いたくない。(I DON’T want to lose you.)

カラオケなんか行きたくない。(I DON’T wanna go to a karaoke.)

And here 「なんか」is placed at the end.

あなたを失いたくなんかない。(I DON’T want to lose you.)

カラオケに行きたくなんかない。(I DON’T wanna go to a karaoke.)

Is there any difference in nuance? And, is it possible to use なんか at the end of a sentence with another verb with another tense/form other than たくない ? All the sentences I read that had なんか at the end meant "to not want to do sth".

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The function of なんか is to express a negative feeling towards the word immediately preceding it. It indicates a dismissive sentiment that the preceding word is worthless or undesirable.

So in the case of カラオケに行きたくない it makes sense to place it in either of the locations you've mentioned, because both karaoke itself (カラオケなんか) and the desire to go there (行きたくなんか) are undesirable in the speaker's opinion.

However in the case of あなたを失いたくない, it only makes sense to put it in the second position あなたを失いたくなんかない. This is because while "wanting to lose you" is an undesirable notion that can be vehemently dismissed, "you" is not. あなたなんか失いたくない would mean something like "I don't want to lose someone as worthless as you", which doesn't make much sense.

For the same reason, you won't usually see this なんか attached to a non-negative construction - because it's dismissive, it's only really natural to use it when you're negating the attached word. Additionally, I don't think なんか can be attached to actual verbs, only nouns and adjectival/adverbal constructions, so it doesn't attach easily to positive constructions in a grammatical sense either.

The related なんて, which can convey essentially the same sentiment, attaches more easily to verbs and positive adjectives, but again since it's dismissive it's not commonly used without some kind of negation (eg. カラオケに行きたいなんて思わない。 or カラオケに行くなんてごめんだ。) When it is used in positive constructions, it usually expresses an implied disbelief (eg. 彼がカラオケに行くなんて… is positive on the surface, but there's an implied ありえない or 信じられない or 馬鹿げている etc.)

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  • Thank you very much for your answer! Now it's much clearer! However, you said that you don't think なんか can be attached to actual verbs, but however the the examples 行きたくなんかない and 失いたくなんかない are verbs ( 行きたくない and 失いたくない respectively ). That's why I wonder if there were some other cases were you can find somehow なんか or なんて with verbs. – Dante404 Sep 11 '17 at 21:48
  • 行きたい and 失いたい are conjugations of verbs, but grammatically speaking the ~たい form is an adjectival construction, and in the negative 行きたくない/失いたくない it's further conjugated into the ~たく adverbal form (which is why it can connect to なんか here). Ordinary verbs and positive adjectives don't contain an adverbal form like this, so if you wanted to attach なんか you'd have to nominalise them or something (eg. 行くなんか doesn't really work grammatically, but you could make it work as 行くことなんか) – Ben Roffey Sep 12 '17 at 8:39

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