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Another long one! Here we go:

I'm wondering what the different nuance is between these four constructions, all equating to "whether or not":

1. volitional + か + plain+まい + か: 買おう買うまいか迷っているところ。 I'm still in two minds as to whether or not I'll buy it.

2. volitional + が + plain+まい + が: 買おう買うまいが、私の知ったことじゃない。 Whether or not [you/he/she/they] buy(s) it is not my concern/ none of my business.

3. plain + か + plain neg + か: 家を買う買わない迷っている人に向けて... With regards to people who are looking towards whether or not to buy a house...

4. plain + のか + plain neg + のか: 買うのか買わないのかはっきりしなさい。 Be clear about whether or not you're buying it.

Regarding examples #1 and #2, I've read different things regarding ~まい: that it expresses intention; that it's mainly reserved for written language; that it's equivalent to the English "shall not" (I've never used "shall (not)" myself, though, and don't know the distinction between it and "will (not)" except that it's more formal); that the entailment is weaker than ~ません. At this present moment, I can't say I'm managing to get a grasp on it, frankly. The first example certainly doesn't show any intention (although this may be due to the translation, which might be closer to "I'm still undecided as to whether or not I intend to buy it", and of course this would sound unnecessarily wordy in English).

The use of が is glossed over (in the text I took the example from), except that it has connotations of things being implacable. Therefore, #3 could imply that, for example, the speaker is unable to change the outcome of whether or not her son decides to buy an expensive car; he's so headstrong that he does what he wants, and she's given up trying to intervene?

Regarding examples #3 and #4, I know that the construction in #3 clearly equates to "to buy or not to buy", and that the addition of の (as per example #4) turns the construction into one of "(do)ing or not (do)ing" something. The fourth example given is more forceful than the other three, however I'm unsure whether that's due to it being in effect a command, as opposed to the construction itself having more emphatic connotations.

I've read that the fourth example connotes waiting for someone else to make a decision (makes sense, given the example itself), whereas the third focuses on the decision itself.

Am I correct so far? If not, corrections are welcome.

  • Your “#3 could imply that” after “being implacable” seems “#2 could imply that”. – user25382 Dec 11 '17 at 0:33
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    For #1 it might be more common to use 買おうかどうか迷っている... – Chocolate Dec 11 '17 at 0:44
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    For #3 it might be also common to use 買うかどうか迷っている... – mackygoo Dec 11 '17 at 2:08
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    #2 is different in meaning, and probably in grammar too, from the other three, no? 「~おうが~まいが」(or 「~おうと~まいと」) is "Whether or not" in the sense of " Regardless of whether or not", and it's an adverbial clause, whereas the others are noun clauses, right? – Chocolate Dec 12 '17 at 6:45
  • @Chocolate That makes sense, thanks. I have to admit, however, I'm not that good with clauses, so I'm not sure what type of clause any of them are. – oh no the klaxons Dec 12 '17 at 8:14
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English

I think that difference in nuances of the expressions presented by the questioner can be understood more by the possible remarks following each of them. I'll show some examples of remarks that may follow each expression. (note: A and B indicate those who are speaking, and A1, A2, ... indicate that there are several possoble remarkes by A.) After showing the examples of remarks, I'm going to explain the nuance of each of them.

  1. B: 買おうか買うまいか迷っているところ。
    A1: どれ?
    A2: 相談に乗ってあげようか?
    A3: 似合うんじゃない?
    【Nuance】B is a sociable person. Especially, B is on good terms with A. B can decide whether to buy it or not by himself / herself to some extent, but B is relieved more if he/she gets consent of others. You can see people who behave like B everwhere in Japan.

  2. A: 買おうが買うまいが、私の知ったことじゃない。
    B: (怒った顔で) そんな風に言うことないじゃないか。
    【Nuance】 B who makes a decision whether to buy it or not is a person who can decide by himself without hesitating the purchase itself. However, B seems like a type of person who wants to boast his/her behavior to others. Also, A does not feel comfortable with such personality of B from usual, so A seems to be on bad terms with B.

  3. 家を買うか買わないか迷っている人に向けて
    A1: 何かお金以外で心配ごとでもあるの?
    A2: 大きな買い物なんだから急ぐことはない。納得するまでもっと考えたら?
    【Nuance】This is a common expression. It is more commonly said as "家を買うかどうか迷っている人に向けて". B who makes the decision whether to buy the house or not could not be said a person of indecisive because to buy a house is a very big shopping for everyone including B. I don't know whether B is indecisive in ordinary shopping based only on this context. B seems indecisive this time may be due to the circumstances of the company B works for or maybe because B is considering conditions other than the house itself, such as his parents living apart.

  4. A: 買うのか買わないのかはっきりしなさい。
    A1: あんたはいつもそうなんだから。
    B1: .... 。
    A2: 私が選んであげる。
    B2: うん... 。
    【Nuance】B is a wimp and couldn't decide anything including the purchase this time. On second thought, B may be a child and A is the mother.

日本語

ニュアンスの違いは、質問者が提示して表現に続く発言で更にはっきりするのではないでしょうか。 以下に、後続しそうな発言の例を示します。(AとBとは違う人の発言です。また、A1, A2とあるのは、Aの人の発言にいくつかの候補があることを示します。) 発言例のあとに、「買う/買わない」に対するニュアンスを解説します。

  1. B: 買おうか買うまいか迷っているところ。
    A1: どれ?
    A2: 相談に乗ってあげようか?
    A3: 似合うんじゃない?
    【ニュアンス】Bさんは人づきあいの良い人。特にAさんとは仲が良い。「買う/買わない」はある程度自分で決められるが他人の同意があると安心する。日本人には普通にあるタイプ。

  2. A: 買おうが買うまいが、私の知ったことじゃない。
    B: (怒った顔で) そんな風に言うことないじゃないか。
    【ニュアンス】「買う/買わない」の判断をするBさんは購入そのものには迷いはなく自分で決められる人。しかし、自分の行動を他人に吹聴したいタイプの人のようにも見える。また、AさんはBさんのそのような性格を普段から快く思ってなく、仲が悪いようにも見える。

  3. 家を買うか買わないか迷っている人に向けて
    A1: 何かお金以外で心配ごとでもあるの?
    A2: 大きな買い物なんだから急ぐことはない。納得するまでもっと考えたら?
    【ニュアンス】一番普通の表現。「買う/買わない」の判断をするBさんは優柔不断なのではなく、一生に一度の大きな買い物なので簡単に判断できないだけかもしれない。この文からは、Bさんが普通の買物で迷うタイプの人かどうかは分からないが多分自分で普通に決められるだろうと思う。今回Bさんが迷っているのは、会社の都合で自分が転勤するかもしれない、あるいは、離れて暮らしている両親のことなど、家そのもの以外の条件を考慮しているからかもしれない。

  4. A: 買うのか買わないのかはっきりしなさい。
    A1: あんたはいつもそうなんだから。
    B1: .... 。
    A2: 私が選んであげる。
    B2: うん... 。
    【ニュアンス】Bさんは意思が弱く自分での「買う/買わない」の判断が容易にできない情けない人。あるいはBさんは子供かもしれない。

  • (at mackygoo; I'm unable to tag you, sorry) Many thanks for the comprehensive reply. I think I understand what you're saying, but I just want to make sure. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? – oh no the klaxons Dec 12 '17 at 12:18
  • @oh no the klaxons: >Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? No. – mackygoo Dec 13 '17 at 4:46
  • (at mackygoo) So, questions 1 and 3 are speculative, but more or less neutral in emotion; whereas questions 2 and 4 are evidently not? Are the emotive nuances governed by the constructions used, or is it as much or more to do with the predicate? If #1 and #3, in which you and Chocolate suggested かどうか could be used, would retain the same sentiment regardless, what about #2 and #4? I could be mistaken, but it certainly seems that the censure in #2 and #4 is expressed more in the predicate. – oh no the klaxons Dec 15 '17 at 12:57
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    @oh no the klaxons: (1) >So, questions 1 & 3 are speculative, but... in emotion; whereas questions 2 and 4 are evidently not? : Yes. (2) >Are the emotive nuances governed by the constructions used, or is it ... to do with the predicate? : #1 & #3 by the constructions, #2 & #4 with the predicate (3) > ..., would retain the same sentiment regardless, what about #2 and #4? : You can use かどうか in #4 as "買うの かどうか はっきりしなさい" or "買うのかどうなのかはっきりしなさい" with retaining the same sentiment, but you can't use かどうか in #2 because #2 seems like a set phrase. (4) >it certainly seems... in the predicate: yes – mackygoo Dec 15 '17 at 13:58
  • (at mackgoo) どうもありがとうございました! – oh no the klaxons Dec 15 '17 at 16:25

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