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So I'm translating this song (full lyrics here) and this song has a lot of phrases like this:

哲学哲学哲学ニート
揺れる幻に酔いしれて

Philosophy, philosophy, philosophy NEET
(I'm) intoxicated in the swaying illusion

I'm not sure, however, if the first and second sentences are supposed to be connected with an inferred particle, i.e. "Philosophy, philosophy NEETs are intoxicated in a swaying illusion."

This patterns repeats, and most times it seems unclear, although at the end there is this phrase:

ああ哲学哲学哲学ニート
僕は迷い込んだ幻想ゆめの中

Here, it seems more like the first line is separate from the first, but I don't know if that's a sign that ALL of the lines should be like that, or if it's just this one - or perhaps this could be connected also, with both the NEETs and "I" being the subject.

So my question is this: Are these lines connected, gramatically? How can you tell if they are or not?

Thank you!

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This is actually a common thing in Japanese songs. I've even asked multiple Japanese people over the years about whether certain lines in songs are connected and they themselves tell me "I don't know." I've also been told that "maybe the lyricist wrote it to be vague on purpose so you can make your own interpretation". I've been learning Japanese 10 years and now when I come across lyrics like those, I usually ignore them (relative clauses are the worst).

Personally I think it's connected just because it makes the most sense that way to me, and also because the other lines like that also seem to be connected. I think you should not think about it too hard.

I'd love to hear what the natives here have to say though.

  • Thanks! Yeah this seems very common, I've come across this a lot and it never fails to confuse me. I think I just keep it vague and use translation notes to comment with multiple interpretations. – Smoothie Dec 22 '17 at 0:47
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I think the passage is nonsensical if you are trying to do rigor grammatical analysis. I am not sure the melody is at first or the lyrics is at first. Probably Miku Hatsune sings mysteriously with this floating lyrics.

Rather than ニート who is used for explaining non-motivational people, I think ニート here is used to explain non-productive, non-sensical, unpredictable aspect of philosophizing comparing to rational things, say science, which is seen as productive, sensical, predictable. But they can’t stop being indulgent in swaying illusion which probably is philosophizing.

As in the other answer, it’s a bit dadaistic and hard to get the meaning. Therefore, you might enjoy the atomosphere itself.

  • Okay, thank you! That makes sense - it seemed to me, from the song, that NEET was an idea more than a person, despite the definition. I'll just keep the translation vague like the lyrics. – Smoothie Dec 22 '17 at 0:49
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From looking over the lyrics, it sounds like the subject is someone else and likely one person. The song is about this person, who is a Philosophy NEET, which is the truly ambiguous part. How do you define a Philosophy NEET?

A good portion of the rest of this answer will be rooted in some opinion.

From my take, a Philosophy NEET I dissect to be a specific kind of NEET. Defining NEET first as Not in Education, Employment, or Training, and the fact that a common typing (mostly true of English but sometimes true of Japanese as well) of (object)+(subject), means that the subject is a sort of fan, maniac, otaku, or the like, of object. So, in this case, the NEET is a fan of philosophy, and is probably a philosophical thinker, however the person is also a NEET. Therefore, Philosophy NEET.

If you consider the repetition and the fact that it is the first sentence in the chorus for the song, it can be construed that Philosophy NEET is what the singer is calling this person. And so, she is calling a thing by its name.

So in the case of the first example you gave, I might render it as:

哲学哲学哲学ニート
(Hey,) (Philosophy-philosophy-)Philosophy NEET

揺れる幻に酔いしれて
(You're) drunk on a swaying illusion

As for the sentence where you're having confusion:

ああ哲学哲学哲学ニート
(Hey,) (Philosophy-philosophy-)Philosophy NEET

僕は迷い込んだ幻想{ゆめ}の中
I'm within an astray illusion*

  • Note the Kanji used spells illusion, and is commonly read 幻想{げんそう}, but here it is read ゆめ which is normally spelled 夢 and means dream. This is a form of parallelism.

This sounds to me like the singer is becoming influenced by the Philosophy NEET. Compare this line with a similar line earlier in the song. First she sings, towards the beginning:

君は迷い込んだ夢{ゆめ}の中
You're within an astray dream**

  • Note the Kanji used actually spells dream in its normal spelling.

So, the subject never changes as being someone else, the Philosophy NEET. The one line where the singer talks about herself is telling the subject what's happening to her.

EDIT: Forgot to mention. I consider each of these one sentence, but two separate expressions. As in, not "Philosophy NEET is drunk on a swaying illusion," for example, but "Philosophy NEET, you're drunk on a swaying illusion".

  • As in your explanation, ニート may be interpreted as a person who is engaged in their hobbies rather than social categorization "NEET”. Kind of bohemian. – user25382 Dec 22 '17 at 0:07
  • Thanks for your explanation! I think I'll just keep it a little more vague, like "Philosophy NEET, drunk on a swaying illusion," so it can encompass multiple interpretations. Thank you! – Smoothie Dec 22 '17 at 0:46

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