2

よだかは口を大きくひらいて、はねをまっすぐに張って、まるで矢のようにそらをよこぎりました。
からだがつちにつくつかないうちに、よだかはひらりまたそらへはねあがりました。

I'm having trouble parsing that 2nd sentence especially the usage of the bolded か , うちに and と.


Right now, I'm reading the as "or" (the same way it's used when listing nouns) but I don't know if that's grammatically correct. I'm also reading うちに as "while" and とまた as "and again", which makes my current reading:

Yodaka opened his mouth wide, spread his wings straight back and moved through the sky like an arrow.
While his body was colliding or not colliding with the ground, Yodaka again nimbly flew up toward the sky.


EDIT:
I've done some reading on SE, and it seems that:

  1. うちに does mean "while", See: Difference between うちに and うちから.
  2. The is with ひらり as the adverb's particle, See: <adv> versus <adv>+と versus <adv>+に
  3. And (most importantly) both and うちに are part of a set grammatical structure as answered below.
  • 1
    It's not "とまた" but "ひらりと" meaning: Nimbly / Lightly. I think you maybe parsed that bit wrong? – Archie Feb 28 '18 at 21:52
  • Ah, I see on Jisho ひらり is described as an "Adverb taking the と particle". That's not something I've seen yet. After reading through SE, I gather that the adverbs that do NOT come from adjectives may take と or nothing as a particle. And the と is just for nuance, it draws focus to the adverb but otherwise has no actual meaning. Is that correct? – Hyperglyph Feb 28 '18 at 22:18
2

VかVないかのうちに (or VかVないうちに) is a set grammatical construction.

It means here the moment where it's not clear whether he hit the ground or not because it happened so fast.

So it's "at the very instant he hit the ground, he bounded back up into the sky"

(see http://japanesetest4you.com/flashcard/learn-jlpt-n2-grammar-%E3%81%8B%EF%BD%9E%E3%81%AA%E3%81%84%E3%81%AE%E3%81%86%E3%81%A1%E3%81%AB-kanai-no-uchi-ni/ for instance).

  • So the か in this case is essentially an "or". Would it be grammatically correct to say that か can be used as an "or" between verbs and not just nouns? (Also, does your structure have a typo? The link shows VかVないかうち or VかVないうち with no 2nd か) – Hyperglyph Feb 28 '18 at 22:27
  • I believe that the bird was at the moment (うち) of either hitting or not hitting the ground, so 'about to hit the ground' or 'before hitting the ground' would be my suggestion. ないうちに= before (an undesirable thing occurs). – user27280 Mar 1 '18 at 0:04

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