4

の can be used as a noun with a relative clause in what appears to be two separate situations.

  1. Referring to a thing or person, e.g. '来たのは田中です。' ('The one who came is Tanaka.')

  2. Nominalizing a verb (as does こと), e.g. '田中が来たのを見た。' ('I saw that Tanaka came.') This can be interpreted as 'the fact that...' or 'the event that...'. (This is probably what gave rise to のに and ので.)

How close are these grammatically and historically? For instance, two instances of the same bit of grammar, or superficially similar but really coming from quite different places?

  • There’s a good paper on this, “The early history of no as a nominaliser” by Janick Wrona. Unfortunately it no longer seems to be available online and I didn’t save a copy. (Maybe @snailboat has a copy?) – Darius Jahandarie Jan 27 at 17:48
2

I think you're getting confused by the differences in the English translations. The function of nominalizing の in both of your examples is identical: it nominalizes the preceding verbal phrase.

English requires various coordinating pieces to connect phrases, things like "that" and "the one who". The の works a bit like these coordinating pieces in English.

This use of の might become more clear by mixing things up a bit and generating more examples.

  • 来たのは田中です。
    • Came [NOM] [TOP] Tanaka [COPULA] → The came is Tanaka → The one who came is Tanaka
  • 田中が来たのを見た。
    • Tanaka [SUB] came [NOM] [OBJ] saw → [I] saw [that] Tanaka came
  • 遅く来たのは問題なかった。
    • Late came [NOM] [TOP] problem wasn't → It wasn't a problem [that] [someone] came late
  • アプリを開かずに通知が来たのが分かるように設定する
    • Application [OBJ] not opening [INSTRUMENTAL] notification [SUB] came [NOM] [SUB] understand way [INSTRUMENTAL] setting do → Configuring [so that] [you] know [that] a notification has come without opening the application
  • In examples 2, 3 and 4, の plays no part in the relative clause (田中が来た, 遅く来た and 通知が来た are self-contained). In 1, on the other hand, の is the subject of 来た (人が来た -> 来た人 -> 来たの): I am not sure this can really be called nominalization. – Mathieu Bouville Jan 29 at 9:59
  • @MathieuBouville: I'm not sure we're understanding each other. Japanese doesn't have relative clauses, not like in English. However, as a vague analog, the nominalizing の aligns roughly with the "that" used to coordinate relative clauses in English. Even in the first example, the の aligns with the "who" or "that" that you'd use in a translation such as, "the person (who | that) came". Note that the word order changes in English so the coordinating piece separates the subject from the verb -- however, this is purely due to the differences in structure between English and Japanese. – Eiríkr Útlendi Jan 29 at 22:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.