I was reading a story on Hukumusume.

In this story, there is the following section:


I am guessing 言うではありませんか means something like "There was no word", meaning the subject was speechless. Is this correct?


「~ではありませんか。」 in narrative is a kind of rhetorical device for a dramatic effect. It's often used in children's stories, folk tales etc. (昔話, 童話 etc.) to present an unexpected event or express a character's surprise.

Your example could be written this way, in a regular, normal narrative...


... but writing this as 「...と、言うではありませんか。」 makes this event look more surprising and unexpected. It's often preceded by phrases like 「なんと、~~」 "Surprisingly, ~~", 「すると、どうでしょう。」 "Lo and behold!" etc.


  • 「川上から大きな桃が、どんぶらこ、どんぶらこと流れて来るではありませんか。」(桃太郎)
  • 「おじいさんは不思議に思い、その竹を切ってみたところ、なんと中には小さな小さな女の子が入っているではありませんか。」(かぐや姫)
  • すると、どうでしょう。あなのなかから、ふしぎなうたがきこえてくるではありませんか。」(おむすびころりん)
  • 1
    Can alternate forms (言うじゃないですか, etc) have the same rhetorical meaning, or is it limited to 言うではありませんか? – Darius Jahandarie Feb 1 at 14:37
  • 3
    そうですね・・ Yes, 「V+じゃないですか。」「V+じゃないか。」etc. can be a rhetorical question (i.e. its actual meaning is affirmative), and can have the same rhetorical meaning (i.e. show surprise or unexpectedness). But in narrative of 昔話, 童話, 絵本, I've only seen the form 「V+ではありませんか。」 In narrative of 小説, I think I've also seen 「V+ではないか。」 – Chocolate Feb 1 at 16:13

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