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特別に戦が神 (とくべつに いくさが かみ)

I think placing に after とくべつ makes it into an adverb, right? However, I'm having a lot of trouble working out whether it means 'especially' or 'specially' or just 'special'. (I occasionally see adverbs used like adjectives in Japanese.)

It would be nice if you could also explain why the adverb とくべつに is used instead of just saying とくべつな いくさ. What difference is there between the two in meaning?

Quick note: 神 means 'incredible, fantastic' in otaku (anime fan) slang. This phrase was taken from a Youtube comment. Also, this is in the context of a Pokemon battle.

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    特別に戦が神 -- Hmm.. are you sure that's written by a native Japanese speaker (or someone who really knows Japanese)? To say "especially the battle is incredible" we'd say more like [特]{とく}に[戦]{たたか}いが神 (or maybe 特に[戦]{いくさ}が神, if the 戦 is referring to a battle in 戦国時代, the age of provincial wars in Japan), not 特別に~~. – Chocolate Feb 9 at 2:35
  • @Chocolate Unfortunately I have no way of finding out if they were native or not, but thanks for your note. 'Battle' (戦/いくさ) here was referring to a Pokemon battle. I don't know if that changes things. EDIT: Oh, I'll edit that into the question as well. – kumikan Feb 9 at 14:52
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    I'm not sure if it's what easily comes out of a native speaker's mouth either. Is it uttered in isolation? Do you have context before and after? – broccoli forest Feb 10 at 2:07
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Basics

As you note, 特別【とくべつ】 followed by に would have to be an adverb. As such, "special battle" cannot be the correct interpretation of 特別【とくべつ】に戦【いくさ】: just grammatically, that would be a mistaken translation into English, and as a Japanese phrase, we know we're missing something.

So we look again at the fuller phrase, 特別【とくべつ】に戦【いくさ】が神【かみ】.

Considering the context, and that 神【かみ】 here is an adjective meaning "incredible, fantastic", we can now tell that 特別【とくべつ】に acts as a modifier on the adjective 神【かみ】, and not on the noun 戦【いくさ】.

Unpacking the meaning then, we have a 特別【とくべつ】に "especially" 神【かみ】"incredible, fantastic" 戦【いくさ】 "battle".

Deeper analysis

There's a nuance to this word order. The Japanese word order works out where the core phrase is the statement, 戦【いくさ】が神【かみ】 "the battle is incredible", and this whole statement is then modified by the 特別【とくべつ】に "especially / extraordinarily / particularly". This is a slightly different shade of meaning than if we'd said 戦【いくさ】が特別【とくべつ】に神【かみ】, which is straightforwardly "the battle is especially incredible". To preserve the nuance in English, we might use a similar word order, and translate this as "especially / extraordinarily / particularly, the battle is incredible".

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