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I've seen this expression multiple times either attached to a longer sentence or by itself.

For example:

  1. A: ねー、もっときれいに書いてください。これなんて書いてあるんですか B:あー、なんでしょう。。。. 私も読めません.

  2. 恵那:(After seeing よつば fiddling with the swingset) なにしてんだろう。。。

My questions are:

What does this term mean? Does it have multiple meanings? When is it commonly used? How does it differ from similar expressions?

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The ん in your two examples are different, the first being part 何 while the second is a contraction of の, but the general meaning of だろう・でしょう is the same in both. If だろう or でしょう is paired with a question word or followed immediately by か, it's basically a way of asking a somewhat self-directed question, like 'I wonder ...' (Note that they can also mean that without either of those things sometimes.)

In your first example A says, 'Hey, you should write a little more neatly. What does this say?' B replies, 'I wonder ... I can't read it either.' (Okay, I meant to write this earlier, but maybe B wasn't the one she was directly talking to? Seems a little weird that B wouldn't know what B themselves wrote, but then again my own handwriting is messy enough that I have trouble reading it sometimes. Dyspraxia is annoying)

In your second Ena says 'I wonder what she's doing ...' (Sequences like るんだ, るな sometimes contract to んだ, んな)

I am very tired writing this, so please forgive any messiness or typos.

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  • I have just one follow-up question. How does the meaning of "I wonder..." in this term differ from the meaning of かな which also translates to "I wonder...?"
    – Oaf
    Jan 25, 2020 at 6:10
  • @Oaf Not by too much, I don't think. I'm not a native speaker, and I think you'd need to ask one about the finer nuances. One thing of note, though, is that でしょうか is sometimes used to make a question politer (like ご覧いただけましたでしょうか?), and I don't believe かな can be used for this meaning.
    – Angelos
    Jan 25, 2020 at 6:25

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