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I have tried to create a sentence wherein a noun is modified by both a clause and の marked noun, but found it to be difficult with my current understanding:

Intended sentence: I stole the king’s treasure that the warrior hid.

王の戦士が隠した宝を奪った = I stole the treasure that the king's warrior hid. (warrior is modified instead of treasure)

戦士が隠した王の宝を奪った = I stole the treasure of the king who the warrior hid. (king is modified instead of treasure)

I expect the second sentence to be closest to the intended meaning, I suppose it may be as ambiguous as if it was phrased in English as: “I stole the treasure of the king that the warrior hid.”? I would say that what the clause in this sentence is modifying is up to interpretation in English, however, in Japanese...

  1. Is it possible for modifying clauses to not be modifying the noun directly following it?
  2. Are modifying clauses able to bypass a の marked noun and directly describe the noun after it?
  3. Would doing so always be ambiguous?
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You can use 戦士が隠した王の宝を奪った. Technically, it is indeed ambiguous:

戦士が隠した王の宝を奪った。

  1. I stole the treasure of the king which the warrior hid.
  2. I stole the treasure of the king who the warrior hid.

Practically, however, the verb 隠す tends to be connected with a noun which is usually hidden, which is 宝 in this sentence. Almost everyone would take this sentence as 1 even if there is no context.


  1. Is it possible for modifying clauses to not be modifying the noun directly following it?

Yes, and the context and your "common sense" is often the only key to disambiguate. English has many similar examples, but the situation is a little worse in Japanese, because Japanese is a strictly head-final language. This means if there are two noun modifiers, both must come before the noun.

  1. Are modifying clauses able to bypass a の marked noun and directly describe the noun after it?

Yes, and the same is true in English. For example, in "the price of lunch I paid", the relative clause "I paid" is modifying "price", bypassing another modifier ("of lunch"). But you don't think this is an ambiguous phrase, and it's because you know "lunch" is not something you can "pay".

  1. Would doing so always be ambiguous?

No. We all know which verb is typically used with which noun. For more examples, please see this question: Are Japanese modifiers "greedy", "anti-greedy", or do they mean whatever people choose them to mean?

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  • Could the sentence also mean "The warrior stole the treasure of the hidden king" or "The warrior stole the king's hidden treasure"? – Mauro yesterday
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    @Mauro "hidden king" is 隠された王, not 隠した王. – naruto yesterday
  • thanks; wouldn't that mean something like "the king who was hidden [by someone]"? I was thinking about the king hiding himself, like there is a king who is hiding (maybe in exile?) and he has a treasure. (Note: just to be sure you didn't miss it, I made an edit to my comment while you were answering, which I think is already answered by your reply, but just making sure.) – Mauro yesterday
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    @Mauro If a king hid himself, that's 隠れた王. 隠した王 never refers to that. – naruto yesterday

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