Example sentence to illustrate the question:

抑えられない幸せにしたい気持ち can either be understood as (抑えられない幸せ)にしたい気持ち or (抑えられない幸せにしたい)気持ち

Is there a way to disambiguate what the speaker is trying to imply? In other words, if someone tells me that, how do I know which meaning the speaker is trying to imply?

  • This is a problem I've been unable to surmount when listening to Japanese music. I have no problem understanding the meaning in speech or writing, but lyrics are much more difficult due to no context, altering grammar rules to fit the flow, and unnatural pausing between words. :/ Jul 21, 2020 at 21:47

1 Answer 1

  1. [抑えられない幸せ]にしたい気持ち
  2. 抑えられない[幸せにしたい]気持ち

These two are distinguishable in speech, because when you mean #1, you are going to say the whole phrase in a single intonation block, but #2 will be two: 抑えられない/幸せにしたい気持ち, reflecting the structure that two chunks being parallel modifiers of the last noun.

If written, it is ambiguous in theory. I said "in theory" because most people would parse it in #2 if you showed them the line.

幸せ works both as a na-adjective and a noun. Na-adjective is basically a noun in form except limited particle connection, using な to modify nouns, and being adjective in meaning. If you parse like #1 i.e. 抑えられない modifies 幸せ, 幸せ needs to be a noun because adjective can only modify a noun with the dictionary form. As a result, it means:

(1') a feeling that [I] want to turn [something else] into an irresistible happiness

If #2, 幸せにしたい has no modifier and would be either na-adjective or noun, but na-adjective by default. Then it means:

(2') an irresistible feeling that [I] want to make [somebody else] happy

Which is a likelier situation? :)

  • Thanks for the explanation. Maybe it's just me, but I still don't see which is the likelier situation assuming commas are not used. For example, 抑えられない、幸せにしたい気持ち would have the meaning as in #,2, whereas 抑えられない幸せ、にしたい気持ち would have the meaning as in #1. But just writing out 抑えられない幸せにしたい気持ち, it could still mean either since 幸せ can act as a noun
    – Newbie
    Jul 21, 2020 at 22:39
  • @Newbie Yes grammatically definitely ambiguous, so this is strictly speaking context dependent. But I don't believe altering something into a happiness is a common thing outside... some alchemical context. Jul 22, 2020 at 0:39
  • @naruto Thank you for collocational explanation. But I think the paramount problem is that it can't even be parsed as "make one irresistibly happy" (would be 抑えきれないほど/くらい幸せにする) because it is a 連体形の形容詞. Jul 22, 2020 at 1:03
  • そもそも「君を少しの幸せにした」とか「彼を多大な幸せにする」とも言えないってことですよね。確かにそっちの方が重要ですね…いったん消してもうすこし考えます
    – naruto
    Jul 22, 2020 at 1:10
  • @Newbie Maybe it's my English that was bad, but when I said "turn ... into a happiness" I didn't intend any figure of speech to mean "make someone into a happy state" but what it literally means. If you put "you" in the object slot, it'd mean transforming a human into a happiness, somehow. Jul 22, 2020 at 1:11

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