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Two instances where I noticed an "inanimate" object being the agent that I can't quite make sense of - I hope both sentences are related to the question:

goo dictionary entry for 侍る

[動ラ五(四)]《「はべ(侍)り」が「侍 (じ) す」の意に意識されて意味の変化したもの》身分の高い人のそばに付き従っている。かしこまってその席などにいる。「芸妓を―・らせる」

I'm not a 100% sure how I would put the bracketed part into good English but I believe it's essentially saying that the meaning of「侍 (じ) す」influenced the meaning of 侍る, i.e. people consciously had the meaning of じす in their head when thinking of 侍る? What I don't understand is why it's 意に意識される instead of something like じすの意を意識して. Why is the word the agent of the passive form here?

Which made me think of this sentence I've seen before but couldn't quite figure out either (the description of a rather small sword in a game):

とある戦士が百獣の王をモチーフに作らせた剣。その様相はまるで人々からの視線に気づかないかのように狭く短い。

It's as if its shape is deliberately short and narrow so as to go unnoticed by people. is what I can come up with on the spot. Why not 気づかれない? Why is the sword's shape "not noticing the people"? How does that make sense? Could that just simply be a typo or is this a legit way of expressing that idea?

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「はべ(侍)り」が「侍 (じ) す」の意に意識されて意味の変化したもの

In this sentence, に does not stand for the demoted subject in passive, but an original に argument.

「はべり」を「じす」の意に意識する
("conceive はべり as the meaning of じす")

→「はべり」が「じす」の意に意識される

For more advanced discussion, this is not a "passive" (受身) but "spontaneous" (自発) sense of -れる. This usage is typically seen with mental verbs to mean that some idea "naturally" occurs to someone. In this context we can translate it like:

Into which haberi's meaning changed, having been susceptible to association with jisu


とある戦士が百獣の王をモチーフに作らせた剣。その様相はまるで人々からの視線に気づかないかのように狭く短い。

The passage is almost apparent to me as an instance of personification (or lion-ification; 百獣の王 is a fixed epithet for lions). Isn't the weapon decorated with a lion's face or something? Then the description treats this sword as a real lion, which is animate.

Edit: Okay, I overlooked a question in the last paragraph...

その様相はまるで人々からの視線に気づかないかのように狭く短い。

should be understood

Its profile is short and narrow as though it took little notice of people's gaze.

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  • Interesting, I've never known about the 自発 usage of ~れる/られる. Good to know! As for the second sentence, you're right, it's a sword decorated with a lion's face. But that still doesn't make the sentence make any more sense in my opinion. What does it mean by the sword not noticing people's looks? What is it trying to convey with this? Stupid example but looking at it from the swords perspective, I'd imagine it saying something like this: 僕は狭く短くて人々の視線に気づかない! See how nonsensical that sounds? – Boolicious Aug 9 '20 at 15:21
  • It makes sense if the sword goes unnoticed due to its short and narrow shape, perhaps deliberately made so in order to be able to conceal it but why would the weapon be built in a way as if to not notice other people's looks? Perhaps it's the choice of 気づく here that sounds off to me. – Boolicious Aug 9 '20 at 15:26
  • @Boolicious You may understand 気づかないかのように virtually as "as if paying no heed/attention to", if it helps. – broken laptop Aug 9 '20 at 15:33
  • @Boolicious 自発 is probably not an entry-level grammar but not that rare nor negligible in Japanese grammar. Maybe the best explanation about it on this site is: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/60050/7810 Also might benefit from reading about "middle voice" – broken laptop Aug 9 '20 at 15:39

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