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I was reading through Soumatome N1 Dokkai practice book when I encountered the passage below. Understanding the passage itself was not really difficult: the uncle did the prank. But when it comes to answering the multiple choice question, I was stumped. Here is how I arrived at my answer:

1 その子供がまた今度いたずらをやったら許されない、と母は言った。

This can't be true.

3 叔父はよくいたずらをするので、今回も叔父がやったと僕はおもった。

This translates to the uncle did it.

2 今回のいたずらは、叔父さんがやったのではない、と僕は思った。

I translated the part「叔父さんがやったのではない」as "the uncle did it"

THIS IS WHY I GOT IT WRONG

What was going on my mind was that 「いいんじゃない」 conveys roughly the same meaning as「いいんだよね」and so I applied this logic. Apparently, it's wrong.

So, is it true that 「叔父さんがやったのではない」translates to "the uncle did not do it"? And if so, if I want to convey the fact that the uncle did it using the negative, just like 「いいんじゃん」, how should I write it?

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  • You wrote やったこと multiple times, but in the actual question it's やったの. Is that interfering with your understanding?
    – Leebo
    Aug 16 '20 at 22:28
  • Also, is there a double negative?
    – Leebo
    Aug 16 '20 at 22:34
  • What was going on in my mind when I wrote it? Edited こと to の Thanks @Leebo
    – rebuuilt
    Aug 16 '20 at 23:00
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叔父さんがやったのではない exclusively means "it is not the uncle that did it". The ~じゃん equivalent is 叔父さんがやったのではない. Yes, it comes from question "Isn't it —?" then becomes to mean "How could it not —". And in formal saying you cannot drop the question particle か.


By the way, if written, the casual ~じゃない is certainly ambiguous even to Japanese, but their difference is clear in speech.

https://soundcloud.com/user-61112954/yattanjanai (created with スズキクン)

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The first one (ない bears accent) is negative "did not", and the second "surely did" (=じゃん).

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  • The second can also be じゃないか{HHLLL}, right? Aug 17 '20 at 18:52
  • I think I'm beginning to understand what you mean. Because 〜叔父さんがやったのではない does not have the particle か, it can only mean that "the uncle did not do it". Now, if I add か to it, as in 叔父さんがやったのではないと思った, does it become ambiguous and intonation dependent like ~じゃない
    – rebuuilt
    Aug 17 '20 at 21:28
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    @DariusJahandarie That's the accent pattern after an unaccented phrase. I don't think it can appear with any verb conjugation, which always carries accent in the word IIRC. But indeed かんたんじゃない{LHHHHHLL}(か) Aug 18 '20 at 1:25
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    @rebuuilt I mean, when the speaker say 〜やったのではないか, it never means "did not". Only "did he?" (whether he did) or "I guess he did". Aug 18 '20 at 2:38
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    Right, @broccolifacemask-cloth. I think you made that clear when you said that it's a rhetorical question. It's really interesting how か can make all the difference (and how "if written, the casual ~じゃない is certainly ambiguous even to Japanese").
    – rebuuilt
    Aug 18 '20 at 2:47

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