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Recently I was reading「鶴の笛」by (林芙美子) and came across this sentence:

足の悪い鶴は、みんなのいなくなったさびしい沼地のふちの葦のしげったところに立ってみんなが飛びたって行った空をみていました。

The English translation of this sentence by J. D. Wisgo says:

The injured crane stood on the edge of a once crowded, yet now deserted swamp where the reeds grew thickly, and he gazed up into the sky where the other cranes had flown off to.

This translation left me confused because it seems to imply that みんなの is modifying いなくなった (as in, the people who used to be there was everyone). However I know that this modification is impossible because the particle の makes みんな a の-adjective, and adjectives cannot modify verbs.

This same の-adjective-seeming-to-affect-adjectival-verb-effect seems to occur again in the sentence where it says 「葦のしげった」(as in, the thing that is growing is reeds).

The effect of seeing this unfamiliar grammar pattern alongside an unexpected translation was to leave me in a state of acute befuddlement. Is Master 林芙美子 using an exceptionally eloquent sentence structure at the expense of illiterate learners such as myself? Is Mr. Wisgo using a translation slight-of-hand to make the sentence more palatable to monolingual English speakers? Am I completely overthinking it and just the proximity and position of the modifiers in the sentence enough to imply the connection between them? What exactly is going on here?

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    Curious that you appear to be happy with 足悪い鶴 but not みんないなくなったさびしい沼地. Mar 20 at 18:41
  • Thank you for your comment. I didn't notice that on my first pass. Mar 22 at 17:11

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It does seem that you are parsing it incorrectly, here, with interchangeable parts in bold:

{(みんないなくなった[さびしい沼地]) のふち}の@葦しげったところ@に立って

Additionally, have a look here: How does the の work in 「日本人の知らない日本語」?, where this particular の, the attributive subject marker, is explained.

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  • It's [〜沼地のふち], not [ふちの葦].
    – aguijonazo
    Mar 20 at 22:00
  • I was in a rush, corrected.
    – John
    Mar 20 at 22:15

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