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Can I have an explanation of the meaning and usage of なんか when used before or after a noun, like in these two examples :

アルバイトなんかがある人は行けない。

何かジャケットを買いますか。

Why in the first sentence it's after the noun and in the second one, before the noun? Is there a difference in meaning and usage?

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When it comes after nouns, it is a usage of the following meaning:

[副助]《代名詞「なに」に副助詞「か」の付いた「なにか」の音変化から》名詞、名詞に準じる語、活用語の連用形、一部の助詞などに付く。

1 一例を挙げて示す。…など。「この着物―お似合いです」「映画―よく行く」

2 ある事物を例示し、それを軽んじていう意を表す。…など。「彼の言うこと―聞くな」「君に―わからない」

For the definition #1, it translates mostly as or something. For #2, it is a way to degrade the noun.

On the other hand, a prefixed なんか works as something similar to a indefinite article or some.

So

  • アルバイトなんかある人 : people who need to go to a part-time job or something (it could be something other than job).
  • なんかジャケット : some jacket (the speaker is not specific about which jacket, but it will be jacket and could not be a coat).

Note かなんか, which is literally or something, may be more widely usable for the post-fix なんか, but they are not totally interchangeable with なんか. For example, この着物かなんかお似合いです is odd. In this case, by 着物なんか, the speaker suggests this kimono (among other things), for example.

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  • Thank you for your reply. Just to be sure that I understood: noun+なんか is used to broaden the meaning of the noun (it can be the noun but other things too that are in the same category), though なんか+noun narrow the noun (like in "some jacket - it's a specific jacket) ?
    – Poulp
    Jun 5 at 15:01
  • @Poulp I think both 'broaden' the nouns, or blur them. Nなんか literally means 'N, for example', implying something other than N. なんかN is 'a/some N', that is, just one N. In both cases, 'something in the category' is implied, but the difference is at what level the generalization is made. アルバイトなんか is 'a part-time job or something else to do (going for a date, meeting, etc.)' and なんかアルバイト is 'a part-time job, I don't know what it is, but it is a job (working in grocery, private tutoring, etc.)'
    – sundowner
    Jun 5 at 21:13
  • I guess examples are a bit confusing, but Nなんか ('for example') is "there could be many thing I can mention, but if I need to take one example, let's say N'. So in アルバイトなんかある人はいけない, the speaker is saying something is inconvenient for many people, for example, those with part-time jobs.
    – sundowner
    Jun 5 at 23:32

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