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I don't really think this is 相槌; I tried searching here for "reflection" or "mirroring" as well but didn't find anything.

Let's take this example conversation:

A: ゴールデンウイークにどこかへ行きますか。

B: 観光地はその期間はいつも混んでいるんだから、東京で過ごそうと思っています。

A teacher suggested that by, adding the following, it becomes easier to understand (分かりやすくなる) but is not strictly necessary:

A: ゴールデンウイークにどこかへ行きますか。

B: 観光地はその期間はいつも混んでいるんだから、どこも行きませんよ

東京で過ごそうと思っています。

To me, this doesn't add any extra information and just duplicates the meaning of what was already there -- in fact, it's inappropriate in many situations, such as if B actually lives in Kyoto, and is planning on spending Golden Week in Tokyo in order to avoid crowds in Kyoto.

Does this phenomenon of reflecting back exactly the same phrasing that the questioner used have a name? And is it more important than in English? It just seems unnatural to me.

To put it another way, I'm having difficulty understanding why the teacher felt it was necessary to add this phrase to the conversation. All of the other edits on this assignment (which is about practicing the 〜んだから expression) are just corrections of simple grammatical errors, which makes this one stand out as I'm sure there's lots of ways my conversations could be rewritten that are left unstated when my work is corrected.

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  • This is meant to be a practice for using 〜んだから and your teacher didn’t tell you it is used incorrectly? For the sentences to be correct, or sound natural at least, it should be changed to 〜ので.
    – aguijonazo
    Apr 21, 2023 at 6:57
  • @aguijonazo I'm away from my textbook, but I was under the impression that this construction is used to emphasize the existence of a factual situation that leads to a fairly obvious conclusion. Apr 21, 2023 at 7:17
  • You could say something like 観光地はその期間はいつも混んでいるんだから、行く訳ないでしょう. In this case, you are thinking not going anywhere is a fairly obvious conclusion because of the reason cited. It could sound pretty rude. It’s like saying “Why would I go anywhere?” In your example, you staying at Tokyo is new information to your listener and there is nothing obvious about it.
    – aguijonazo
    Apr 21, 2023 at 7:30
  • "in fact, it's inappropriate in many situations, such as if B actually lives in Kyoto, and is planning on spending Golden Week in Tokyo in order to avoid crowds in Kyoto." --- Tokyo is full of tourist spots, so if someone who lives in Kyoto told me they were traveling to Tokyo for the purpose of avoiding crowds, I would find that strange. I mean, it's not impossible for people to say strange things, but it might not be the easiest thing to grasp for a writing prompt.
    – Leebo
    Apr 22, 2023 at 8:14
  • @Leebo Yes, that was honestly an ex-post-facto justification on my part, but I will say that from my point of view as someone living in Tokyo, I had thought that the conventional wisdom is that Tokyo is less crowded than usual during Golden Week because everyone tries to get out of town. Apr 23, 2023 at 7:20

5 Answers 5

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Does this phenomenon of reflecting back exactly the same phrasing that the questioner used have a name?

There is a phrase オウム返し, which refers to something like saying "Spent 125 million yen!?" right after someone says "I spent 125 million yen". But 行きますか and 行きません are not "exactly the same", so you cannot use this phrase in your situation.

I'm having difficulty understanding why the teacher felt it was necessary to add this phrase to the conversation.

Your way of answering is not wrong at all, but I understand why your teacher felt it could be improved.

In general, when you are asked a question, it is preferable to give the most direct answer. For example, if someone asks you, "What time is tomorrow's flight?", it might not be wrong in reality to answer indirectly with something like "If we leave here at 8, we'll make it in time" or "I'll wake you up when it's time". But it wouldn't be surprising if someone pointed out that such an approach is not ideal, at least for writing practice. You should say "9:30" first, and then add whatever you want to. This kind of thing is a basic tip for writing clear and easy-to-understand sentences, regardless of whether you're writing in English or in Japanese.

In your case, the question is basically a yes/no question, so you could have started your response with either はい/Yes or いいえ/No, and that would be the most effective way of making your answer sound clear. Technically, starting your response with 'No' may be "redundant", but you wouldn't say that's a bad habit, would you? Likewise, saying どこにも行きません is another good option here; it answers the question directly, and it's not long enough to be called a "mirroring" at all.

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  • But I did answer the question directly, providing the information that was asked for. Apr 21, 2023 at 7:10
  • @auspicacious I admit my example might have been a bit more exaggerated than yours, but also in English, isn't it better to say Yes or No first before saying "because tourist attractions are always crowded blah-blah"? Japanese is a language where the most important conclusion typically comes at the end of a sentence (masu/masen at the end changes the meaning), so it may be a bit more important to pay attention to the order in which you speak.
    – naruto
    Apr 21, 2023 at 7:20
  • FWIW I considered writing まああ、at the beginning of the reply. Apr 21, 2023 at 7:30
  • @auspicacious What is it for? まあ means "oh well", "well", "you know" or "I guess". Although it adds some nuance, it adds little to the information you need to convey.
    – naruto
    Apr 21, 2023 at 7:37
  • I was under the impression it would ease the entrance into the explanation I was about to give so that I was not starting abruptly. Apr 21, 2023 at 7:44
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This is not really what you asked, but the reason your teacher changed the main clause the way they did might be precisely because the way you used 〜んだから was not quite proper as I explained in my comments. The corrected sentence does sound more natural than the original in terms of the logical connection between the subordinate and main clauses. However, it sounds like you are suggesting what you are giving as an answer is very obvious and the question was a rather silly one. The final よ (in a falling intonation) also adds a tone of “Isn’t it obvious?” You probably didn’t intend that. To simply say what I think you wanted to say, the following dialogue sounds completely natural and you don’t need to repeat what the other person said.

A: ゴールデンウイークにどこかへ行きますか。

B: 観光地はその期間はいつも混んでいるので、東京で過ごそうと思っています。

I guess your teacher had to keep the first part unchanged because it was mandatory to use 〜んだから in this exercise. They should have explained it better, I would think.


To answer your questions, no, it's not important and I cannot think any name for such a practice.

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  • Respectfully, and acknowledging that I don't know your background and experience, I think that you may be too focused on one particular use of 〜んだから at the expense of its more general use when explaining the cause of something. While I agree that a simple ので is always useful in this situation, I have asked a native speaker about your comment, and, to them, 〜んだから can be rude or not rude depending on intonation and body language more than anything else. This person did not see anything offensive about the original sentences. I don't see any other commenters here confirming your opinion, either. Apr 25, 2023 at 7:26
  • @auspicacious - I'm a native speaker and a certified teacher. It is a very common mistake even some advanced learners make.
    – aguijonazo
    Apr 25, 2023 at 7:33
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I'd say it's a matter of taste. As far as I know there is no established consensus in Japanese to reflect the form used in the question when answering - especially in an informal setting.

I get the point about technicality. The "correct" answer to the question "Will you go anywhere?" might technically be "yes" or "no". But then again, if we had to follow such strict rule all the time one couldn't 話を広げる.

So IMO the teacher is being overeager here - I don't see any problems with your reply.

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I don't think this is related to reflecting back, or any practice of Japanese language in answering questions. I feel your answer is slightly ambiguous in a way that you might be overlooking.

A: ゴールデンウイークにどこかへ行きますか。 Are you going somewhere for the Golden week?

Without context, this 行く --- I'm assuming it's similar in English --- is not restricted to being physically away from Tokyo. (unless A and B are talking about their travel plans before this conversation)

Examine the possible answers below, assuming B lives in Tokyo:

B': はい,函館に桜を見に行こうと思っています. (Making a trip)

B'': はい,美術館をいくつか訪れるつもりです. (Staying in Tokyo but visiting places)

B''': はい,友人と草野球の約束をしています (Playing baseball with friends)

B'''': 人の少ない喫茶店でもめぐろうかな.

(B''''': 行くっていうほどじゃないけど、百貨店でちょっといい食器とか見るつもり. (Not much of an activity but will be visiting stores) )

B''' could also start with a No: "いいえ,ただ友人と草野球をする約束があります", but B'' is definitely a Yes.

The point is, A is basically asking about B's plans for the Golden week. Now examine

B: 観光地はその時期はいつも混んでいるので、東京で過ごそうと思っています。 All tourist spots are crowded at that time, so I'll spend my time in Tokyo.

OK, B is going to stay in Tokyo, but is there any activity B has in mind?
どこも行きませんよ does not add much information, but it's clearer that B intends to basically stay at home, or at least has no plan.

So the phrase is not necessary but makes it easier to understand (not that it's an important practice). And no, it's never inappropriate.

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The teacher might want you to answer with yes/no explicitly. In Japanese, negative verb forms like 行きません counts as an explicit (and non-redundant) no. いいえ and いえ count, too. Anything else requires inference thus is evading the question, technically.

In English "are you going? - I'm not going" (instead of "no, I'm not") might sound redundant, but it doesn't in Japanese (行きますか - 行きません).

It looks like echo answer is the linguistic term for this. It might be vaguely related to A-not-A question.

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  • 1
    The concept of an a-not-a question is an interesting one and might explain some odd expressions I've heard from native Chinese language speakers in English from time to time, thank you. Also interesting is the Echo answer page linked from there, which is probably the right term for this phenomenon. FWIW, the "Are you going? - I'm not going" echo is not redundant in English. It's perfectly normal to use that sort of construction, although it's usually preceded with a "No, ". However, I see it as equally normal not to use it. Apr 23, 2023 at 7:32
  • All good points, thank you. I'll edit my comment to highlight "echo answer" to others. Apr 23, 2023 at 11:05

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