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I hope this question is not a duplicate and it belongs here. I wanted to ask as simple question about particle や (ya) and と (to) which was used in a translation from an Arabic text.

Here's the Arabic text:

اِنَّمَا الۡحَيٰوةُ الدُّنۡيَا لَعِبٌ وَّلَهۡوٌ It's quoted from the Qur'an chapter 47 verse 36.

Here's the transliteration:

innamalhayaatuddunyaa la'ibun wa lahwun

Here's the English translation:

[This] worldly life is only amusement and diversion.

Here's the Japanese translation by Ryoichi Mita:

この世の生活は,(一時の)遊びや戯れに過ぎない。

In the Japanese translation, the particle "ya" was used for the list. However, as you can see from the transliteration, the Arabic text starts with "innamaa" which indicates a list with limited items. So based on my current understanding of Japanese, the particle "to" should be used instead of "ya". Is that correct or is there another rule regarding the use of "ya" and "to" that I'm not aware of?

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I don’t know Arabic and therefore can’t tell which better conveys the nuance of the original. So, I will answer about how I take the Japanese translation and its alternative with と.

この世の生活は,(一時の)遊び戯れに過ぎない。

This is fine but sounds a bit like この世の生活 is both 遊び and 戯れ at the same time. However, if I understand correctly, 遊び and 戯れ, or amusement and diversion, basically refer to one same thing said in two different ways. や kind of blurs this two-thing-ness.

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  • Thanks for the answer. If I may clarify, you believe that や is more suitable than と? Jun 8, 2023 at 10:23
  • @AmirSyafrudin - As I said, I can’t tell which is more appropriate as a translation because I don’t understand the original sentence. I find the Japanese sentence with と a bit weird for the reason I explained above, but part of the reason is that 遊び and 戯れ practically mean the same thing. They are certainly closer to each other than amusement and diversion are.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 8, 2023 at 14:27
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    @AmirSyafrudin - If diversion is reasonably accurate as a translation of the original word, it could be translated to 気晴らし in Japanese, and 遊びと気晴らし or 戯れと気晴らし would sound more natural than 遊びと戯れ. But again, I can’t tell if they accurately convey the original meaning. They just sound more natural as pairs in Japanese if と is mandatory.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 8, 2023 at 15:05
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    Thank you for adding more information to your answer. From your explanation, I can see that the use of や in the original translation was not about listing items, but more about defining a certain object, which in this case is "worldly life". That opens up a new perspective on my side. ありがとうございます。 Jun 9, 2023 at 3:49
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I am completely unfamliar with the underlying Quranic text. But や seems absolutely appropriate in this context. A great way to think about it is "AやB" = "things such as A and B".

If I'm not mistaken, the original text isn't saying "This wordly life is amusement and diversion and nothing else". It's moreso saying something like "This worldly life is amusement and diversion and such".

To conclude, と would primarily be used when you're referring to specific things, and nothing else. Whereas や can be used to mean things "of a sort", and you're only pointing out a few examples.

As an example, it's like if I wanted to say "Humans normally feel things like love and anger". I obviously don't mean for "love" and "anger" to be an exhaustive list. I mean that there's a greater list/concept, and I'm just pointing out "love" and "anger" in particular. So in this case, one should use "愛や怒り" (ai ya ikari), not "愛と怒り" (ai to ikari).

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  • As I mentioned above, the original Arabic contains "innamaa" in the beginning which indicates only the things that was mentioned. If we go with that, と should be more appropriate, right? Jun 8, 2023 at 10:28

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