"Expressive Japanese" - A super useful book

Hey everyone,
I wanted to share a resource I got recently that I think many other might be interested in. I get alot of Japanese language resources and this is one of the best that I have come across and haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere.

This book is not one of those “how to date someone in japanse” books (even though it does cover a lot of expressions relating to feelings and romance). This is a higher level (intermediate+) text that discusses hundreds of examples of how various emotions and intentions are conveyed in (primarily) modern causal spoken japanese.

If you are a person who has gotten pretty comfortable with “textbook” or “news” japanese but finds themselves at a loss trying to understand alot of casual spoken conversation (in drama, anime, manga, podcasts, etc.), this book is for you!

The book starts off with some essays that are interesting, more so if you have an interest in linguistics or cultural language studies. The main part of the text is about eighty short chapters that introduce a usually related group of 3 or 4 constructions that convey a certain feeling or idea. There is a explaination section that talks about when these would be used, a selection of constructed example usages, and then cited actual usages (primarily from tv shows, interviews, some manga). The example usages are translated and annotated (cross-referenced with other constructions that are talked about in the book).

Example (with alot obvoiusly left out but I wanted to give a sense of the level):

  1. Preamble to frankness

ていうか to tell the truth, truthfully
てか to tell you the truth
正直言って honestly,…

(explaination of usages)

(about 15 example passages) like:

authentic example (from a tv show):

エイジ: おやじは金持ちだからいいかもしれないけど、 俺はここがなくなったら困るんだよ。 ていうか、 ここにいたいんだよ、 ずっと。

Eiji: You may think it’s fine because you are rich, but i’ll be in trouble if this shop closes. To tell you the truth, I want to stay here for a long time.

another example passage from a section on regret:

from “long love letter” episode 1. yuka explains how she left her teaching job.

結花: で、 やめさせられたってわけ。 もともと向いてなかったのかも。 あたしが生徒を救えるなんてあの頃思ってて。 悔しくてさ。 今もちょっと後悔してるけど。 ちょっとじゃないか。 すごく後悔

(romanji and notes)

Yuka: So, I was forced to leave my job. Maybe I wasn’t suited for that job anyway. In those days I though I could save my students. I was frustrated. I regret that a bit even now. No, not a bit. I regret that a lot.

If you are a person like me who uses dramas for study, this book really is an amazing resource. It covers so many of the usages that even with subtitles I struggled to understand. There are also really great sections on なんて なんか and variants.

Also covers a decent amount of modern (at least as of the mid 2000s) youth slang grammar.

My experience reading this book has been great. If for nothing else there are hundreds of examples of modern authentic speech passages translated with context given (a discription of the situation, scene, and cited). That in and of itself is an amazing resource. Almost every section I have read has given me an “aha” moment about some construction or usage that has seemed inscrutable to me previously.

This book is also a solid choice for people who are frustrated that their language study doen’t teach them words that “people really use” or doesn’t teach them how to speak in a natural fashion. This book is nothing but the vocabulary and grammar of everyday real spoken japanese at a fairly sophisticated level.

This book is going in with DBJG and Hasegawa’s “Japanese: a linguistic introduction” as, for me, a “must have” resource.


Haha, this is great.
Can really imagine the person when reading those quotes :joy:
Might consider this book!

This book looks amazing, althoug it is above my skill level at the moment. Unfortunately it’s ~60€ in Germany, no paperback. :frowning:
Put it with Hasegawa on my wishlist.

What is the DBJG book you mentioned? I didn’t find that.

dictionary of basic japanese grammar. its a pretty standard grammar dctionary. but very well done.

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I just ordered this book. I am really looking forward to it. :smile:
Thanks for sharing!! I’m really hyped for it.

I also think that DBJG is a “must have” ressource.
About “Japanese: a linguistic introduction”. What is the book about? Is it good for advanced learners or more for beginners?

not for beginners, but I have enjoyed it throughout my time learning japanese.

On the one hand it is pretty basic becuase it does go from scratch (it will tell you what the particles are for example) but goes much more in depth into the theory and interpretations of japanese. It is a great book for answering questions that bug you about how japanese works. Or at least giving you a theoretical framework that researchers use to talk about those issues even when there isn’t an “answer”. (as an example there is an in depth discussion of the pros and cons of interperating が in sentences like 私はテレビがすきです as a subject case marker vs a “が” marked direct object. and why it makes sense and doesn’t make sense to do it either way). It also has chapters about tense in subordinate clauses, transitive vs intransitive, passive voice(s), speech acts/pragmatics, and so much more. A lot of fun if you are a language nerd.

here is the link. I think you can preview the first chapter or so. You should be able to get a sense of what its like. I would say that out of the “competing” “serious” grammar books in english (Kuno, hasegawa, tsujimura,…), hasegawa is the best written and most useful.

But I guess the important distinction is that this is not a book to teach you how to speak japanese, it is a book about the japanese language. So while there is a huge amount of useful information in it, it is not a usage guide.


Thanks a lot for the response.
I’d love to get more in depth with Japanese. Recently I started consuming a lot of native content but there are some grammar points I wish I could understand more in depth. I will give this one a try too :blush:

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