I read Japanese the Manga Way recently and was completely charmed and intrigued by the examples from the series Natsuko no Sake (夏子の酒). So I picked up the first volume and am realizing it’s a very different type of reading from NHK Easy articles. I’m guessing it’s because of colloquialisms and the fact that conversational speech is fundamentally different from news reporting.
In any case, I’m only a few pages in and I could really use some clarification on some sentences. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Natsuko has returned to her hometown and runs into her Grandfather on her way home. A few snippets of conversation I don’t fully understand:
夏子: 白くなっちゃって！ My guess: “You’re going gray!” (lit: “Becoming white!”)
I think this is the ‐く connected form of an adjective followed by some form of なる (to become). Is that right? If so… what’s going on with the small つ and the ちゃって ending?
じっちゃん: 東京に出たきり2年も帰えねえで！ My guess: You’ve returned home after leaving for Tokyo 2 years ago!
Three questions here:
Is 出たきり some sort of noun-ified version of the past tense of 出す? This seems off since the ‐た ending should maybe be ‐した… and I’m not sure about きり either. Maybe it’s a noun-ified version of 来る?
も: I’m used to seeing this as “also”, does that apply here? “You left 2 years ago and also have returned home?”
The ending of 帰えねえで… I’m familiar with the verb 帰る from WK, but every hiragana after the kanji in this example is unclear to me. Is this a great big glorified ‐ね ending? I’m not used to seeing で at the end of a sentence. Does this have the usual particle meanings or does it imply something else since it’s ending the sentence?
Meta question: Should I just hire a tutor to help me walk through these? I have a ton more questions!
‘ni’ indicates the destination of movement, not the origin.
I think the ‘mo’ here is what the DoBJG calls “a marker that indicates emphasis” (as long as, as much as, even) – the implication is that two years is a long time. (I attempt to capture this with ‘whole’ below.)
“Ever since you left for Tokyo you haven’t been back in two whole years!”
Ahhh makes sense, I just reviewed the ‐てしまう section of Japanese the Manga Way and they do actually mention that contraction. Perfect, thank you.
So I’m guessing this is the usage that means “showing surprise” (or maybe expressing a regrettable situation, although that seems a bit rude), but this particular usage ends in ‐て… why would that be? It doesn’t seem like a command or request, nor does it seem to be connecting to anything. Maybe it’s leaving something unsaid as mentioned here?
Yes; in spoken Japanese it’s more common than in English to leave the last part of a sentence unspoken, to soften what you’re saying. (Maynard’s Expressive Japanese: A Reference Guide to Sharing Emotion and Empathy has an entry for this, “Ending the sentence without a tone of finality”.) Basically, by ending with the -te form in this example the speaker avoids being explicitly and conclusively critical.
The other common incomplete sentence is one that ends with one of the various forms of “but”, “however”, etc – there it usually works as a softener for whatever the spoken part was by leaving the door open for “but maybe I’m wrong/there’s extenuating circumstances/etc”.
 it’s an interesting book but I also love how the subtitle’s content and form work against each other; it’s like the title of a manual for robots who have to deal with these awkward human beings
Ahhh perfect, I never would’ve picked up on the old dude speech. Even with the correct ending I’m still struggling a little bit… it almost looks like a negative form (except I don’t see 帰える in a dictionary, so I’m guessing that’s off…) plus で… which is possibly a particle but I only recall seeing it being used in the middle of sentences or as part of the て form for verbs ending in ぐ… Neither of those seem likely. Any ideas?
Ah, it looks like you’re confusing the ら for a え—he says 帰らねえで. It’s the negative form 帰らない with the ない colloquially morphed into ねえ (you’ll often see it as ねえ, ねぇ, or ねー in casual/informal situations, particularly spoken by boys and men—you’ll see this pattern with other い-adjectives as well). で is a sentence-ending particle here, similar to よ (at least it is in Kansaiben, and it feels the same here), so it just provides emphasis
Continuing to work through this… later on in the same frame:
じっちゃん： 夏子は親兄弟が倒れなきゃ帰ってこんのか My guess: “Your family will fall over when they see you’ve come home”
… but I’m just gluing “fall over” and “come home” together in a way that makes sense in context. Here’s my stab at this:
倒れる → 倒れない (negative) → 倒れなき- (guess: has to do with this archaic form?)
But then I’m not sure what happens to the small や… more old man speech? Also, this seems like a weird use of negative that turns my guess of “will fall over” upside down.
Then is this an adjective describing 帰って?
Regarding 帰って… I’m not sure which use of ‐て would apply here. It doesn’t seem connective, or like a command/request…
Finally (whew), the end seems like a soup of particles to me. こん could be “this”, or maybe it has to do with the preceding ‐て in a way I don’t understand yet. I’m guessing の is either an “explaining の” or possibly a “noun-making の” depending on what the preceding word means. And the か… this doesn’t seem like a question to me unless this is something like “Won’t your family fall over…”, but I’m not familiar with other uses of か. Looking at this list gives me some ideas, maybe expressing annoyance?
TL;DR I’m totally lost on this one but I’m trying and appreciate the help :]
I ordered a copy of DoBJG and will dig into it as soon as it arrives!
I’m afraid I can’t help with the meaning, but I can with the contractions!
Update: Oh! Actually, I think I do know what it means, now that I looked more into なきゃ! “Unless your relatives collapse, you won’t come home?”
This is the contracted form of 倒れなければ. 倒れなければ > 倒れなきゃ. So this would be an “if… then.” (If your relatives don’t collapse, then…)
This is the contracted form of 帰ってこないのか. The て form will only be a request/command if there’s nothing after it (and even then, it could just be a hanging て form to soften it, rather than a command) because it’s a shortening of てください. Here, 帰る is in the て form to attach the auxiliary verb くる (来る), in this case in the negative こない, which gets contracted into こん. The の (also sometimes ん, but you can’t have two んs in a row, so either it’ll remain uncontracted as here or the second will get dropped) will often go after the plain form before か because using か directly with the plain form can be rather rude. Just の will also be used to form questions with the plain form and is softer than のか or んか and thus is probably used more often by women (though men will definitely use it too)
As you continue reading, you’ll get a feel for the contractions better! Until then, we’re always happy to help. Here, also, is a quick contraction reference that someone else compiled on the forum.