Internalised wrong meaning of 代わる

Hi.

I’ve been thinking of 代わる as causative for (checks notes) a month. Turns out, it isn’t causative. 代える is the causative.

I know there are synonyms like “to substitute for” , but I think it might be clearer if “to take the place of” was a synonym, or the main meaning. (Yes I know I can add it myself, and I have.)

(Note that the “something” convention does not help here, because both the causative and non-causative forms of English ‘replace’ are transitive, so there was no sense of the bare “to replace” as being in contrast with anything.)

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I guess you’re talking about transitive verbs, not causative verbs. I don’t think there’s any English translation for that word that’s truly intransitive. In the translation “to take the place of” the word which follows that phrase is a direct object, making it transitive.

Neither 代わる or 代える are causative. The causative forms are 代わらせる (to cause someone to be replaced) and 代えさせる (to cause someone to replace something).

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I am using “causative” in the broad sense. 代える is clearly a lexical causative of 代わる, even if 代わらせる is in the grammatical form called ‘causative’.

Obviously there’s no intransitive translation of 代わる, and that’s not what I’m asking for. The point of my final paragraph above was that transitivity is a complete red herring and a convention that works to convey transitivity and intransitivity doesn’t work to just convey causativity and noncausativity, where both forms are transitive.

There are many words where I’ve had to re-internalize the meaning and transitive forms are particularly tricky. There are quite a few examples of this in WK and I don’t know if the WK team’s approach is the right one or not, I think with time it gets easier. I wouldn’t worry too much about it for now.

Given that Japanese has a “causative” form that is used quite often, you can probably see why we tend not to use that terminology as things would quickly get confusing. :wink:

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There are many words where I’ve had to re-internalize the meaning and transitive forms are particularly tricky. There are quite a few examples of this in WK and I don’t know if the WK team’s approach is the right one or not, I think with time it gets easier. I wouldn’t worry too much about it for now.

You mean other verb pairs where both forms are transitive? My comment was largely about this one particular verb that I felt could be translated less misleadingly.

Given that Japanese has a “causative” form that is used quite often, you can probably see why we tend not to use that terminology as things would quickly get confusing. :wink:

I guess the favored terminology is ‘active’ as opposed to ‘mediopassive’.

How often is the morphological causative used with mediopassive members of verb pairs, in practice?

Well now you’re introducing another grammatical term which refers to a completly different verb conjugation. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yeah, verb pairs are always going to be tricky because Japanese transitivity doesn’t map directly to English transitivity so you’re always going to have to compromise by, say, adding the word “something” to indicate a transitive verb in Japanese.

Actually, the favored terminology is 他動詞 and 自動詞 :wink:

I found this page on Japanese Active-Mediopassive pairs and 他動詞/自動詞 form the headings for each table:

You’d probably need someone with a more scholarly bent than me to fully answer that question. :wink:

What I can say is that Japanese has no problems with the causee being inanimate and can easily form alternate constructions with an animate causee. In addition, Japanese has a dative case marker (に) in addition to the accusative case marker (を) which can further be a source of confusion.

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just a heads up: this and causative/anticausative are terms that while precise, are likely to confuse everyone. you’re not going to find many people with the background/interest to understand what you’re talking about if you use them. they’re usually equivalent in japanese anyway, so I’d stick to transitive/intransitive :upside_down_face:

if you search on ninjal, you get ~10000 hits for 代わる, 24 of which are causative. generally speaking the causative isn’t exactly common though, and I can’t tell you how that compares with other verbs

I can tell you that the causative is valid when used with the mediopassive, and often even makes sense

honestly, I gave up trying to learn the difference with WK and usually just add the basic english verb in these cases.

it’s a relatively minor difference in the grand scheme of things, and you quickly get a feel for it when you start listening/reading anyway

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In real life it’s not really used like either of these so it’s best just to get used to it in the wild.
Usually it’s used to mean changed or different. Like if I went into your living room:
何か変わった?⇒ Has something changed?
はい、家具の位置を変えた⇒ Yes, I changed the furniture positions.

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I’d stick to transitive/intransitive :upside_down_face:

Only seeing this now, but I now see that 代わる apparently coordinates with に rather than を. (See, this is what I get for not paying attention to the sample sentences.) So you were right, 代わる is intransitive.

English ‘replace’ is still transitive in all uses, so I maintain my original point that the primary translation for 代わる on Wanikani is misleading.

Well it’s not like there is a choice. Verb in a pair ending in aru (ある、わる、かる etc) are all intransitive.

But I agree that the primary meaning “to replace” is unfortunate. The alternative meanings (to be replaced, to be substituted, to be substituted for) are clearer.

I don’t disagree with you. WKs handling of transitive/intransitive pairs has bugged me since I started…

a few counterpoints though:

  1. in many cases, there’s just no good equivalent in english. you’re stuck between using a transitive gloss or its passive conjugation. neither of them are accurate, but for SRS, you need something short and to the point.

  2. Best not to think of the “meaning” as a translation or meaning. it’s a keyword to help you remember, or maybe one tiny facet of the meaning. in that sense, there’s no conflict because the japanese intransitive and english transitive are often used to communicate the similar things.

  3. the meaning and usage you infer from what WK (or indeed even a J-E dictionary) is likely to be different enough from its actual meaning/usage that transitivity is a minor problem at best. people tend to fixate on it more than necessary because it’s one of the more visible issues.

basically, if you do WK without worrying about it, you’ll naturally learn which is which when you start listening/reading anyway

and you’ll be less confused when you come across the intransitive verbs that can pair with を, and the cases where を doesn’t even mark a direct object

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You should really just ignore WK’s method of distinguishing transitive and intransitive with wording, i.e., “to x something” and similar. Ultimately you will learn transitivity pairs, and with that you develop an intuition of which is which. This intuition applies to 99% of the verbs I’ve come across on WK and in textbooks, and there are only a few blatant exceptions (an early one you learn is 欠く・欠ける).

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