Struggling with Sentence Order

After using WaniKani for about a year, I find it can understand 80% of the Kanji and vocab I encounter, and even some of the grammar, but I still struggle with reading Japanese, because of the sentence order!

For instance the sentence:
1945年、多くのぎせいしゃ犠牲者を出した太平洋戦争が終わりをむかえてから、70年以上が経ちました。

I could say what each kanji means, but not the meaning of the entire sentence - I understand SOV, but with complex sentences that doesn’t help much. Does anyone have any good explanations of sentence order in complex sentences like these, or any resources that might help?

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Firstly, since particles define the function a word plays in a sentence, order is not that important, so long as the particle stays with the word it’s attached to.

So, the trick with analysis is to break things up at particles, also marking noun-modifying phrases as you go.

1945年、
(多く
犠牲者を出した)太平洋戦争
終わり
むかえてから
70年以上
経ちました。

(You’ve got an extra ぎせいしゃ floating around there, incidentally)

Then, analyse the pieces:

1945年、 = in the year 1945
多くの犠牲者を出した = (which) caused many casualties​ (犠牲者を出す is an expression)
太平洋戦争が = the Pacific War
終わりを = the end of
むかえてから、= since we reached (it’s past tense because the main clause is also)
70年以上が = more than seventy years
経ちました。 = have passed

Last but not least, since Japanese is basically in Yoda-speak, you need to read the clauses in reverse order. Roughly.

More than 70 years have passed since the end of the Pacific War in 1945, which claimed many casualties.

With practice, you can do this faster. But yeah, it’s annoying having to get all the way to the end of the sentence before you know what’s happening to the subject.

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Basically what @Belthazar said. Figure out what each part mean and then with the help of particles understand how they go together.

One thing to keep in mind is that unlike commas in English, Japanese commas don’t necessarily break apart different clauses but can seemingly be in the middle of clauses. So don’t assume that you can understand each side of a comma by itself, instead use the particles to decide how they relate to each other.

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Following this thread. I have the very same situation.

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Hi man, GREAT explanation/break-up! Thank you for this.

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This is so simple and helpful, thank you.

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How comfortable are you with post-positions? I think that is the other missing link people forget about.

@Belthazar gave an excellent explanation on breaking the sentence down into “atoms” and reconstructing it, but it may also be helpful to have a top down view/some intermediate steps to see how it fits together.

(1945年、多くの犠牲者を出した太平洋戦争が終わりをむかえて)から
70年以上が経ちました。

The から is the post-position here, and it’s your marker for the end of the sub-clause.
I think that if you have this (or similar particles), the first thing to try is to treat everything back to the start of the sentence as a sub-clause. It often works, and if not you can usually treat the first particle in the sentence as the starting point.

1945年、(多くの犠牲者を出した)太平洋戦争が終わりをむかえて

I can’t really explain how this one works, other than the “、” is replacing a particle and the stuff in brackets is behaving a lot like an adjective…sorry

Can’t say if this is how a native would go about parsing it, but this is what it “feels” like to me. Hopfully this explanation isn’t terrible, and if it confuses things, just ignore it…

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I am very curious what the answers in this thread are, but I will first attempt to decipher on my own.

TLDR; working out the meaning

1945年、多くのぎせいしゃ犠牲者を出した太平洋戦争が終わりをむかえてから、70年以上が経ちました。
=>
1945年、blabla から、70年以上が経ちました。

don’t know 経, but in this context I’m going to treat it as ‘passing of time’ and will state
Since 1945 more than 70 years have passed.
The rest is likely a specification of the since moment they refer to - not just the year but an event in that year

多くのぎせいしゃ犠牲者を出した太平洋戦争が終わりをむかえて
=>
blabla が終わりをむかえて

someone welcomed the end. who?

多くのぎせいしゃ犠牲者を出した太平洋戦争

tricky time. I can read fat peace war at the end, so am going to assume this is WWII (the year
inspires most of it, I confess). Rest looks like another qualifier

多くのぎせいしゃ犠牲者を出した

Verb is exit-do? Might be euphemism for dying. Object contains 者 - someone, so word looks like a profession, ‘many of’ at the start, middle kana word unknown to me. Guess time: ‘that had so many people losing loved ones’ - there’s no profession in there, but at this point it’s going to be wrong anyway, so this is mostly what I think it should say. Putting it all together

Since welcoming the end of WWII, which had so many people losing loved ones, in 1945, more than 70 years have passed.

Ok, now to read the rest of the thread

:man_facepalming: Pacific - I know Pacific, I’ve had Pacific. @#$&^.
On the whole though, I did a little happy dance in the room, despite that it took me about 20 minutes to get here and all of the glaring mistakes I made.

What I don’t understand is how I’m ever supposed to produce sentences like this - ‘which claimed many casualties’ is inserted before Pacific War, meaning that as your speaking (and listening) you deal with the details before getting to the actual word (Pacific War).

Practice practice practice I guess. And thank you for this practice.

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English handles it exactly the same way when it comes to adjectives - the red book, the brick house, et cetera. It’s just that while English puts whole phrases that modify nouns after said noun - the book that is on the table - Japanese continues to put them before the noun - テーブルの上にある本.

Basically, keep an eye out for subordinate clauses in English, and when you translate it into Japanese, remember that they go first.

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I don’t think you need to worry about it too much about producing such complex sentences.
I couldn’t come up with a sentence like that in Turkish without pausing to think about it…it’s not uncommon to see stuff like that written down though (Turkish is pretty much structurally identical at the level we’re talking about here).

The point being that spoken and written language are different, and there are other easier ways of saying the same thing that work better in conversation.

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Don’t feel bad. I live in the middle of the 太平洋 and I still miss that reading sometimes. :wink:

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In addition to Belthazar particule-centric breakdown, I think it’s also important to do a clause analysis when reading long sentences.

Basically read until the next verb to get a clause, then look just after it to determine what kind of clause.

1945年、
Well, this one is an annoying exception, Japanese really like to put temporal adverb at the beginning of the sentence. It’s the same for topic marked with は. If we see a temporal adverb or a は, we can reset out internal parser. So let’s find the next verb + 1.

多く…出した太平洋戦争. The verb 出した is followed by a noun so we know that the clause [多く…出した] is just qualifying 太平洋戦争.

So everything before 太平洋戦争 is just some details about it. In English we can actually translate it as a nice little sentence. The pacific war claimed many victims.

Now we can reset our internal parser at 太平洋戦争 and parse until the next verb.
太平洋戦争…むかえてから
verbてから is a grammar point, and structurally it’s linking two clause clause1てからclause2. “clause1 and then clause2”

So clause1 is complete and the core is just noun1がnoun1をむかえる
noun1 welcomes noun2. The pacific war welcome the end. A bit clunky in English but understandable.

Then reset the parser after the てから and go to the next verb + 1.
[70年以上…経ちました。]
The verb is followed by an ‘。’ so we hit the the end of the sentence and also the main clause, which is always at the end. The main clause is very simple, it’s a nounが経ちました. More than 70 years passed.

So in the you can read the sentence very neatly, from left to right and from clause to clause:

In 1945. The pacific war claimed many casualty. The pacific war welcomes the end. And then more than 70 years passed.

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