Stumped by grammar in 魔女の宅急便 chapter 1

Here is the sentence:

「大きな葉や尖った葉の色々変わった草がきれいに並べて植えてあり、あたり一面に、何かぷんと香ばしいような匂いが漂っています。」

I think it’s supposed to mean something like:

“Various strange grasses, with large and pointed leaves, were planted in a row, and there was a strong fragrant smell lingering in the air (everywhere).”

Although literally, it seems to read as:

“The big and pointy leaves’ various grass…”

My tutor said this was an example of 倒置法 grammar where there is a change of order for emphasis, but I’m struggling to understand how this works and how to differentiate it from the normal use of の as a posessive particle.

Thanks very much!

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Perhaps「大きな葉や尖った葉」is acting a a relative clause here, modifying いろいろ変わった草 with の (like a な-adjective)?

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Your interpretation of that seems right to me.

“The big and pointy leaves’ various grass…”

doesn’t make much sense to me, even in english.

EDIT: answering your second post

Yes, the 大きな葉や尖った葉 modifies the いろいろ変わった草 thanks to the の

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Thank you! It doesn’t seem that confusing in hindsight :sweat_smile:

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Yeah its as simple as something like 銀色の髪 with something before the の describing whats after the の, but it can be easy to miss once the things before and after the の are their own clauses with more stuff describing nouns in them. Either way happy to hear thats cleared up

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This grammar is beyond me, but I love your awesome 太鼓の達人 avatar. :smiley:

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Is it really though? Wouldn’t that just mean it’s exactly as Cerealbox described in his original post? “The big and pointy leaves’ various grass…”.

Also, aren’t you @CerealBox literally describing the same thing here?

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Yes thats why I said “yes” to that statement.

No? That makes it possessive and sound weird. Would you say “the silver’s hair”? No, you say “the silver hair”, right?

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Thank you :cowboy_hat_face:

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Oh I see, I didn’t make that distinction between の adjective and の possessive. Yeah you’re right that would make what is describing what the other way around. Although how would we say that in English then to make it an adjective? I guess something like “the big leaves and pointed leaves of the various grasses”?

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Going forward, you might also be interested in looking at the discussions in the book clubs we ran for that book: 魔女の宅急便 (Kiki's Delivery Service) Home Thread - Beginner's Book Club
There are threads for each chapter, and you can even ask questions there if you cannot find what you are looking for.

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の can mean possession, and I remember when I was learning basic grammar that that was kind of my mental shorthand for it, but it has a much wider range of possible meanings than that. The Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar lists 8 common relationships that might be indicated by AのB, including “A is an attribute of B”, “B is made of A” and “A is the location where B exists”. The underlying meaning is “not just any old B, but a specific B or specific subset of Bs, and A is telling you what”; possession and all the rest are examples of that “narrowing down what B I’m talking about by hooking up another noun to it”.

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No, that has lost the fact that “grasses” is the head noun of the noun phrase. “Various strange grasses, with large and pointed leaves” from the OP is a pretty good translation (though ‘or’ is probably better than ‘and’).

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I would use “with”. You need to make sure that you’re not shifting the focus to the leaves with the “the”. So it would need to be the various grasses. This is because the grasses are still the subject.

For example

私はお澄まし顔のカオルを睨みつけながら床に落ちた本を拾った。

If I shifted the focus to すましがお then it would put me in a predicament when I go to translate the rest of the sentence. It needs to be “kaoru, who had a composed look” rather than “the composed look of kaoru” or else the translation doesn’t work. Which, for reference a rough translation would be like

I glared at kaoru, who had a composed look, as i picked up the book that fell onto the floor.

Same for the sentence in OP, the thing that is planted and lined up nicely is not the leaves, but the grass so that needs to remain the subject or else when you translate the rest of the sentence it wont make sense.

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