WaniKani Long Sentence-a-thon

So, I was reading a book in Japanese today and I came across one of those sentences that seemed to just never end. I wanted to share it with others, even if just to say “what is up with this sentence, you guys!?”, but the most recent topic I found for this sort of thing, while informative, is locked. Sadness.

So I’m opening another one!

The idea here is: if you find a sentence that has you sweating for sheer length, post it here! You are free to post references, translations, insights, and any and all other things you think others might like.

So that others can also suffer join in on the fun, consider using the [details] and the [spoiler] tag to hide all spoilery text and digressions.

For the purposes of this thread, let’s consider a sentence everything that happens between 「。」, so maybe not exactly a sentence, but … whatever.

Here. Let me start:

A little context

The novel is 「冒険者たち ガンバと15ひきの仲間」, by 斎藤 惇夫. It follows a group of mice who come to an island to help the mice who live there fight an invasion of weasels.

They made an anime about it:


The sentence takes place roughly towards the end of the book, when the battle between the weasels and the mice has started and is looking dire. The mice are taking shelter in a small hole in a rocky mountain next to ocean, and the weasels are coming across the water..



Linguistic feints

I like in this sentence how the author continues after one of the commas with 「と思うと急に…」. It literally throws you off, and you feel the same confusion that the mice are likely feeling.

Incidentally, I guess the subject of the 「と思うと」 is actually the mice, but I cannot find where you’d get that from other than the context.

Sentence length in different languages, and why write like this

Sentence length is interesting because different languages have different tolerances for this sort of thing. In English, writing short sentences is a mark of good style. However, in Spanish my impression is that sentences can get much longer before readers start wondering what’s going on (I remember in particular reading Linguistic textbooks by a Spanish scholar called Germán de Granda whose sentences literally spanned pages).

In Japanese, I find that shorter sentences are still preferred, but every once in a while you find these monsters that span multiple lines. I suppose these have special nuances and give off particular impressions. In this case, for instance, I feel that the author was trying to communicate the incessant nature of the attack by the weasels. It just wouldn’t have been the same with shorter sentences.


But a multiple-line Japanese sentence could be much longer if translated into English/Spanish because one kanji can represent a word that is 10 letters long (or more). On the flipside, katakana words are usually longer than its English equivalent. But katakana does not appear that frequently in general texts.

Yeah. I was thinking just within-language. But you’re right: a Japanese sentence that spans multiple lines, in English, would be much longer.

When translating texts between languages that have different guidelines for sentence length this is one of the things I find you need to pay attention to. So for instance, translating my little monster into English as a single sentence would just feel awkward. I guess the secret is to know where to cut.

When in doubt, I think err on the side of shorter sentences. As long as the flow is not disturbed, I think readers in general (regardless of native language) prefer shorter sentences, no?

Sometimes it can’t be avoided, such as if the long sentence represents the mental condition of the narrator. But for nonfiction and especially scientific texts, I think proofreaders and peer reviewers would be grateful for shorter sentences hahaha


I just appreciate those authors that know how to use sentence length and pacing as a tool for communicating.

It’s like Madame Bovary, which is a boring book all the times Madame Bovary is bored, and hilarious all the times she’s having fun. Talk about empathy!


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