BoA – “be with you.” Detailed Translation, Part 2

And this week, we’re on to the second stanza! For quick reference, I’ve copied the second stanza, both kanji and romanization (ローマ字, rōmaji), from the original post.

05 一歩ずつ 重ねては
06 今日と云う日が 明日に変わる
07 ふたりでいる時間が
08 わたしには あたりまえなの

05 ippozutsu   kasanete wa
06 kyou to yuu hi ga   ashita ni kawaru
07 futari de iru jikan ga
08 watashi ni wa   atarimae na no

Line 5: ippo is composed of the kanji meaning “one” and “step,” respectively, and zutsu roughly translates to “each,” so we have here “each step,” more or less. kasanete is the te-form of the verb kasaneru, which means “pile up” or “repeat” — one of the meanings of the original Chinese characters is “repeat” (the other is “heavy”/”serious”) — so I might translate this line as “the repeating of each step” plus a topic marker1.

Line 6: kyou is composed of the kanji meaning “now”/”this” and “day”/”sun,” so kyou means, of course, “today.” The next word, to, is a particle that functions as a verbal quotation mark (with which って — tte — can be used interchangeably), so in conjunction with the following verb yuu, which means “say” (and can also be written using the characters 言う and/or pronounced iu), to yuu refers to kyou as what is being quoted/called. (Yes, I know that didn’t quite make sense. Bear with me and keep reading.) Because yuu is the direct (a.k.a. dictionary) form of the verb (which implies that it is direct-style2 and imperfect/unfinished3), it can modify the noun phrase that follows, which it does here. The noun phrase that follows kyou to yuu is hi, which is the same kanji as the second one in kyou and which I already stated means “day”/”sun.” Thus, the noun phrase kyou to yuu hi means “the day called ‘today.’”

Line 6 (continued): The ga that follows that noun phrase is a subject marker, which means that it is the subject that is carrying out the action of the verb that follows. Ashita, which is made from the kanji meaning “next” or “bright” — here it means “next” — and the kanji for “day”/”sun,” means “tomorrow.” Ni is a direction/destination particle here4, so, armed with the knowledge that the verb kawaru means “change” gives us the meaning of this line: “The day called ‘today’ changes into tomorrow.”

Line 7: Futari is normally written using the kanji “二人,” which mean “two” and “person,” respectively. Here, de is the te-form of the copula5, iru is the dictionary form of “to be” for animate objects (as opposed to aru, which is “to be” or “to have” for inanimate objects), and again, because it is the direct form, it modifies the noun phrase that follows, which, here, is jikan, meaning “time” as a period of time. This gets us “the time during which we were two people” or “the time during which we were a pair, together.” Finally, the line ends with the subject marker ga.

Line 8: Watashi is the first-person singular pronoun, ni is an indirect object particle here4, and wa is a contrastive particle that expresses that “to me” (the preceding phrase) might contrast with “to you,” for example. Atarimae is best translated as “natural” or “ordinary,” na is a pre-nominal form6 of the direct, imperfect form of the copula (da), and no is a nominalizer, i.e. a word that might be translated as “one” (e.g. “the black one,” “a pointy one,” “a heavy one,” etc). Thus, I might translate this line as “to me, at least, it was a natural one (period of time).”

So, to sum up this stanza:

Even as these footsteps repeat one by one, the day called “today” changes into tomorrow. The time when we were together was, to me, at least, a natural one.”

1 Topic markers! Topic markers are a wonderful thing, if you know how to use them correctly. Japanese is what linguists call a pro-drop language, which mostly means, to the general public, that there is not always an explicit subject in each and every sentence. It is perfectly acceptable to say “ate already” in the middle of an ongoing conversation, and it could mean “he ate already,” “I ate already,” etc. The reason for this is because each conversation has an accepted topic, which is generally marked by the topic particle, and the sentences/verbs in that conversation refer to that topic, which can range from “that new restaurant that opened down the street” to “my parents” to “the terrible-looking new hairdo the weird girl in our linguistics class has,” etc.

2 Japanese has two different styles called direct/blunt and indirect/distal. Basically, distal verbs used at the ends of sentences are more polite because they are indirect, or less confrontational. It is important to note that not all appearances of direct verbs means that the overall style of the sentence is direct; direct expressions can be used in a variety of ways, including modifying the noun phrase that directs follows it (as we have seen in this post), and only the style of the final clause of the sentence is used to determine the sentence’s overall style.

3 Similarly to other East Asian languages, Japanese does not have a complicated system of tenses for time in the same way that, for example, romance languages do. (Romance languages usually come with a past tense, an imperfect tense, a present tense, a future tense, and then some.) What Japanese has, instead, is a tense that indicates completion (the “perfect” tense/aspect) and a tense that indicates incompleteness (the “imperfect tense/aspect”). For example, if I have finished doing something, I would use the perfect tense, but if I am currently/planning to do it, I would use the imperfect aspect.

4 There are a number of different uses of ni. It can be used to mark a location, a destination/direction, an indirect object, a passive agent, or a purpose.

daigaku ni iru.
[I] am at college/university.
toshokan ni iku.
[I] (will) go to the library.
Indirect object
kyouju ni kureta.
[I] gave [something] to the professor.
Passive agent
ka ni sasareta.
[I] was bitten by a mosquito.
yoku nari ni renshuu suru.
In order to become better, [I] practice.

5 Copulas are helping/passive/linking verbs that connect a subject to a predicate. “To be” is an English example of a copula. A good way to distinguish between an action verb and a copula is to try replacing the verb with the appropriate form of “seems”; for example, “jump” in the sentence “John jumps into a ditch” is an action verb, while “look” in the sentence “John looks enthusiastic about this project” is used as a copula. Common forms of the copula that are useful to know follow:

  • da – direct-style, imperfect aspect
  • desu – distal-style, imperfect aspect
  • datta – direct-style, perfect tense
  • deshita – distal-style, perfect tense
  • darou – direct-style, volitional mood (roughly translated as “it’s probably … “)
  • deshou – distal-style, volitional mood
  • dete-form
  • (see footnote #6 about pre-nominal forms)

6 There are two pre-nominal forms of the copula in Japanese: na and no. Which of the two forms is used is determined by the noun phrase that precedes it: a subset of nominals (a term I use to refer to a grammatical class of words that are conjugated in a particular way, as opposed to verbals and adjectivals) that usually correlate with words that English-speakers use as adjectives are known as na-nominals. These pre-nominal forms are used to connect two noun phrases, such as “I” and “book” in watashi no hon, which means “my book,” or “beautiful” and “flower” in kirei na hana, which means “[a/the] beautiful flower.” (More on the other usages of no to come….)

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