They are both names for something that should have been consigned to the dustbin of human ignorance long, long ago.
“Flat earth” has. “Japanese conjugation” unfortunately hasn’t.
Click the “play” button and see history in the making.
And make Japanese a lot easier at the same time!
It took me quite a while to work out the best order to tackle things. I think the potential is the right choice for introducing the entire “Japanese conjugation” concept because it doesn’t involve any new “complications”.
The “complications” of the whole “Japanese conjugation” system only exist if you have absorbed confusing ideas in the first place – but most of us have, since they are the only ones you can find.
The only real “complication” of the potential is identical to the “complication” explained in the last lesson – concerning 好き and adjectives of emotion.
That is, the unbelievably destructive insistence that the grammatical subject must be the human agent of transitive potential verbs (and therefore that the が particle has no fixed value and can randomly perform the function of the を particle).
Since this is in fact identical to the previous (gratuitously created by Western prejudices) “problem”, I think it makes sense to tackle this one in the following lesson. It is easier to understand while the general principle is fresh in our minds and it reinforces the previous knowledge.
Also, by seeing what a wide range of language is affected by this problem, it sets us up to understand the somewhat different problem of the receptive (so-called “passive”) – which is based on exactly the same prejudice but has to shoehorn the same Western model into a different Japanese box.
There is a delicate balancing act as to how much to refer to the misconceptions.
Ideally we would be simply explaining from scratch and ignoring problems that wouldn’t be problems at all if you never even knew about them.
There’s nothing confusing about the Japanese that isn’t clarified the instant you realize that
こわい can mean “scared” or “scary” depending on whether it is pointing at “me” or the thing that scares me.
The same principle is at work in all the “problem” cases we have discussed in this lesson and the last one. It is one little difference between languages that should take five minutes or less to clear up.
my sister is envy-inducing
(natural English: I’m envious of my sister)
and you can also say:
おねえちゃんの ドレスが うらやましい
my sister’s dress is envy-inducing
(natural English: I’m envious of my sister’s dress)
Note that the last two examples show that even English allows a certain adaptability of (what in English is) the object in some cases.
This absolutely isn’t difficult. It takes a very brief adaptation to the fact that these words work slightly differently (more adaptably) in Japanese.
What makes it a problem is that, rather than simply explaining this, Western “Japanese grammar” has invented a whole elaborate system that has nothing to do with how the Japanese works and everything to do with how it might have worked if it had been a Western language.
So – how much to refer back to the mare’s-nest that is Eihongo grammar is always a slight conundrum. The ideal, I think, is:
Enough to make it clear to people who have learned a bit (or a lot) of Eihongo grammar that we are referring to the same grammar areas and signalling that it is re-think time.
Little enough not to distract those who are learning from scratch, or to give the old misdescriptions an undue prominence that will end up with us falling in the briar patch.
Because we all know what happens when you fall in the briar patch.
I hope I am achieving that balance.