Education About Asia: Online Archives

Making Sense of Japanese Grammar: A Clear Guide Through Common Problems

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HONOLULU: UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII PRESS, 2002

199 PAGES. HARDCOVER, ISBN: 0-8248-2497-0

PAPERBACK, ISBN: 0-8248-2583-7

When using Japanese, do you hesitate to use the same verb over and over? Does the apparent complexity of lengthy, Falkneresque sentences in Japanese stymie you? Do you still struggle to differentiate between the usage of particles –wa and –ga, or more egregiously, find it a challenge to clearly explain their usage to your Japanese language students? How about the locational particles –de and –ni? Would you love to delve into a unit entitled “Reality consists of continuous-grade scales; language makes things discrete”?

Those who have studied and love studying the Japanese language will recognize and appreciate the above questions (and will look forward to discovering what the last question is all about!). Making Sense of Japanese Grammar does a masterful job of living up both to its title, and its subtitle: A Clear Guide Through Common Problems. Authors Zeljko Cipris, assistant professor of Japanese at the University of the Pacific, and Shoko Hamano, associate professor of Japanese at George Washington University, have carried the theme of clarity throughout the book, beginning with the straightforward title. Similarly, the table of contents not only organizes the book, but it is also a veritable study guide in itself. Some sample unit (authors’ term) entries:

Unit 2: Use the verb at the end!

Unit 16: The particle -wa identifies what the sentence is about and urges the listener to pay attention to the part that follows

Unit 22: Only one direct object particle –o appears per verb

Unit 47: No is for a familiar event; koto is for an abstract idea

Unit 50: Te- forms connect very closely related events