日本人英文法の意外な穴

帝京大学教授で、ルミナス英和辞典(研究社)をはじめとする英語辞書編纂にも多く関わってこられたクリストファ・バーナード先生が月3~4回、語法、語彙を含めた広い意味での英文法の様々なトピックを解説します。

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106. The difference between 'yes' and 'no'

106. The difference between 'yes' and 'no'

Not many Japanese learners of English seem to have mastered the following:

A: You are not Junko?
B: No. (I am not Junko).
A: No?
B: No. (I am not Junko.)

Of course, as readers realise, the Japanese way of thinking about negative questions, and the way they are answered in Japanese, is different from English. The Japanese logic is as follows:

A: You are not Junko?
B: Yes. (You are correct. I am not Junko.)
A: No?
B: Yes. (You are correct. I am not Junko.)

We can summarise this by saying that in English the reply echoes the negative (...not....? > No; No? > No). In the case of Japanese, the person who replies agrees with the person answering the question.

When it come to these kinds of negative questions, Japanese is an agreeing language, and English is an echoing language.

Some Japanese learners of English have mastered the difference between the English system and the Japanese system to some degree. So they answer "No". However, while they do this they nod their heads up and down!! In other words, they are saying "No" in words, but "Yes" in actions.

The way to master this part of the grammar of English is to make many imaginary dialogues in your mind--perhaps over a period of several weeks. So, for example, if you see a white wall, make a dialogue in your mind like this:

A: That wall is not black?
B: No.
A: No?
B: No

You can think of this as a kind of image training. It seems a bit silly, but I promise you that if you do it intensively and actively over a period of, say, a month, you will master this part of the grammar of English.


◆NOTES◆

・echo: 呼応する
・when it come to ~: ~ということになると
・to some degree: ある程度
・nod: 縦に振る
・over a period of several weeks: 数週間にわたって
・in one's mind: 心の中で
・think of A as B: AをBとみなす

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