Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Transitive and Intransitive

Transitive and intransitive verbs.  A person does something and something is done.  I open the door.  The door opens.  In Japanese there are two different words for these things.  I akimasu a door.  But on its own, the door will akemasu.  If she is sleeping but it is time to get up, I okoshimasu the child.  But on her own, the child will okimas.  The words are similar and there are trends to their differences, but no hard-fast rule.  This goes along with the bouncing game of particles that accompany the nouns doing or being done to which change depending on whether it's transitive or intransitive (and I've just learned, also change in a different way whether a person has performed the action or it was just the result of...nature?)  Anyway, the point is, it can be a bit muzukashi ("difficult," as anything is called when it is not immediately mastered here.  It's not your fault.  Just say it's hard).

Fukunari-sensei is leading me through this treacherous strait with great care.  Many examples must be employed, many confirmations of my understanding made.  In one exercise prompted through the text book, there is an earthquake and a picture of the aftermath.  Things have fallen, are broken, are dirty, etc.  The kettle on the range is still boiling.

It was this last point that brought Fukunari-sensei out of the intransitive verbs.  The gas is on.  Still in intransitive land.  Please turn it off.  To transitive we turn.  There are many earthquakes in Japan, she explained.  And when an earthquake happens there are things you should do: open the window, open the door, turn off the gas, get under something.

As she told me this it struck me that she had been through this before.  It is an experience that colors her existence in a way I cannot possibly understand.  I've never experienced an earthquake (of which I was aware) nor any other life-threatening natural disaster.  As she spoke, using this example to explain verbs, I felt very innocent and respectful of her experience as a Japanese person living in the midst of this unpredictable phenomenon.  She was here during the Great Hanshin Earthquake.  She lived through it.  To me it is only a story.

I still don't know how to describe this state-of-being.  What is her state-of-being, what is mine, what is the door's?  I think it's changing.

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