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GreenCine Movie Talk
From Albania to Zaire, there's a whole world out there.

Japanese ?ware-ware?
Topic by: FGaipa
Posted: August 10, 2005 - 11:55 PM PDT
Last Reply: August 22, 2005 - 2:28 AM PDT

author topic: Japanese ?ware-ware?
post #1  on August 10, 2005 - 11:55 PM PDT  
I should almost be able to answer this myself. I went through Japanese Six at UCB, but much too long ago. The word (Or is its duplicity etymologically somehow a phrase?) "ware-ware" meaning simply "we" or sometimes unspoken interpolations of "we," nearly always sounds at least slightly ominous. Compare tiny "we" onomatopoeically with a sometimes deeply intoned, slowly spoken "waaarreee-waaareee." In councils of war or business, or even of high school politics, it can sound downright incantatory. I can't believe native speakers don't hear it at least to some small extent as I do. I think I'd note it in soundtracks even if I hadn't taken those classes.

Maybe my questions are to some extent rhetorical. But might anyone here elaborate?
post #2  on August 11, 2005 - 12:42 AM PDT  
I can comiserate, but not elaborate.

I clearly remember figuring that out (after finally learning to say watashi-tachi) when watching "Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell". The aliens said it quite a few times. And so do the aliens from "The Mysterians". But you're right, I never hear it in songs, and I don't remember hearing it in any doramas or any real-life situations.
post #3  on August 13, 2005 - 12:52 PM PDT  
Here's a second-thought theory on my own question. Japanese often supresses grammatical subjects and, I think, pronouns in general. So the use of this ponderous four-syllable one may actually be as exceptional as it sounds to our ears? This would explain why in film it pops up most commonly in lines spoken by heads of government, of troops, of student clubs, whatever? Does it carry a pretention that escapes the subtitles? I'm not sure I've ever noticed it spoken by one to one other. Rather it's one to more than one.

Back in those classes I always felt foolish starting sentences "Watashi wa..." over and over, but didn't get why until recently with the language long gone.
post #4  on August 13, 2005 - 1:38 PM PDT  
(bear in mind that I am myself an amateur...)

The kanji for "ware-ware" is 我々 (the "々", I revently learned, is the notation for repeated kanji, like the "hibi" in Midori no Hibi (day+day = days)).
When I translate "ware-ware", I simply get "we", so here's the translation listing for the main kanji, 我, which is a bit more detailed:
我 【わが; われ】 (わが) (adj-pn,n) my; our; one's own; (われ) (n) me; oneself; self; ego;

as "waka" it indicates possession, and as "ware" it indicates self. The "ego" part would hint to it being a slightly self-important or rude pronoun, and that would go with what you guys have already mentioned about its use in "ware-ware", which is pretty much the same as what I've noticed.
(I haven't heard "waka" used in this way very often, by the way. 若い (wakai) is more familiar, meaning "young".)

So, ware-ware is (from context and supported (if weakly) by the translator) a pronoun used to add weight to the statement. It is more impressive than "watashi-tachi", another (more standard) 1st-person-plural pronoun, and possibly less polite (it's even one syllable shorter). It would seem odd for me to see a general use it when speaking to the shogun, but only natural for speaking to his troops. (but I am not a native speaker, so take that with a grain of salt)

I hope that was at least a little informative. The next best thing you could do is ask a native speaker, or someone who teaches a Japanese class.

If you're trying to learn Japanese, you should scan through the old Nihongo threads. They cover a lot of stuff.
post #5  on August 13, 2005 - 1:40 PM PDT  
err, I misread. That should be "waga", not "waka". Those little nigori are out to get me.
Yeah, "waga" sounds a little more familiar in this context....

(oh, and I hope you have Japanese fonts enabled, or none of the kanji will show up... not that that's too important)
post #6  on August 14, 2005 - 11:21 AM PDT  
Thanks. That helps. And the kanji showed up fine.
post #7  on August 14, 2005 - 2:07 PM PDT  
My understanding of wareware is that it refers to a specific organized group (like an army, company or school) that is understood in the context, where watashitachi just refers to oneself among others. What I mean is that if a general uses wareware in the context of talking about his army, it is understood that wareware IS his army. If a company president uses wareware when talking about his company, wareware is the group of people who make up that company.

If the general instead uses watashitachi, however, he is referring to himself among others, who might include the entire army, or might just include the high officers, or might include other middle-aged men like himself, or some other loosely tied group that isn't rigidly defined. You know from the context who might be in that group, but all he's really saying is that he's not just talking about himself.

That would explain somewhat why wareware shows up in those ominous situations you described, when identification of or with a particular group would be important. I looked for info, but I couldn't find anything in my textbooks or on the net that said watashitachi is a more humble word than wareware, so I have to believe there's no restriction of that word to just people of high rank. If my understanding is correct, a student could use watashitachi to refer to himself among other students, while he could also use wareware to refer to the body of students like himself that specifically attend his school.

Does that sound reasonable?
post #8  on August 14, 2005 - 2:28 PM PDT  
> On August 14, 2005 - 2:07 PM PDT Shaky wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Does that sound reasonable?
> ---------------------------------

Quite, thanks. (of course, for all my know you could have made it up, but it's pretty credible.)

"watashi-tachi" as you described it is pretty credible, too; considering that "-tachi" can be added to just about any person or pronoun to indicate a group containing the person -tachi is attached to ("chiyo-chan-tachi", "aitsu-tachi"), it would probably need to be flexible and hard to specify without context.
I actually hadn't thought of it like that before, so thanks!

Now, one of us has to take a Japanese class so they can give clear answers on this sort of stuff. We could to drag Hamano back here by his ankles, but totoros' feet are so small it would be too hard....
post #9  on August 14, 2005 - 6:17 PM PDT  
> On August 14, 2005 - 2:28 PM PDT jross3 wrote:
> Now, one of us has to take a Japanese class so they can give clear answers on this sort of stuff.
> ---------------------------------

I've been taking Japanese classes through the USDA Graduate School (which really isn't a graduate school but more like a continuing education/community college for government workers). We're in the summer break right now and don't start back until September, but I'll try to remember to ask my instructor about this when we resume.
post #10  on August 15, 2005 - 7:18 PM PDT  
I start Japanese classes at UTSA on the 24th of this month. If I remember I will ask my prof... after I ask him what this entire thread is even talking about (have an idea but don't think I am quite getting everything).
post #11  on August 15, 2005 - 8:58 PM PDT  
> On August 15, 2005 - 7:18 PM PDT shiori308 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> I start Japanese classes at UTSA on the 24th of this month. If I remember I will ask my prof... after I ask him what this entire thread is even talking about (have an idea but don't think I am quite getting everything).
> ---------------------------------

Let me see if I can explain. The simple answer is that we're talking about the different ways to say we in Japanese.

Unfortunately for you, me and everyone else studying the language, Japanese uses different pronouns for different situations. For example, the English first person pronoun I in Japanese can be watashi, watakushi (more formal), atashi (women only), boku (usually only boys), ore (which I still haven't figured out), and probably some others I'm forgetting or haven't learned. Which pronoun you use depends on who you are and who you're talking to. The word ware is another version of I, an archaic version that (thankfully) is rarely used now.

There are also several ways to make something plural. The easiest is to add -tachi to the end of a word. If kodomo is child, then kodomo-tachi is children. Likewise, if watashi is I, then watashi-tachi is we (or at least one form of it).

But SOME words become plural through "reduplication," which basically means repeating a word. The Japanese word for day is hi. If you repeat it, it becomes hibi and means days. (Does the anime title Midori no Hibi ring a bell? It's usually translated "Days with Midori," Midori being the name of the girl who grows on the main character's right hand.) The second hi is changed to bi to make it easier to pronounce. The same thing happens when you repeat hito (person) to get hitobito (people). (Don't worry, there's a logic behind the way the sounds change, and once you learn hiragana it will make a lot more sense.) To make sure that everyone stays confused, reduplication doesn't always result in a plural word but instead sometimes changes the meaning considerably; but as I said, SOME words do become plural this way.

The word wareware is one such word. It's the old word ware, for English I, repeated to get English we. Yet those two words for we (watashi-tachi and wareware) have slightly different meanings or connotations, and it was those differences we were discussing.

Does that make sense?
post #12  on August 22, 2005 - 2:28 AM PDT  
> On August 15, 2005 - 8:58 PM PDT Shaky wrote:
> ---------------------------------

> Does that make sense?
> ---------------------------------

It does yes. Thanks for the explanation! :)

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