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I am a native speaker of Japanese. As such, I sometimes come across questions that, although I think I know the answer, are difficult to find a sufficient sources or objective explanations. This is especially the case for questions with the "word-choice"/"translation" tag or questions that contains "is it natural to~ ?".

Examples:

For the first question, I would like to say something like "No, it doesn't. It is true that "筆順" is more formal, though. Kanji dictionaries would prefer "筆順"". For the second, I say "Your expression makes sense, but try these to sound more natural".

Both answers I would post are mostly based on my own experience and sense as a native speaker. I always try to find sources by consulting dictionaries, searching for web pages (I can find the exact information the asker is looking for when I'm lucky. 文化庁 does fairly good job.), trying 青空文庫 or other corpora for actual usages, and whatever things I come up with. But that does not always succeed.

Provided that the original question is not focused on these concrete sources and/or evidence, can I post an answer in these cases? How valuable would that be?

Although I mainly talked about native speakers here, I think the same thing applies to those who have substantial skill in Japanese.


In Japanese:

僕は日本語の母語話者で,時々,出典をつけたりはしづらいけれど答えはわかる,というような質問に出くわすことがあります.とくに, word-choice とか translation のタグがついた質問や, "Is it natural to...?" というような文面を含む質問でそういう傾向があります.

たとえば

ひとつめの質問に関しては,「そんなことはないです.ただ "筆順" のほうが堅い言い方なのは事実で,例えば辞書ではそちらがよく使われます」と,ふたつめについては「その言い方で問題はないけれど,こういったほうが自然かもしれません」というようなことを回答したい.

ところがこのふたつの回答(実際に回答したわけではありません)はどちらも,僕の母語話者としての経験と感覚に基づいたものです.いつもできるだけ出典を集めようとはしていて,辞書をひいてみたり,検索をかけてみたり(運が良ければそのものズバリの情報にたどり着くことができます.文化庁とか,時々すごくいい仕事しますよね),青空文庫を使って用例を集めてみたり,その他諸々のことを試みますが,これはいつも成功するとは限りません.

こういった時,元の質問がまさにその根拠を求めているというような場合でないならば,回答を投稿しても問題はないでしょうか.ここでは母語話者としての質問としましたが,十分に造詣の深い日本語話者であれば似たケースが起こりうると思います.

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    I hope, personally, that questioners not demand a "complete answer". Whereas, English is old North German origin, French added, Latin added, even Slavic added, but we do not know exactly where our language came from, may be, related with central asian's, but some say the vocabulary is related with old South Asian, and even the notable Shintaro Ishihara pointed out that the sentence of our CONSTITUTION was strange! Then how, we amateurs, can give you the "complete decisive answers" whereas – Kentaro Tomono Feb 14 '15 at 19:01
  • even professionals are arguing. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 14 '15 at 19:01
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    Native-speaker intuitions about what things are more or less natural are incredibly valuable! If I want to know the etymology of something, or how a grammatical structure works, I can generally consult a dictionary or some other scholarly source. But, for the most part, there don't seem to be good, compiled works identifying things like which word choices are more natural than others (and why would there be? every native speaker knows this stuff anyway!). I would much prefer to hear a native speaker's opinion on what is more natural than to try to deduce this from a corpus or something. – senshin Feb 14 '15 at 22:48
  • I'm not sure about that. You can certainly get "something" from the native speaker, but refer here ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/…, even we do not speak ours correctly. Or rather we don't pay so much attention, as it might be the case too in English. No offense to Mr. Broccoli, but the Japanese on the photo he uploaded is weird. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/21685/… 化粧室は – Kentaro Tomono Feb 15 '15 at 1:47
  • 後方へ。Sounds really strange when I think "in the desk". ( While I am looking for a bathroom, I probably won't care. ). The phrse should be added with へ、 – Kentaro Tomono Feb 15 '15 at 1:48
  • denoting the direction, so that the "correct" sentence is, to me "化粧室へは – Kentaro Tomono Feb 15 '15 at 1:49
  • 後方へ”.denoting "Go backward to find the bathroom". I am sorry I repeated too many times, but here it looks like return-key sensitive. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 15 '15 at 1:51
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Feel free to post any answer that you reasonably believe to be true. I think that the intuition of a native speaker is great as an answer to any question we have where you feel that your input as a native is valuable. If people agree that the information is valuable, you will be upvoted. There are many questions about how something feels or other such subjectivity that might not be able to be answered convincingly by someone saying "I don't know, but maybe ~," so by all means answer away.

I'd say post whatever sort of answer you like to whatever question you feel you can provide a valid answer to. So long as it falls under the guidelines of what makes a good answer generally, it won't be a problem.

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ひとまず、その質問をかけてくださって、感謝します。大学時代にこんなサイトがなくて、自分から表現したいことがあったとき、辞典を引いて言葉が出ても、語用的な問題は解決されないままで、(日本人の)友達に聞いてもきりがないから、いつも物足りない気分でした。

でも、骨を折っただけ、とあることに気づきました。

人間の間に生まれたものとして、言語の「なぜなに」は段階的だと感じます。こんなふうに:

  1. 〇〇って、日本語でなんといいます?
  2. 〇〇って、どうして〇〇って言います?
  3. 〇〇って言葉って、いつ・どこ使えます?どんな感じがします?どんな人が使います?

1番目は子供もかける質問で、そのまま答えられますね。2番目は、語源、あるいは漢字の組み合わせなどを尋ねる質問で、一般に知られなくてもまあ、少し検索したら客観的な説明は出ますね。(特に比較的によくできた日本語の場合、規則的なルールをよく発見します。)しかし、3番目は莫大すぎますね。

聞いている方はその中のどれが知りたいか、自分でも気づいていないかもしれません。少なくとも、僕の場合は長い間そうでした。が、どれも適切かつ客観的な答え方があると思います。(言語のような、根本的に自主的なものだから、母語話者の”自主的な判断”自体が客観的であると思います。)

つまり、3番目のような質問に対する答え方は二つだけあると思います:

  1. そのまま答えること(笑)学習者はいずれ「習うより慣れよ」の道を辿ることなので、ヒントをあげても無駄ではありません。
  2. 自分の、答えに対する感覚の根拠を探り、思う存分吐き出すこと(笑)こういう話は人類学・歴史・社会学的な話につながり、様々な意見は回答に出るけれど、その分興味深いと思います。単純な例だけれど、「マクドナルドの略は、”マック”か、”マクド”か、どっち?」という質問に対して、自然に関西と関東の違いに入りますね。そう言った答えこそに甲斐があると思います。

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