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じゃない confusion.

WonkoTheSane

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In a story I'm reading:

...
左右は青田である。路は細い。鷺の影が時々闇に差す。
「田圃へ掛ったね」と脊中でいった。(for context: there is a blind child on the narrators back)
「どうして解る」と顔を後ろへ振り向けるようにして聞いたら、「だって鷺が鳴くじゃないか」と答えた。
すると鷺が果して二声ほど鳴いた。
...

The translation (and common sense) tells me that the herons cried out but I don't understand why じゃない is used there. Is it like using 行きませんか to politely ask someone to go somewhere? If so, it seems like in this sentence the politeness level changes, or am I misunderstanding either the politeness of 〜ませんか or something else?

Thanks!
 

butarox

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Wonko-san,

...ja nai ka (dewa arimasen ka) = isn't it, aren't they, don't they, can't you, doesn't it, etc. In other words, a question asked negatively (almost as a rhetorical sometimes). I wouldn't really call this a negative question that implies a level of politeness. More of a stylistic, even stronger, way of asking a negative. I'd defer to a native, though, if they have a different take.

Ex.
Person 1: Anata, sakana ga kirai deshou? (You don't like fish, right?)
Person 2: Nani wo iu? Ima sushi wo tabete iru ja nai desu ka. (What are saying? I'm eating sushi right now, aren't I?)

Ex.
Hen na nioi ga suru ja nai? ("You can smell that (bad smell), can't you?" or "It smells off, doesn't it?")
 

Toritoribe

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Grammatically, じゃない is not negative in that sentence. Notice that it's 鳴くじゃない "affirmative + じゃない" not 鳴かない. As you can see below, this じゃない never conjugates. You can consider this じゃない is a sort of sentence final particle, similar meanings to でしょ(う) or だろ(う).

present: 鳴くじゃない
negative: 鳴かないじゃない
past: 鳴いたじゃない
past negative: 鳴かなかったじゃない

じゃないか often connotes a nuance of "complaint", something like "you can't hear?" or "why you don't catch it(=heron will cry out)?" in your example.

The following threads might be somewhat helpful to understand ~じゃない.
産むがやすし / 寝起き / 他人の目 / 会社にいると... / どうすんの | Japan Forum
(question #4)
重要な科目じゃないの | Japan Forum
 

WonkoTheSane

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Ah... So I need to classify this kind of じゃない completely separately from the negative じゃない, correct? It's not just じゃない with a か at the end modifying it, but a truly different kind of word.

Thank you very much!
 

Toritoribe

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Ah... So I need to classify this kind of じゃない completely separately from the negative じゃない, correct?
That's right.

Actually, the speaker doesn't ask for agreement/confirmation by じゃないか in your example. He must say it with a falling intonation. じゃない can have the same meaning, but it's used mostly by female in that situation, unlike じゃないか.
You've often heard people use じゃん at the end of sentences, right? It's originally from Yokohama dialect of this じゃない.
e.g.
試合、何時からだっけ?
さっき言ったじゃんか。9時からだよ。

さっき言ったじゃんか。 = さっき言ったじゃないか。 = さっき言っただろ。
(expressing the speaker's strong assertion with a bit of complaint, stronger than just じゃん / じゃない)
 

ledojaeger

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じゃない used to confuse me a lot because I always read it just as a solid negative thing (~ janai = it is not ~)

Over time I understood it the way toritoribe explained and now it's second nature to understand the meaning when I hear it. I'm sure it will become second nature for you to hear, too.
 

Kraise

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This seems like a good thread to solve an old question of mine.

I've been ignoring that untill today, assuming its meaning just by "guessing"

regarding んじゃない after verbs/いadj.
For example, in a japanese dorama called My Boss My Hero, the protagonist refers to his underling who is trying to butter him up by saying : "おい、触るんじゃねーぞ" 、in another circumstance in a certain anime, a character says "犬が嫌いだ。怖いんじゃない。ただ、その人間に対するへいこらする態度は虫唾が走るのだ"

Is it safe to assume the じゃない in this cases acts as a denial particle because of a nominalization coming from the の/ん?
This seems like a question I should have asked years ago when I first joined the forums :p
 

Toritoribe

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Yes, those are both negative. Actually, ~んじゃない is the most confusing, since it also can be not negative.
e.g.
A: 蛇なんか怖くないよ
B: あ、そこに蛇がいる!
A: え、どこどこ?!
B: ほら、やっぱり怖いんじゃない(か)
 
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