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~しなくもない

cacawate

観察するのが好きです
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I found this in a chat room today and tried googling it for an english equivalent to no avail. It does seem though that in about half of the hits 気が preceded it, as in 気がする of course. But I can't for the life of me find out what しなくもない means.

Here's the whole sentence:
英語じゃなかった気がしなくもないけど、あやふやなのでなんともだ。
 

nice gaijin

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I believe it's an idiom, roughly translating to "wasn't sure whether or not" (whether or not it was english, in this case).
 

bentenmusume

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This is one of those Japanese double-negatives that's going to give you headaches if you try to translate it literally. Which isn't going to stop me from trying...

Basically, it breaks down to "It's not that I <b>don't</b> have the feeling that (...), which is just a more tentative way of saying "I have the feeling that (...)"

In other words, you can basically read it as 気がする without changing the basic meaning. You'll also see this (perhaps even more commonly?) as 気がしないでもない. As you mention, these expressions are common with 気がする, but you'll also see it with other phrases, 分かる (分からなくもない/分からないでもない; e.g. 気持ちは分からないでもないけど・・・) being one that comes readily to mind.

And just in case this clarification might help as well, the 「なんともだ」 is likely implying 「なんとも言えない」.

Hope this helps. (Also hoping that native speakers and/or more experienced learners won't hesitate to correct any misleading or blatantly incorrect information in the above.)
 

cacawate

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How about this? 'I feel it wasn't English, but I couldn't say for sure'. Of course that feels awkward 'cause I wanna say felt instead but... well feedback would be nice on this. After that I can start constructing sentences. 「なんともだ」 is also new to me.
 

bentenmusume

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cacawate said:
How about this? 'I feel it wasn't English, but I couldn't say for sure'. Of course that feels awkward 'cause I wanna say felt instead but...
Sounds close enough to me. I might say something like (without trying to literally translate the double negative) "I have a feeling that it wasn't English, but I'm not certain so I can't say for sure." I don't really see any reason to change the tenses -- obviously the item under discussion is something that the speaker saw/heard in the past (hence 英語じゃなかった), but the feeling he has, his uncertainty, and his reluctance to speak definitively on this subject are all happening in the present (hence the imperfectives in the rest of the sentence.)

cacawate said:
After that I can start constructing sentences. 「なんともだ」 is also new to me.
To be honest, it was new to me as well, but I think the context makes it pretty clear. Also, googling for なんともだ will pull up a bunch of similar examples in which なんともだ is clearly implying 何とも言えない...
 

cacawate

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Bah, it was a mistake using 'couldn't'. I understand it completely now. Thanks a million jt_.

Edit: Have to edit. Just for the sake of me not being able to wrap my head around the logic of the statement. He obviously knows it's not english NOW, so it feels that it should all be past or present tense.

英語じゃなかった気がしなくもなかったけど、あやふやなのでなんともだった。
or
英語じゃない気がしなくもないけど、あやふやなのでなんともだ。

Sorry to complicate things. I know different cultures have different mindsets, I just can't get this one.
 

bentenmusume

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cacawate said:
Edit: Have to edit. Just for the sake of me not being able to wrap my head around the logic of the statement. He obviously knows it's not english NOW, so it feels that it should all be past or present tense.
I'm still not seeing what's throwing you here. He doesn't "obviously know" anything now. That's the whole point of the second part of the sentence -- he's still not sure.
 

cacawate

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'I have a feeling that it wasn't English (that was typed), but I'm not sure so I can't say'

Feels more natural to say

'I have a feeling that it's not English but...'
or
'I had a feeling that it wasn't English but...'

I DO get it now that he's STILL not sure though. That helps.

Edit: Eureka? 'I feel it wasn't English, but I'm not really knowledgeable on that subject so I can't say.'
 

bentenmusume

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cacawate said:
Feels more natural to say

'I have a feeling that it's not English but...'
or
'I had a feeling that it wasn't English but...'
(my emphasis)

It feels more natural because of a fundamental difference between the two languages. This "tense-matching" (my layman's description -- I have no idea what linguists would call it) that you often see in English just doesn't occur in Japanese.

Consider an English exchange like:

"Do you know if Steve is going to the Christmas party tonight?"
"When I talked to him last week he said he was going to go, but I haven't heard from him since then, so..."

The Japanese equivalent of this would absolutely have to be some form of 「行くって言ってた」, absolutely never 「行った」, which could only mean that the "going" had already taken place -- "he said he went" or "he said he had gone". Japanese is just more strict about aspect than English is about tense in expressions like this.
 
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cacawate

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Oh! I got it. Thanks for clarifying. I just needed someone to tell me 'it's ok' :) Thanks for putting up with me jt_.
 

bentenmusume

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Not a problem. Thanks for the most in-depth discussion I've had on Japanese grammar since leaving grad school. These days I find myself spending more time using Japanese than talking about it -- of course, this is much better for me. Still, it's nice (and strangely 懐かしい) to be able to have this kind of discussion once in a while.
 

Elizabeth

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The Japanese equivalent of this would absolutely have to be some form of 「行くって言ってた」, absolutely never 「行った」, which could only mean that the "going" had already taken place -- "he said he went" or "he said he had gone". Japanese is just more strict about aspect than English is about tense in expressions like this.
This isn't really a major point or anything very serious, but whether to use
言ってた or 言った in the quotative (言った of course is the simple past 'said',
it's just that 言ってた doesn't translate well as "was saying" or "had said.") always gives me at least a momentary pause. I remember reading someplace that 言ってた is preferred when speaking of a third party, but they really are pretty interchangeable as far as I can tell.

英語の過去完了形ではタイミングの使い方がちょっと変 わりやすいなので難しいですね。。。 😅
 
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