Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation

Brief Notes on Word Order
in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese


(For the romanisation of Chinese and Japanese, see Transliteration. To understand the writing systems of CJV, see Writing Systems.)


In considering the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese versions of Harry Potter, there are some differences in word order that need to be noted.

1. Prepositions. Prepositions or their equivalents come before the noun in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese, but after the noun in Japanese. An example:

    English: From London
    Chinese: Cóng Lún-dūn
    Japanese: Rondon kara
    Vietnamese: từ Luân Đôn

(Note: other particles, such as the subject marker ga, the object marker o, and the possessive marker no also come after the noun in Japanese.)


2. Adjectives and possessive expressions come before the noun in English, Chinese, and Japanese, but after the noun in Vietnamese. An example:

    English: Black dragon
    Chinese: Heī lóng
    Japanese: Kuroi doragon
    Vietnamese: Rồng đen

    English: Harry's wand
    Chinese: Hālì de mózhàng
    Japanese: Harii no tsue
    Vietnamese: cây đữa phép của Harry ("cây" is a 'counter' - see 5 below).


3. The general word order in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). In Japanese it is SOV - i.e., the verb comes at the end of the sentence. An example:

    English: Harry eats rice (= 'a meal')
    Chinese: Hālì chī fàn
    Japanese: Harii wa go-han o tabemasu
    Vietnamese: Harry ăn cơm


4. Relative clauses (i.e., short sentences modifying nouns) come after the noun in English and Vietnamese, but before the noun in Japanese and Chinese. An example:

    English: the boy who bought a wand
    Chinese: mǎi mózhàng de nán-hái (mǎi = 'buy', mózhàng = 'wand') A connecting particle de is placed between the clause and the word nán-hái 'boy'.
    Japanese: tsue o katta otoko no ko (tsue o = 'wand + object particle', katta = 'bought')
    Vietnamese: cậu bé mà mua một cây đữa phép ("mà" = 'who', "mua" = 'buy', "một" = 'one', "cây" is a counter, refer to 5 below, "đữa phép" = 'wand').


5. All three languages have parts of speech known as 'classifiers', 'counters', or 'measure words'. These are like the 'loaf', 'cake', and 'head' in expressions like 'a loaf of bread', 'a cake of soap', 'three head of cattle', but are used much more extensively than in English. Virtually every noun can take a counter in CJV. They are most prevalent in Vietnamese but are also widely used in Chinese and Japanese, especially when counting things. To take an example that translates easily into English (note the word order):

    English: one sheet of paper / a sheet of paper
    Chinese: yī zhāng zhǐ ( = 'one', zhāng = 'sheet', zhǐ = 'paper')
    Japanese: kami ichi mai (kami = 'paper', ichi = 'one', mai = 'sheet'.) The order can also be reversed to 'ichi mai no kami'.
    Vietnamese: một tờ giấy ("một" = 'one', "tờ" = 'sheet', "giấy" = 'paper').


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