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Problem parsing sentence with "是。。。的-construction"".


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Hi Everyone,


Just the other day, I came across a (yet another) sentence/clause (marked in bold, below) with a seeming "是。。。的-construction" that completely derails my parsing/interpreting :


“中国古代有银筷, 铜筷。但那都是极少数人所用。而不像西方的刀叉餐具普遍是金属的 [。/, ?] 竹木做的筷子造起来很容易,也不需要用到贵重的材料。


The entire excerpt is from a video about 筷子 posted by "Chinese Zero to Hero" on YouTube (see 1:43, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KaLkmaWi-bs ).


I have several questions about this sentence, and would greatly appreciate any help at all trying to make sense of it!


1) As far as I understand, 而 is a conjunction, and here it would express a contrastive meaning much like "but". However, which clause is being "contrasted"? The subsequent one, or the first one in the excerpt?


2) My gut tells me that the clause(?) should be translated into something like:


"But, unlike western cutlery [which] is generally [made out of] metal ... "


However, that translation's relative clause is currently driving me crazy(!). Can the (seeming) "是。。。的-construction" really be translated into a relative clause?


2a) How do I make sense of (how do I parse) the (?)clause?


2b) Does it have a "是。。。的-construction", or is "是金属的" in fact a plain old copula + subject complement (i.e. , something like "is metal[lic]”)?


This is my interpretation:


而 = but

不像西方的刀叉餐具 = unlike Western cutlery

普遍 = generally

是金属的 = is [made out of] metal



3) Is this in fact not even a sentence, but a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverbial? I.e., should it really be translated into something like:


"But, unlike Western cutlery, generally made out of metal, chopsticks made out of bamboo ... " ?



Thanks in advance!





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4 hours ago, 咖乐 said:


one kind of utensil, silver and copper chopsticks, were only used by a minority of people 而 another type, knife and fork, was quite commonly made of metal

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Thank you for your reply!

Surely, this part would be more appropriately translated into something along the lines of "In ancient China, there were [both] silver chopsticks [and] copper chopsticks, but these were only used by a minority of people"?:

中国古代有银筷, 铜筷 但那都是极少数人所用

Also, your translation leaves out "不像西方的", which makes up (I would say) the main reason why the (?)clause in question is so difficult to translate (at least for me); How does one translate 不像 in "而不像西方的刀叉餐具普遍是金属的" without resorting to having to translate (turning) "普遍是金属的" into a relative clause?

Omitting 不像 would indeed make the whole thing much easier to translate. Although I'm not sure about translating 而 into "whereas", I would suggest the following passage (in which 不像 has been omitted) be translated into something like "Whereas Western cutlery is generally [made out of] metal, manufacturing bamboo chopsticks is [not only] easy, but it also doesn't require using up  important [valuable] materials":


而不像西方的刀叉餐具普遍是金属的 [。/, ?] 竹木做的筷子造起来很容易,也不需要用到贵重的材料

So, I suppose the real question that I need help answering is: How does one translate 不像 in "而不像西方的刀叉餐具普遍是金属的" without resorting to having to translate (turning) "普遍是金属的" into a relative clause?

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It wasn't meant to be a perfect translation, but a form of Socratic questioning ?


"筷子並不需要用金屬製成,這點也是包含了中國人的智慧" was the sentence right before your given context. So Chinese=smarter because they could make their utensils out of wood, unlike the westerners' knives and forks which were generally made of metal.


They could've used 金屬製成 again to describe the westerners' knives and forks, but they didn't. They used 是...的 to emphasize them being made of metal versus all the smart Chinese people who were doing fine with wood. Looks like a subtle jab to me now.


But I guess that's why Chinese escalators love to eat people so often, since they aren't so accustomed to working with metal. 


(disclaimer: not a native speaker)



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