927 - をもとに(して)

JLPT N3: をもとに(して)《derived from; inspired by

The word もと can mean something like "origin," "source," or "root."

For example, it appears in the following saying:

失敗は成功のもと
しっぱい は せいこう の もと。
Failure is the root of success.
Literally: "failure + は + success + の + origin / source."


Knowing that, it's not too much of a stretch to see how をもとに(して) is used to describe something that was derived from something else.

For example, in the following sentence, the song "We Will Rock You" was the root, so to speak, from which this new lullaby came into being:

この曲はクイーンのウィー・ウィル・ロック・ユーをもとにして子守歌風にアレンジされたものです。
この きょく は クイーン の ウィー・ウィル・ロック・ユー をもとにして こもりうた ふう に アレンジ された もの です。
This song is a lullaby inspired by Queen's "We Will Rock You."
Literally: “this + song + は + Queen + の + We Will Rock You + をもとにして + lullaby + style + に + arrangement + was done + thing + です.”


To be honest, our team had a bit of trouble translating the sentences in this lesson because it was not entirely clear to us non-native speakers of Japanese whether we should be using the phrase "inspired by" or "based on" in sentences like the one above. For the sentence above, initially I wasn't sure which of these translations was correct:

✖ This song is a lullaby version of Queen's "We Will Rock You."
〇 This song is a lullaby inspired by Queen's "We Will Rock You."

So, why did we go with "inspired by"? The reason is that をもとに(して) is used when we are talking about the creation of something new that is derived from or inspired by something else. In other words, the new thing that is being created is not the same as the source material that was used.

In the example above, this means that the lullaby sounds quite different than Queen's "We Will Rock You." Just by listening to the lullaby, you might not guess that it was inspired by Queen's song.

Uh... OK...

Looking at various materials online, I kept running into sentences talking about how hiragana and katakana were derived from kanji in order to illustrate the mean をもとに(して). For example, you could say something like this:

平仮名は漢字をもとに作られた。
ひらがな は かんじ をもとに つくられた。
The hiragana was developed from kanji.
Literally: "hiragana + は + kanji + をもとに + was made."


Kanji served as the "inspiration," so to speak, for hiragana to be created. If you want to nerd out on some history, by the way, here is some Wikipedia goodness:

"Hiragana developed from man'yōgana, Chinese characters used for their pronunciations, a practice that started in the 5th century." - Wikipedia

"Man'yōgana (万葉仮名) is an ancient writing system that employs Chinese characters to represent the Japanese language, and was the first known kana system to be developed as a means to represent the Japanese language phonetically." - Wikipedia

A somewhat similar grammar point is に基づいて (にもとづいて), which we'll cover in an N2 lesson. The meaning of that is a bit closer to "based on" or "according to." But let's worry about that in the future...

 

To confuse things, here is a sentence in which I am translating をもとに(して) as "based on:" 

古い白黒の写真をもとに、色付きでモーツァルトの肖像画を描いた。
ふるい しろくろ の しゃしん をもとに、 いろ つき で モーツァルト の しょうぞうが を かいた。
I drew a color portrait of Mozart based on an old black-and-white photograph.
Literally: “old + black and white + の + photograph + をもとに, + color + -attached / -including + で + Mozart + の + portrait + を + drew.”


Although you might be able to tell by looking at the portrait being discussed above that it is of Mozart, it still qualifies as a new work. For one thing, it's not in black and white. Accordingly, it still fits our pattern:

[source material] をもとに(して) [new thing is created]
= source material is used to create something new (that is different from the source material)

Here, the source material is "an old black-and-white photograph," and it is being used in order to create something new/different: "a color portrait."

 

👷 Construction 👷

If you haven't figured this out already, we're just putting a NOUN right in front of をもとに(して):

NOUNをもとに(して)
derived from NOUN; inspired by NOUN

If をもとに(して) is part of a noun phrase (and therefore followed by a NOUN), it changes to をもとにした, as in our last two sentences:

来週から8チャンネルで、グリム童話をもとにした連続ドラマが放送されるそうだ。
らいしゅう から はっチャンネル で、 グリムどうわ をもとにした れんぞくドラマ が ほうそう される そうだ。
Apparently, a drama series inspired by the Grimm fairy tales starts next week on channel 8.
Literally: “next week + from (=から) + channel 8 + で, + Grimm fairy tales + をもとにした + drama series + が + airing + will be done + そうだ (=[hearsay marker]).”

 

Last one:

このミステリー小説はアイルランドで実際に起こった事件をもとにしたものである。
この ミステリー しょうせつ は アイルランド で じっさい に おこった じけん をもとにした もの である。
This mystery novel was inspired by a real incident that happened in Ireland.
Literally: “this + mystery + novel + は + Ireland + で + reality + に + happened + incident + をもとにした + thing + である.”

 

Finished!