Classical Japanese Verbs - Preliminary Note

So far it would appear that Classical Japanese had three C-stem conjugations (which I will henceforth refer to as CI, CII & CIII, corresponding to the traditional yodan, kami-nidan and shimo-nidan, resp.) and one V-stem conjugation (traditional kami- and shimo-ichidan). The four traditional irregular verbs (ka/sa/ra/na-hen) can be analyzed as mixed-conjugation or minimally irregular C-stems. (E.g., ari would be a typical yodan verb if not for its non-characteristic SS (shushikei).)

Naturally there are a few wrinkles I’m still trying to iron out.

One of the most interesting things to turn up in the results is that the morpheme used to create the most basic (free-standing) form of the verb (SS) remains unchanged in the modern language, showing the same allomorphy between -u and -ru.

The details of other morphemes are a bit more problematic. Take amida’s favorite raru, for example. A selection of relevant examples would be

sakaru (CI)
tukiraru (CII)
kudakeraru (CIII)
kiraru (keraru) (V)
koraru (ka-hen)
seraru (sa-hen)
araru (ra-hen)
sinaru (na-hen)

Assuming allomorphy in the endings (as in the analysis of modern language presented earlier) results in four allomorphs: -aru (CI, na, ra), -raru (V, ka, sa), -iraru (CII) and -eraru (CIII); this isn’t impossible, but I’m wondering about the justification. Allomorphy in the stem (basically the traditional analysis) seems like a lot more “overhead”, with at least three or four versions of each of the consonant verb stems (e.g., sak-, saka-, saki-, sake- for CI, sug-, sugi-, sugu- for CII) and still two allomorphs of the ending (-ru ~ -raru).

Another alternative would be to assume the existence of “linking morphemes” which must be added to C-stems before given endings (sak+a+ru); as with the above stem-allomorphy analysis, there still must be ending allomorphs.

Will continue to ponder and keep y’all posted….

(Addendum: Realized that the final -u on all the forms is the self same SS ending.)

12 Responses to “Classical Japanese Verbs - Preliminary Note”

  1. Matt Says:

    I would use your last idea, I guess:

    1. verb stem +
    2. verb MZ ending +
    3. “rar~”
    4. if “-ara-” was formed in step 3, change it to “-a-”

    Then, obviously, treat the result as a CIII verb. (e.g. sak.a.[ra]r~, tsuk.i.rar~)

    Also works in a similar way with y~/ray~ and s~/sas~ (plus the variant -s~ that gives you a CI verb).

    [Site admin: edited per request of poster…I think this’s what you meant?]

  2. Matt Says:

    Ga! Delete the last period in each of my examples there. Time for me to sleep, I think.

    [Site admin says, thy prayers be answered. Sweet dreams!]

  3. Matt Says:

    … Now this is getting ridiculous, but I see that I deleted this before posting: the idea with my version is that you avoid some of the allomorphy by appealing to collapsibility instead. This makes the system run based on laziness rather than categorization, which strikes me as more likely.

  4. site admin Says:

    ‘Tis easy to give, but a PITA to take away, is what I think. (Why I prefer stem allomorphy over some phylogeny-recapitulating phonological processing in the creation of forms like kaita or koida.)

    After further thought today (er, yesterday), I’m now leaning towards an analysis involving stem-formative morphemes for the three C-stem conjugations. (With these reanalyzed as part of the following ending morphemes in some cases as the system changed over time).

    I still need to dig out a slew more forms and look at them, though!

  5. Matt Says:

    I guess in that case you can go for:

    stem +
    MZ ending +
    rar~/r~ (or ray/y, or sas/s)

    with the rar/r allomorphy working pretty simply: r~ comes after -a-, rar~ comes after everything else. (Reasoning being something like “there must be one and only one -a- before the final consonant”.) That doesn’t seem unreasonably complex to me…

  6. Azuma Says:

    How about thinking of the ending as -aru, with a pre-duplicating “r” standing in for a lacking root consonant in V verbs?

    Then, (cutting and pasting)

    Consonant Stems:
    sak + aru (CI)
    ar + aru (ra-hen)
    sin + aru (na-hen)

    Vowel Stems:
    tuki + (r) + aru (CII)
    kudake + (r) + aru (CIII)
    ki + (r) + raru (keraru) (V)
    ko + (r) + aru (ka-hen)
    se + (r) + raru (sa-hen)

    Then you could state the rule: add directly to the stem, but avoid vowel hiatus with dummy stem-final consonant “r”.

  7. site admin Says:

    Duh. Ok, so break out the Bernstein: I feel stupid, oh so stupid!

    That’s very nice, I think. There’s that amazing stability again for you: the answer was there staring us in the face in Big Chart part 2, (r)ar.u. And consonantal (p)reduplication is nice, too, since it also explains (s)as.u. So let’s see, that takes care of (r)ar.u, (s)as.u, (r)ay.u (which Matt mentioned; no p-redup there, though).

    Just one question: “dummy stem-final consonant” or dummy ending-initial consonant?

    And finally, for that mandatory WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, what do you think about CII & CIII RT and IZ formatives added to the SS?

  8. Matt Says:

    But wait, why is it sak+aru (root + aux) but (e.g.) tuk+i+raru? (root + MZ ending + aux)? Doesn’t it make things rather overcomplex to mix roots and MZKs like that?

  9. amida Says:

    Actually, these days I am pretty into “mashi.” ;-)
    My Big Chart works around it by separating “ru” and “raru” into two distinct jodoushi, with the note that “ru” is for yodan, rahen and nahen verbs, while “raru” is for all others.

  10. azuma Says:

    Good point. I probably should think about this more first, but, eh.

    I’m thinking of Japanese verbs as being either vowel or consonant stems, esentially. The mizenkei of say, “saku” may be “saka-”, and that of “tuku” “tuki-”, but I think that has more to do with the orthography. They can write the full stem of “tuki”, but not “sak-”. So we can’t have a kana verb chart that accurately reflects the roots of the verbs. But I think we have to go beyond the limitations of kana when analyzing the forms. So it doesn’t bother me to mix roots and mizenkei’s–not too much.

    Of course the question is, if “a” of yodan MZK is sort of an epenthetic vowel to avoid clusters like *sakzu, why would the epenthetic vowel of the RYK be differently “i”? The difference makes me think that maybe those vowels are more significant, and perhaps the yodan the older conjugation. Which would fit in nicely with the thought I had reading post about ari. That (n)ari probably preserves an older SSK form in ri that most other les-used verbs had worn out of them by analogy with the V-verbs. Where my theory goes in such a case, however…

  11. site admin Says:

    Hi; me playing site admin again. Amida had a comment in-between that got moder’ed, passed now. The blog should recognize y’all from now on, but if you post a comment and it doesn’t make it through, mail me; I’m more likely to see the mail before the comment gummed up in the queue.

    (Of course, I’m thinking about banning Matt ENTIRELY for PUBLISHING AN ENTIRE SOLUTION in one swell foop!!!)

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