日本語の秘密 20/33


日本語の秘密/ The Key to NIHON-GO

by 岸本建夫 [Kishimoto Tatsuo] 1999
OCR/Corr by most.cyak@gmail.com, Oct 2014


Section 4 Japanese is a Free-Spirited Language

→ Young People Have Improved the Japanese Language
   by Removing the Syllable ra from the Potential Form

  According to Dave Specter, an American who speaks fluent Japanese and often appears on Japanese television programs, Japanese is a relatively unfinished language when compared to other languages like English. I agree with this opinion. I think one of the major reasons for this is the use of kanji characters, but no matter how you say it, Japanese has a certain unfinished expression.

  Miru type verbs do not make a distinction between potential forms, honorific forms or passive tense forms. For example, with the verb taberu, taberareru can signify potential, respect or the passive tense.

  In the passive tense, the structure of the rest of the sentence is different, so you can easily make the distinction. However, with the potential and honorific forms, the sentences are exactly the same, and this is inconvenient.

  Young people have recently begun leaving out the ra when they use the potential forms of verbs. In other words, they’d say, “Sensei wa pan wo tabereru.” ‘The teacher can eat bread.’ Many Japanese language scholars, however, frown on this and say that it destroys the language.

  A small minority of scholars, however, support the change. They say that leaving the ra out of these verbs is not a destruction of the language, but rather a welcome method of expression because it enables one to make a distinction between the potential form and the honorific form, which people haven’t been able to do until now. With this distinction, if you say, “Sensei wa pan wo taberareru”, it indicates the honorific form, and if you say, “Sensei Wa pan wo tabereru” it indicates the potential form. Look at the examples of this new distinction below.

  Kaku type verbs like yomu and hanasu already make a distinction between the honorific and potential forms.

  It would make sense to accept these verbs without the ra syllable and set them apart to express the potential form. Perhaps young people shortened the words merely to ease articulation, but they ended up improving the Japanese language as a result.

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