2009 | 126 | 81-96
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The Old (eighth cent.) and Classical (ninth-twelfth cent.) Japanese verbal noun, in contemporary Japan called 'ku goho' was formed by means of a word-final suffix which can be presented in the general shape of -((u)r)aku / ke(1)ku. Having a nominalising function, the morpheme transformed verbs and adjectives into action or state nouns of a wide spectrum of meanings: 'doing something / being something', 'the fact that (he) does / is', 'what (he) does', which - if accompanied by a suitable postposition - could also serve as predicates in subordinate clauses. The nouns under consideration fell into disuse before the mid Classical period, only a dozen or so having survived up to the present day as petrified derivatives. The present article aims to examine the productivity of the suffix in some of the oldest extant texts, as well as the details of its disappearance. In the 'Man'yoshu' (after 771) the verbal noun is very frequent, combining both with verbs (of virtually all conjugations) and with adjectives, and showing no sign of restriction by any word-non-final suffix. In the fifth book alone, which comprises 114 poems, it appears as many as fifteen times - this amounts to an average of one form per 7.6 poems, and confirms the full vitality of the noun in the eighth century. The 'Taketori monogatari' (ninth / tenth cent.) also attests the morpheme in question rather abundantly, but added to three verbs only and without any word-non-final suffix interposed. All thirty-three occurrences are used to introduce quotations, often coupled with another form of the same verb which closes the direct speech - a pattern common in later texts too. In the 'Ise monogatari' (early tenth cent.) the verbal noun appears fifteen times, almost exclusively in the verse portions, and is invariably, with the exception of two fossils, represented by either of the following constructions: -(a)n-aku ni 'since / when / although (he) does not' - ten times, or -(a)m-aku fosi- '(he) wishes to' - three times. The first imperial anthology of poetry 'Kokin (waka) shu' (905-914), despite its relative variegation of the noun under discussion, is but a shadow of the Man'yoshu's splendour, and most of these forms should rather be regarded as linguistic relics. In the beginning five books, constituting one fourth of the whole and comprising 313 poems, one finds the suffix sixteen times, but the forms' absolute homogeneity is more than striking. Ki no Tsurayuki in his 'Tosa nikki' (around 935) used the said morpheme with economy, adhering to the established derivatives. One combination, however, namely if-ik/-er/-aku ‘here is what she said,' stands out as long unseen and was perhaps taken over from some older text. The diary contains eight examples of the suffix altogether. Murasaki Shikibu's 'Genji monogatari' (around 1004-1011) seems an excellent touchstone of the productivity of the verbal noun at that time, due to both its considerable size and the profusion of dialogues. Unfortunately, in the novel's fifty-four lengthy chapters the suffix can be located merely three times, always being a part of some petrified form. Thus, any further quest becomes futile - the verbal noun must be pronounced dead. On the basis of the above material, the frequency of the suffix's occurrence in the selected Old and Classical Japanese texts (or their parts) can be summarised in the table presented in paragraph 5. The process of the disappearance clearly divides into three phases. From the eleventh century on, it is solely the form if-aku 'here is what (he) says / said', introducing a quotation, that still appears quite often in texts. Nevertheless, despite the thousand years that have elapsed since the extinction of the verbal noun, over a dozen of its relics are still encountered in Modern Japanese - amazingly strong resistance indeed.
  • Tomasz Majtczak, Kraków (for postal address contact the journal editor)
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