LINGUIST List 14.3304

Mon Dec 1 2003

Sum: Japanese Suffixes

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Benjamin Barrett, Japanese Suffixes

Message 1: Japanese Suffixes

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2003 15:13:20 -0500 (EST)
From: Benjamin Barrett <>
Subject: Japanese Suffixes

I would like to thank James Mesbur, Laurence Labrune, Chris Beckwith
and Bart Mathias for responding to my query (Linguist 14.3204)
regarding the Japanese suffixes -shii and -rashii.

Here is a summarization of the responses I received:

1. Laurence Labrune has written an article on /r/ + vowel affixes in
Japanese, ''de l'iconicite en japonais: suffixes en -r + voyelle et
reduplication'', Cahiers de Linguistique-Asie Orientale, 1998,
pp. 79-118. In the article, he argues that -rashii as in nikurashii
and otokorashii as well as -roshii as in yoroshii result from the
combination of rV + shii. He also hypothesizes that this affix is the
same as that found in other parts of speech.

2. According to Ikeda Tadashi in ''Classical Japanese Grammar
Illustrated with Texts'' (summarized by James Mesbur), the Edo -rashii
for adjective is not from the -rashi that attached to shuushikei form.

3. The derivation of shii is shiki.

4. Chris Beckwith traces -shii to Old Japanese *-si- (Martin
''Japanese Language through Time'', 1987), and then offers the Old
Koguryo cognate adjective-attributive suffix -si.

5. Bart Mathias recalled seeing ''r'' being suggested as deriving from
ari. He also noted the prevalence of o/a before -shii, and that words
such as ''yoshi'' and ''nashi'' (none) derive from the shushikei form
of shi.

Other references offered:

Above and Frellesvig, Bjarke. A Case Study in Diachronic Phonology-The
Japanese Onbin Sound Changes. Aarhus University Press; 1995.

Murakami, Akiko. 1981 ''setsubiji rashii no seiritsu'', Kokugogaku
124:3. Sakakura, Atsuyoshi. Gokousei no kenkyuu, Kadokawa, 1966.

I received no responses on the semantic properties of -shii, leaving
the one citation offered by Paul Atkins that -shiku adjectives have
more emotive content than -ku adjectives. This seems reasonable with
adjectives such as kanashii ''sad'' and tanoshii ''fun'' but does not
seem to explain adjectives such as muzukashii ''difficult'' and
bakabakashii ''silly''.

Again, thanks to all who responded.

Benjamin Barrett
Graduate Student, Dept. of Linguistics
University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA 

Subject-Language: Japanese; Code: JPN 
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