A Brief Introduction to Classical Japanese
Expressing the perfect aspect and past tense
The two most common suffices to indicate past tense in CJ are ki, tari, and keri. All are attached to the renyôkei (continuative form) of the verb or adjective.
The CJ construction mishi hito ("the person/people I saw) would be the MJ mita hito. It is formed by adding the rentaikei of ki (because the verb is in apposition to the noun) to the renyôkei of miru, ("to see).
Although keri is past tense, it was often used to emphasise a certain poetic or emotional content that is often hard to translate into English. Several passages in the Ise monogatari begin in this fashion: Mukashi, otoko arikeri (= "Long ago, there was a man.). In reading in the original, this emotive content must be kept in mind in translating, it is usually nigh unto impossible to render, and thus that emotive content is ignored.
The suffix tari is both a simple past perfect (e.g., Hitachinosuke to tsuketari = we named her Hitachinosuke) but also has the occasional sense of a continuative past (e.g., tsutsu no naka hikaritari = the inside of the stalk was shining).
The suffix nu implies definite completion or a finished state for intransitive verbs, but can also imply the same finality of meaning as the English ate up versus just ate."
The suffix tsu functions as does nu, but generally implies definiteness of the past (e.g., yume ni nan mietamatsuru = you definitely appeared in a dream).
Adding the non-inflecting suffices do or domo to the renyôkei of a verb creates the sense of although much the same as in MJ. (e.g., Soko ni ari to kikedo = although he heard she was there ).
In texts, sometimes the combination to iedomo appears, and this means, literally, even given that or even saying that . It is functionally the same as although and is really very little different than domo.
The particle combination mono wo, which follows the rentaikei, is also concessive, and functions like but or although."
The particles tomo or to following shûshikei or rentaikei (depending on the time in which the text was written) give a concession like the English even if or although may .
The inflecting suffix mu attaches to the mizenkei and has several uses. When in the first person, it implies volition or desire (I will ), but when referring to second or third person, rather than being volitional it has the meaning of conjecture about the action, like the MJ darô (he/you probably will ). It can also indicate something that is expected or natural ("[he] ought to ). Context will be the best guide in reading, although lack of a written subject may make this difficult.
The inflecting suffix kemu attaches to the renyôkei and has the function of past conjecture. For example, it may be something that has been heard about and may or may not be true, like the English might have . It also carries the context for an expected past action that is uncertain to have taken place.
The particle rashi can attach to the renyôkei and means must/seems to be. It is similar, but slightly stronger, than the MJ rashii.
The inflecting suffix meri attaches to the renyôkei, and is a contraction of mi ari implying something that has been observed to be the situation. In usage, however it is more tentative, indicating surmise, and is on the opposite side of certainty than is rashi above. In usage, it is on the level of it seems as if perhaps .
The particle ramu is attached to the renyôkei and refers to something in the present or the past. It is more subjective than rashi, and is like probably or it may be that . Sometimes there is an implied question in its use, like the MJ dôshite darô (= I wonder why ).
The inflecting suffices zu and zari (actually a contraction of zu ari) attach to the mizenkei. Theyre both unqualified negatives.
The conjuctive partle de can be attached to the mizenkei and forms the same meaning of the MJ [verb]nakute or [verb]naide (= without [verb]ing).
The uninflected suffix ji can be added to the mizenkei as well, and it functions as a negative form of the suffix mu. It is thus the negation of probability (e.g., hana sakaji = the flowers will probably not bloom).
When in the first person, the inflecting suffix mu attached to the mizenkei implies volition or desire (I will ).
The suffices muzu and nzu (both contractions from mu to su, therefore showing connection to the above-mentioned suffix) attached to the renyôkei also express volition, but they are stronger and more emphatic. (Perhaps, one may consider the difference between them as I will go tomorrow and I will go tomorrow!)
Expressing negative volition (e.g., I dont intend to go), like the MJ [verb]nai tsumori da is expressed with the suffix maji attached to the shûshikei (e.g., Kyô yomumaji = I shall not read the sutra).
The inflecting suffix mashi attaches to the mizenkei. It functions similarly to the MJ moshi dattara (if such and such happens/exists). When combined with a negative, it means had not have ."
The addition of the particle ba to the mizenkei also produces the meaning of if . NB: Do not confuse it with the addition of ba to the izenkei, which produces the meaning since/when .
The non-inflecting suffix baya, when attached to the mizenkei, expresses ones wishes for a condition (the verb) to occur. It is similar to the English would that or if only . In the case of first-person, it may also indicate intention to act to bring the desired effect.
The adjectival suffix tashi can be added to a verbs renyôkei to produce a meaning similar to the MJ tai.
The suffix beshi, attaching to the shûshikei, is extremely useful, but also confusing, as it has many functions. The most common function is the expression of obligation (e.g., I must or I have to ). This function works for first-, second-, and third-person usage.
It also has the function of strong conjecture along the lines of the English, undoubtedly, or surely, and thus implies a high probability and expectation that the proposed concept is indeed the case.
Beshi can also indicate the belief of the speaker or writer that the situation is only natural or proper, like the English ought to or should ", and the MJ hazu da."
It can also indicate volition, but this use seems limited to the shûshikei, and probably only when first-person usage is implied. Then again, this may be considered little differet from the it is only natural that usage implied in the paragraph above. Kono ikusa nite, ware shinubeshi can be taken, then, to mean By rights I should die in this battle and I must die in this battle. Other than nuance, how much different are the translations? Either one is a valid reading of the same CJ sentence, and absent any additional context to determine specific meaning or intent, either could stand.
The suffix maji works the same way, but functions as the negative (the opposite) of beshi; that is, while ikubeshi is you should/must go, ikumaji is you should/must not go. Alternatively and perhaps more commonly the negative suffix zu is attached to the mizenkei of beshi (e.g., ikubekarazu = ikumaji = you should not go).
The inflecting adjectival suffix gotoshi attaches to the rentaikei, and means like. Often, the particle no or ga is interposed between the rentaikei verb and gotoshi (e.g., yuki wo miru ga gotoshi = its like seeing snow). This suffix, functioning as an adjective, can be attached to a noun (with the interposing no or ga) to mean like (e.g., yume ga gotoshi = like a dream).
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