Adjectives IX: Old Bases

第219課: Adjectives: Other Forms

There is still a bit more that you need to know about adjectival expressions in Japanese. There are older conjugations that you need to get used to as well as two other classes of adjectives with syntactic restrictions to them that the other two classes don’t. 

形容詞: The Original 連体形

Using the original 連体形 for 形容詞 is very limited in Modern Japanese. As you would imagine, fossilized use in set phrases will be the most likely place you find this. It’s also the case that literary titles from the West often have older style Japanese. Unless in set phrases, it is most likely the case that the places you find this is in literature. And, there is a good chance that the context may very well be in Classical Japanese.  

 形容詞 ending in い き
 形容詞 ending in しい・じい しき・じき


1. 熱き海  (Literary; classical)
  The warm seas  

2. 熱い海
   Hot seas

Translation Note: Of course, “hot” is a better translation of any form of 熱い. However, to fit the style of 熱き海, warm is used instead. This phrase especially makes sense in contexts like in the following.

3. 70度以上の熱い海に生息する。
      To live in hot seas over 70℃. 

4. この素晴らしき世界
   What a wonderful world

5. 我が良き友よ
  My good friend!

6. 悪しき者は火と硫黄の池に投げ込まれた。
  The evil ones were thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur.

7. それであなたがた理解ある人々よ、わたしに聞け、神は断じて悪を行うことなく、全能者は断じて不義を行うことはない。神は人のわざに従ってその身に報い、各々の道に従って、その身に振りかからせられる。誠に神は悪しき事を行われない。全能者は裁きをまげられない。だれか全世界を彼に負わせた者があるか。神がもしその霊をご自分に取り戻し、その息をご自分に取り集められるならば、全ての肉は共に滅び、人は塵に帰るであろう。 
Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong. For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together and man would return to dust.
From ヨブ記 第三四章一〇~一五節

8. 強気を砕く。
    To crush the strong.

Grammar Note: It was also possible to use the 連体形 of adjectives as nominal phrases in older Japanese. This is still seen in set phrases or purposely old-fashioned statements like Ex. 8. 

Adjectival Elements in Sino-Japanese Compounds

Have you noticed many compounds with translations with both an adjective and a noun? Many adjectival phrases that came into the language as “adjective + noun” were turned into nominal phrases in Japanese. Some become 形容動詞, but some don’t. Why is this? 

It’s interesting to consider how 明るい and 暗い are both adjectives, but 明暗 is not. In fact, 明暗な is ungrammatical.You can say something like the following.


9. 明暗の対比
  Light and dark contrast

Of course, there are times when you add two adjectival 漢字 and get a 形容動詞. 

10. 善良な市民
    Good citizen

漢字 Note: 善 and 良 may be used to spell いい. 

11. 日本の希少な野生水生生物
   Japan’s scarce wild aquatic organisms

漢字 Note: 希 is a simplified spelling of 稀, which is in 稀な read as まれ to mean “rare”. 少 is in 少ない.  

The most interesting examples are things like 良法 (good method). These words tend to always be formal and 書き言葉. After all, this is a foreign construction. However, there are still plenty more examples that are commonly used words.

There is no morphology on the adjectival morpheme (meaning unit) 良 to function as an adjective. Thus, {よい・いい}方法 would be more practical in speaking. Below are more examples of such words.

12. だんかいさめ      
   A shark that lives in warm seas 

漢字 Note: 棲 and 鮫 are not 常用漢字.

13. 外線がいせんによる影響えいきょう防ぐふせぐ。  
   To prevent effects from ultraviolet rays.

14.  生物せいぶつ様性ようせいたもつべきだ。
   We should protect biological diversity.

15.  絶滅ぜつめつ危惧きぐしょうすう言語げんごを守るプロジェクトを開始する。
    To start a project for protecting endangered minority languages.

16. りょうやくは口ににがし。
    Good medicine is bitter to the taste. 

17. 彼には善悪ぜんあく観念かんねんがない。
      He cannot tell right from wrong.

18. ぜん VS あく
  Good intent vs malice 


These adjectives never made the complete jump to modern 形容動詞. All modern ones come from this class from Classical Japanese. There are still several that are used a lot, but they still often have a formal feeling simply because of their grammatically restrictive use. Their old base set comes from the base set of the old copula verb なり, and they may show up in old proverbs and set phrases, but they are not necessary to know in order to use them. For completeness, they are provided below. 

 未然形 連用形 終止形 連体形 已然形 命令形
 なら- なり-・に なり なる なれ- なれ

Usage Note: You can also use the なる-連体形 of current 形容動詞 and other attributive expressions in more neo-classical or formal texts. For instance, you might see 次なる instead of 次の. 


19a. 神殿しんでんせいなる地であるはずです。
19b. 神殿は神霊しんれいな場所であるはずです。(More common)
        A temple is supposed to be a holy place.

20. 受賞じゅしょうおおいなるよろこびとする。
     To treat receiving the prize as a great joy.

21. 私たちはいくつかのせいなるおとずれました。 
      We visited some holy sites.

22. 七は聖なる数です。
       7 is a holy number.

23. さらなる支援しえんを求めています。
      We are still seeking more aid.

24a. いかな(る)時でも (ちょっと古風)
24b. どんな時でも  (もっと自然)
       Any time 

25a. 単なるうわさにすぎない。
25b. ただの噂にすぎない。
       It doesn’t pass being a mere rumor. 

26. 仕事がおおいにはかどった。
      My job has made good headway. 

Word Note: 大いに comes from 大いなる, which happens to retain its adverbial form.  


As mentioned earlier in the introduction of this lesson, there is a defunct class of adjectival verbs in Japanese called タル形容動詞. As the name suggests, their attribute base is タル. In Modern Japanese the bases are typically limited to the と-連用形 and the たる-連体形. The と-連用形 can make adverbs. Most are in decline. Their attribute base can be replaced with とした. Some have acquired other legitimate attributive forms. For instance, you can use 主な and 主たる (principal/main). 

27a. 主たる理由はこれです。(古風)
27b. 主な理由はこれです。(もっと自然)
         The main reason is this. 

28. 全然たる狂人
     An absolute maniac 

29. {名立たる・有名な}観光地
      A famous tourist spot

30. 面前めんぜんでの嘲笑ちょうしょう侮辱ぶじょくさいたるものだ。
     Scorn in one’s presence is the extremity of insult.

31a. 最たる例 (古風)
31b. 最も顕著な例  (自然)
       Prime example

32. 人間の活動の最たるもの
     The prime thing to human activity 

33. 堂々どうどう{たる・とした}姿すがた
       A magnificent figure 

34. 断固だんこ{たる・とした}決意
     Resolute determination

35. 淡々たんたん{たる・とした}口調くちょうで話す。
     To speak in a cool tone. 

36. 漠然ばくぜんとした不安
      Vague anxiety

37. 純然じゅんぜんたる銀行
      Pure and simple bank