The Nominalizing Affix /-aku/

第372課: The Nominalizing Affix /-aku/: ク語法

A very small subset of words exhibit an archaic means of nominalization involving a synonymous structure to こと in Modern Japanese. This affix is /-aku/※, but because the initial vowel always fuses with the preceding mora, as was a phonological rule in Old Japanese, the resulting ~is how it has been recognized over the millennia.

※This posited morpheme was proposed by 大野 (1952). /-aku/ has also been related to the /aku/ found in the classical form of the verb 憧れる (to yearn for) – /akugaru/ – interpreting /aku/ as having once been a completely generalized nominalize which could also indicate “place” and /karu/ as 離る, an Old Japanese verb meaning “to separate.” Some have also suggested that /-aku/ may be an ancient borrowing of the Korean word 것 /geot/, which is the Korean equivalent of こと・もの.

Conjugating with /-aku/

As should be expected of a nominalizing dummy noun, /-aku/ follows the 連体形 of various parts of speech: verbs, adjectives, and auxiliary verbs attached to verbs and/or adjectives. In the conjugation table below, forms are shown as they are to be understood in Old Japanese. This is because the grammar pattern itself had already been limited to fossilized by the start of the Heian Period, requiring us to turn back the clock. As such, all words are written in historical kana orthography. Romanization also reflects this stage of the language.

Part of SpeechVerb連体形+/-aku/Etymology
四段 Verb言ふ (to say)言ふ曰く/ipu/ + /-aku/ = /ipaku/
上二段 Verb老ゆ (to age)老ゆる老ゆらく/oyu/ + /-aku/ = /oyuraku/
下二段 Verb恐る※ (to fear)恐るる恐るらく/osoruru/ + /-aku/ = /osoruraku/
サ変 Verbす (to do)するすらく/suru/ + /-aku/ = /suraku/
形容詞安し (to be at ease)安き安けく/yasuki/ + /-aku/ = /yasukeku/
助動詞~ず (negation marker)~ぬ~なく/nu/ + /-aku/ = /naku/
助動詞~き (recollection marker)~し~しく/sï/ + /-aku/ = /sïku/
Ex. 申ししく
※恐る started out as a 四段 verb, meaning that 恐らく is the original ク語法 form. However, in Middle Japanese, this had been forgotten from having become a 下二段 verb. Ironically, 恐らく reentered the language by /ra/ subsequently being omitted.

In Old Japanese, ク語法 was still very productive as a means of nominalizing. However, it did not have the same range as こと・の do in Modern Japanese. Resultant nominalized expressions made with it were often subject of an adjectival predicate, although it was still possible for it to be the object of a verbal predicate; it favored forming situational descriptions above anything else, and often with a highlighting affect.

1. み吉野の玉松が枝は愛しきかも君がみ言を持ちて通はく (Adjectival Predicate)
How lovely the branches of the pines of Yoshino are! How they have brought your words (to me)!
From Poem 113 of the 万葉集

2. 天霧らし雪も降らぬかいちしろくこのいつ柴に降らまくを見む (Verbal Predicate)
With the heavens cloudy, might it start snowing? I would love to see this sprawling forest covered in snow!
From Poem 1643 of the 万葉集

3. 春山の咲きのををりに春菜摘む妹が白紐見らくし良しも (Adjectival Predicate)
Oh how splendid it is to see my love’s white cords (blowing in the wind) as she picks springtime greens below the profusely blossoming (cherry blossoms) of Haruyama.
From Poem 1421 of the 万葉集

The affix /-aku/ was heavily used with the auxiliary verbs ~ず (→ なく) and ~む (→ まく). The use of ~まく was actually obligatory when used with the verb 欲る, which eventually created the ending ~まほし in Middle Japanese. In either case, /-aku/ is seen in countless descriptions of perceived realities that deeply affect the speaker.

4. 我が背子は物な思ひそ事しあらば火にも水にも我がなけなくに
My beloved, do not overthink things; whether it be fire or water, it is not as if I am not there (for you).
From Poem 506 of the 万葉集.

5. 生きてあらば見まくも知らず何しかも死なむよ妹と夢に見えつる。
Why is it that you appeared in my dreams saying, “Let’s die (together), my love,” even though we just might be able to see each other if we remain alive?
From Poem 581 of the 万葉集.

6. 見まく欲り、我がする君もあらなくに、何しか来けむ、馬疲るるに。
Though you are no longer despite how much I wish to see you, why is it that I have come here? Now, my horse is tired.

It must be noted, though, that /-aku/ could be seen after a number of auxiliary verbs, albeit far less frequently. It cannot be used with suppositional auxiliaries such as ~べし and ~らし, and auxiliaries that can be interpreted as such but are not restricted to that alone cannot be interpreted as such with /-aku/.

7. 草枕旅に久しくあらめやと妹に言ひしを年の経ぬらく
Though I told my wife my journey would not take long, oh how many years have past!
From Poem 3719 of the 万葉集

Grammar Note: Ex. 7 is an example of the auxiliary verb ~ぬ + /-aku/.

8. 大汝少彦名の神代より言ひ継ぎけらく、父母を見れば貴く妻子見ればかなしく愛(めぐ)しうつせみの。
It has been passed down and said since the age of reign of おほなむちすくなびこな, “that you honor your parents, and that you view your wives and children dearly, for that is the way of the world.”
From Poem 4106 of the 万葉集

Grammar Note: Ex. 8 is an example of the auxiliary verb ~けり + /-aku/.

9. 天の川渡り瀬ごとに思ひつつ来しくも著し逢へらく思へば
He would remember each time he crossed the Milk Way, his mind would dwell on seeing Orihime, that he had made it this far.
From Poem 2074 of the 万葉集

Grammar Note: Exs. 9-10 are examples of the auxiliary ~き + /aku/.

10. 夜のほどろ我が出でて来れば我妹子が思へりしくし面影に見ゆ。
Whenever I go out when dawn is about to break, I see the reminders of how I’ve been lost in my mouths about you.
From Poem 754 of the 万葉集

Some grammarians have shied away from suggesting that /-aku/ could refer to モノ as opposed to solely translating as コト. When a nominalized phrase refers to a “thing,” there are two possible scenarios:

1. Same-Noun Adnominal Modifier 同一名詞連体修飾
Ex. I saw the “one” [who claims he saw the murder].
2. Appositive Adnominal Modifier 同格連体修飾
Ex. I look forward to [claim”ing” I saw a murder].

The “adnominal” phrase, which is the resultant nominalized expression in Japanese, may serve these functions via the particle の in modern speech. In the first scenario, the relative pronoun “one” is at play in English, and in the second scenario, we see the verb “to see” used in its participial form (-ing). The word “apposition” refers to when two elements side by side relate to the same thing but are expressed differently. In this case, の is the appositive element.

In relation to ク語法, only the second scenario is attested. However, it is the first scenario that is most もの-like. As the example even shows, the の adnominal is very much the agent of an action, but the の adnominal in the second scenario is not an agent, and the verbal predicate that follows is limited as a consequence to whatever is logical for the situation being described. This is what makes the second scenario so akin to こと. Relating this back to ク語法 once again, this explains why adjectival predicates are so much more common but also why verbal predicates are not out of the question.

Another factor as to why /-aku/ has been said to not translate as もの is its apparent unaccusative/ergative nature.

・If a nominalized adjective cannot then be used theoretically as the object of a transitive verb, then it is referring to a もの in a given situation, but there is no restriction on what is going on or happening to it. /-aku/ cannot be used in this manner as it would render it as a relative pronoun with greater nominal properties than it actually has.

・If a nominalized adjective/verb can be used as the object of a transitive verb but is currently the subject of the main clause, then it is referring to a こと, and the main clause is describing the predicament that said こと is in. This predicament may be expressed with a transitive verb※, an intransitive verb※, or an adjective, but it must describe what is affecting the speaker emotionally. Intransitive verbs will necessarily be verbs of motion in which there is some entity that can be perceived as being an agent.
※The transitive verbs most often seen in the main clause predicate after /-aku/ are: 欲る (to want), 思ふ (to think), 知る (to know), 見る (to see), and 忘る (to forget).

11. 物皆は{新しき 〇・新しけく X}良し、ただしくも人は古りにし宜しかるべし
Everything being new is fine; however, as for people, ending up old is best.
From Poem 1885 of the 万葉集.

12. 中にを寝むと愛しくしが語らへばいつしかも人となり出でて悪けくも良けくも見むと
With how cute he was talking about how he wanted to sleep in between us, I really wanted to see the good and the bad as he grew up…
From Poem 904 of the 万葉集.

13. このころの恋の繁けく、夏草の刈り払へども生ひしくごとし
There has been so much love these days that it would just grow like crazy all over like summer grasses do when you cut them.
From Poem 1984 of the 万葉集

14a. 衣手常陸の国の二並ぶ筑波の山を見まく欲り君来ませりと暑けくに汗かき嘆げ
Since you so wanted to see Mt. Chikuba, the one in Hitachi with two peaks, despite lamenting about sweating so much from it being so hot…
From Poem 1753 of the 万葉集

15. 夜のほどろ出でつつ来らく度まねくなれば我が胸截ち焼くごとし
When I’m nearing home at the crack of dawn overlaps with the times when I see you, my chest is fiery as if it were ripping in half.
From Poem 755.

The only situations in which /-aku/ is attested as the subject of an existential sentence is when the main predicate deals with quantity, that being how many instances the speaker is dealing with said situation.

16. 我が恋ふらくは止む時もなし。
My love does not cease.
From Poem 3244 of the 万葉集.

17. 前妻が肴乞はさばたちそばの実の無けくをこきしひゑ
If my first wife wants the meat, I’ll shave off the parts with less meat for her,
and if my second wife wants the meat, I’ll shave off the parts with lots of meat.
From the 日本書紀.

Sentence Note: In the previous line, it is made clear that the meat in question is from a whale, one mysteriously caught on land. The plants actually mentioned in this line bear fruit whose color strikingly resembles whale meat.

Misuses in Middle Japanese

In Middle Japanese, the stage of Japanese that comprises the majority of text viewed as being ‘Classical Japanese,’ many writers mistakenly understood /-aku/ to be ~らく, which is thought to have come about due to the high requency of 恐るらく in 漢文訓読 (Japanese iterations of Classical Chinese text). This resulted in the following common misuses (誤用). Note that the particle は is present as it accompanied many iterations of /-aku/ that had managed to survive.

VerbMisuse (誤用)Correct Use (正用)
惜しむ (to regret)惜しむらくは惜しまくは
望む (to hope)望むらくは望まくは
疑ふ (to doubt)疑はらくは疑はくは

Aside from these misuses, ク語法 is also believed to why etymologically erroneous ケシ形容詞 began to appear by writers trying to reproduce the semantic purpose of ク語法 but with their current morphology. For instance,

14b. 衣手常陸の国の二並ぶ筑波の山を見まく欲り君来ませりと{暑かるに・暑けきに}汗かきなけ
From Poem 1753 of the 万葉集

These mistakes of 14a came about from not understanding /-aku/, thinking that に is following the two possible 連体形 of verbs at the time without considering the possibility that it was just one 連体形 with an affix.

Modern Usage

The usage of /-aku/ in Modern Japanese, as is to be expected, is limited to fossilized expressions. Most examples that had survived into Middle Japanese managed to survive into Modern Japanese, some experiencing minor changes but all retaining their meanings. Notice how several of them have taken on adverbial nuances.

曰く1. Pretext (n.)
2. According to (adv.)
老いらくOld age願わくはI pray/wish that
体たらくPredicament/mess須らくBy all means思惑1. Expectation
2. Ulterior motive
恐らく1. Probably
2. I suspect that…
Etymology Notes:

1. 須(すべか)らく is the combination of す (to do), the 連体形 of the auxiliary verb ~べし(~べかる), and /-aku/.
2. 思惑 is the Ateji spelling of 思わく, which more clearly indicates how it is the combination of 思う (to think) and /-aku/.
3. 願わくは is very frequently seen as 願わくば.
4. 体たらくis the combination of 体 (appearance) and the 連体形 of the copula verb ~たり(~たる), and /-aku/.

Reading Note:
1. 曰く may also be read as のたまわく, which utilizes the verb 宣う, originally an honorific verb equivalent to 仰る but which ultimately became used sarcastically. Note that のたまわく is not used to mean “pretext.”

18. 古人曰く勝って兜の緒を締めよ。
The ancients say defeat (the enemy), then fasten the chords of your armor (for the next battle).

19. 法はすべからく守るべし。
The law always ought to be protected.

20. 老いらくの恋
An old man’s love

21. 世間の思惑通りには生きてはいけない。
One mustn’t live as the world expects.

22. なんという体たらくだ!
What a mess you’ve gotten yourself into!

23. 願わくは京都に居を構えたい。
I desire to set up residence in Kyoto.

24. 願わくは御名を尊まれんことを。
I pray that your name be honored.

25. 明日は恐らく雨だろう。
It will probably rain tomorrow.

26. 作者自身の血と絵具を混ぜて描かれたもので、完成と同時に作者が自害しているという曰く付きの絵だ
The painting is one with a backstory, that being exactly the same it was complicated the painter himself had committed suicide as it was painted by him mixing his blood with his paints.