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I think all of the mentioned verbs are in the same class, because they all inflect irregularly in the same way: -aimasu for the polite form rather than -arimasu.

My question is how these verbs were formed. My guess is there is some base verb which was connected to aru and then underwent some sort of devoicing and 音便.

For example, does くださる originate from 下す + 在る?

If this guess is correct, does this 在る have some semantic meaning? (There seems to be a large chance that it's used to make things more polite, since these are all 敬語.)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Let's look at each of these one-by-one:

  1. いらっしゃる is a lexicalized contraction of 入{い}らせらる, which is described in 精選日国 as follows:


    In other words, it was a combination of 入る with the respect auxiliary す and the passive auxiliary らる (in modern Japanese られる).

  2. くださる is a lexicalized combination of 下す with る (modern Japanese れる) added, reanalyzed as a 四段動詞 → 五段動詞. From 精選日国:

    ②〔他ラ五(四)〕(近世以降、①が四段活用化したもの) [...]

    〔他ラ下一〕(文)くださ・る〔他ラ下二〕〔他ラ下二〕(動詞「くだす(下)」に、受身、尊敬の助動詞「る」のついてできたもの) [...]

  3. なさる is likewise lexicalized from 為す with る added (modern Japanese れる), reanalyzed as a 四段動詞 → 五段動詞. From 精選日国:

    ②〔他ラ五(四)〕①(が四段活用化したもの) [...]

    〔他ラ下一〕(文)なさ・る〔他ラ下二〕(動詞「なす(為)」に尊敬の助動詞「れる(る)」の付いてできたもの) [...]

  4. おっしゃる is given multiple theories in 精選日国:


    Other dictionaries such as 広辞苑 and 大辞林 say it's derived from おおせある without presenting any alternative theories. Either おおせある and おおせらる would then come from 仰す (おほす), which according to 旺文社国語辞典 is derived from the causative form of 負ふ (おふ), used to mean 「言葉を負わせる」. After this, either らる or ある was added.

    So of these four, three clearly have the passive/honorific auxiliary (ら)る, which is in modern Japanese (ら)れる. The fourth may have it, or it may have ある instead; if we compare a fifth verb, ござる, we definitely have ある:

  5. ござる is unusual in beginning with a voiced obstruent. In this case this is because the word is not entirely native, but a fusion of the Sino-Japanese 御座(ご-ざ) and ある. From 精選日国:


    This verb is often considered separately because only the lexicalized form with ます remains in the modern language, outside of jocular or anachronistic uses. From a historical perspective, though, it makes sense to consider it as part of the same subclass of verbs.

So we find that all five verbs have either (ら)れる -(r)are- or ある ar-. Martin notes that the passive doesn't attach to any of these verbs in A Reference Grammar of Japanese (1975), p.290:

We can find no causatives or passives for the subject-exalting verbs kudasáru, nasáru, ossyáru, or even irassyáru… We might ascribe the absence of such forms to the fact that it is usual to make the causative or passive BEFORE putting the sentence into any other conversion (though there are exceptions, as we will see below); but probably the real reason we lack the forms is that these verbs etymologically contain an occurrence of the passive as reflected in the -ar- with which each base end.

So Martin, at least, considers -(r)are- to contain ar-, though he doesn't explain specifically how he derives one from the other. But they're similar in form and function, so it makes sense to try to -(r)are- and ar- somehow. He notes a possible relationship on page 290 in a parenthetical:

(Chamberlain 199 derives -rare- from ár-i + é-ru.)

It's not clear to me which Chamberlain he's citing, but in any case it's very old, around a century ago. If we check a much newer reference, Frellesvig's A History of the Japanese Language (2010), we find on p.238:

The [Early Middle Japanese] causatives and passives seem to reflect a further morphologization of the derivational suffixes -(a)s- 'transitive' and -(a)r- 'intransitive'.

In any case, it does seem plausible to say that all of them contain ar- etymologically.

精選日国 is short for the full name of the dictionary, 「精選版 日本国語大辞典」.

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As mentioned in chat, it's pretty interesting to me that the suffixes are all different morphemes, yet they all share the odd -aimasu inflection. But these do seem to be the legitimate origins, which does answer my question. Thanks! –  Darius Jahandarie Mar 14 '13 at 14:20
@DariusJahandarie I updated my answer now that I have more sources :-) I may come back to this later. –  snailboat Jun 10 '14 at 2:39
@DariusJahandarie, these verbs historically conjugated to -arimasu etc. The modern -aimasu forms appear to be erosion or elision of the interstitial /-r-/. See… –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 10 '14 at 17:48
@EiríkrÚtlendi Yes it is, but why only those five verbs is a question that we've been unable to answer. –  snailboat Jun 10 '14 at 20:12
"beginning with a voiced obstruent, something no native verb does" How about だまる, is that not native? –  dainichi Jun 11 '14 at 8:37

I would add a comment to the above answer, but it appears I need "reputation" to do so. Anyways, for the last two words, look here

[on the classical passive form] (3) to form honorific verbs An important feature of the passive forms is their frequent use in an honorific sense. [...] The usage is a well-established one, and is common in the modern language, both written and colloquial. E.g. [...] The polite forms nasaru, 'to do', kudasaru, 'to condescend', irassharu, 'to be present' (=irase-raru), &c., also illustrate this honorific usage.

Note that the above resource identifies いらっしゃる with 居らっしゃる instead of 入らっしゃる. The historical spelling is ゐる for 居る, and いる for 入る, yet I find no mention of *ゐらっしゃる anywhere, so this lends credibility that it is not derived from 居らっしゃる.

Also, る is the classical passive/potential suffix. If you're interested, I suggest you start reading the above mentioned book from page 158 onwards:

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FWIW, Shogakukan states that いらっしゃる is from いらせらる, which itself lists the following etymology: 『動詞「いる(入)」の未然形に、尊敬の助動詞「す」の未然形、同じく「られる(らる)」の付いたもの』 Given that apparently both し and せ were pronounced as affricates /shi/ and /she/ in the Muromachi period and possibly later, the shift from せらる to っしゃる makes more sense. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 6 '14 at 23:05

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