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At the very start of final fantasy 9, バクー says:

我らの目指すはアレクサンドリア王国……

I also saw some time ago "目指すは" used in a headline here:

シャーラウィ「目指すはシーズン20ゴール」

There's also another example in the full version of 英辞郎:

目指すはブーリ。…
"Bulli was our destination"...

Because I've seen it a number of times, I'm pushing towards that it is grammatical to use "目指す" in this way, but assuming that's the case, why is it possible to use it in this way?

I've searched on the Internet and various dictionaries, but haven't been able to find an answer. It seems strange that 目指す seems to be being used like a noun, and I would have thought it should need a nominalizer like as in "目指すのは"/"目指すことは", or that it should be written like "目指し" or something. Is it just a case of ellipsis, or is there something else going on here?

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Related to this question apanese.stackexchange.com/questions/12500/… は does not only attach to nouns. But I think it would be of interest to compare 目指すは with 目指すのは, are there different connotations? –  blutorange Aug 13 '13 at 4:51
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I've read before that the 連体形 was able to function as a noun in Classical Japanese (e.g. here)... I wonder if this is a holdover or something else. This answer talks about は attaching afterward, but if it's the 連体形 functioning as a noun, perhaps that would explain both why it didn't need の afterward and why it was able to follow の... I don't know if this explanation is correct or not, though. –  snailboat Aug 13 '13 at 5:10
    
@snailboat thanks for the useful link+info! That answer mostly answers my question I think (coming to think of it I should've searched some more here as well ^^;) I'd be curious how this usage works and how it differs from "...のは", as "我らの目指すのは" sounds like it might be a bit strange, but "我らの目指すことは" sounds like it might work to me (I'm not an authority on what's natural or not so can't say for sure, though!) –  cypher Aug 13 '13 at 5:51
    
Here is the link that @blutorange attempted to post: Why is ha appropriate for te ha ikenai?. Also related: <動詞の辞書形> + がよい ― How is this allowed? –  istrasci Aug 13 '13 at 14:07
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Okay, I did some research and did my best to write an answer! –  snailboat Aug 17 '13 at 17:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In Modern Japanese, the dictionary form of a verb is a single surface form, but it represents the evolution of two historical forms, the 終止形 and 連体形. Although it's often convenient to treat these as a single form, I think it's still useful to make the distinction sometimes, and this may be one of those times.

In Classical Japanese, the 連体形 was able to function as a noun. In fact, that's how we ended up with the particle marking a subject; it was originally the genitive (meaning ) still seen in 我が and names like 青木ヶ原, and it linked the subject (a noun) with the nominalized form of the verb (the 連体形, another noun!). That's also how we got the sentence-final meaning "but"; it was able to attach after a verb because that verb was nominalized!

In Modern Japanese, the 終止形 was lost, but the function remains, so we say that the 終止形 has the same form as the 連体形. (With the exception of だ, of course.) Perhaps because of this change, the 連体形 of a verb doesn't generally function as a nominalized form, so an overt nominalizer such as or こと is usually inserted. And just as the function of the 連体形 has been reanalyzed, so have the roles of the particle and .

However, in this case, it seems that 目指す is functioning as a noun, even though the dialogue is clearly Modern Japanese! And since this kind of construction is accepted in modern published sources, I think we can conclude that using 目指す here as a noun must be grammatical. So either this form is able to function as a noun, or there is a zero marker turning it into one. Here's how I'd sum up both analyses:

  1. We can say that 目指す is not the 終止形 but the 連体形, and that this form can still function as a noun, although it's not as common anymore.
  2. If we reject that the 連体形 can function directly as a noun in modern Japanese (or at all), then we can say there is a zero-nominalizer after the verb, similar to but perhaps not equivalent. Here is a question about zero nominalization in Japanese.

For more details about the historical development of and , please see Shibatani's The Languages of Japan, pp.347-357.

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