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What does the ぬ at the end of 立ち specify? I can't find a verb that is just 立ちぬ, is this some kind of special form? Can this be done with other verbs as well?

風立ちぬ, for reference, is Miyazaki's new film's name.

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Apparently it comes from Paul Valéry's poem Le cimetière marin, which contains the line « Le vent se lève, il faut tenter de vivre ». The author Tatsuo Hori (mis?)t‌​ranslated this into Japanese as 「風立ちぬ、いざ生きめやも」 for his novel, upon which Miyazaki's film is based. – snail plane Jan 16 '14 at 22:35
You have a detailed explanations below but perhaps one of most famous uses of this form is in the title to the film "Gone with the wind": 「風と共に去りぬ」 – Tim Apr 6 '14 at 10:04
up vote 21 down vote accepted

The most commonly known ぬ is the helper verb of negation, similar to ない. It is, like ない, added to the [未然形]{みぜんけい}-base of a verb: [立]{た}たぬ=立たない=does not stand. However, in this case we have ぬ being added to 立ち, and there's a different story behind it.

Note how the English wikipedia entry for [風]{かぜ}[立]{た}ちぬ says "The wind rises", with no negative meaning to be found.

We need to go back to classical and old Japanese, and here we can find another ぬ that is affirmative. It is related to つ. It follows the [連用形]{れんようけい}-base of a verb (also called masu-stem).

What follows are some examples to illustrate this usage:

[我]{わ}が[恋]{こい}は[慰]{なぐさ}めかねつ(from the Manyoushuu) - my desire cannot be appeased

かねる means "it is hard to do ~", and かねつ is more affirmative (and emphatic) form.

[鳴]{な}かざりし [鳥]{とり}も [来]{き}[鳴]{な}きぬ (Manyoushuu) - the bird which did not sing have come and are singing

鳴かざりし=鳴かなかった. Here you can see how ぬ is used with the [連体形]{れんたいけい}, and how its affirmative nature is contrasted with the negative 'did not sing'.

[名]{な} [乗]{の}らさね!(Manyoushuu) - Do tell me your name!

Here you can clearly see the emphatic or affirmative nature of ぬ. ね is the imperative form of ぬ.

From the above, it should not be hard to understand how 風立ちぬ translates to "(the) wind rises". The Japanese name sounds somewhat archaic or poetic.

To get some more insight, both the negative ぬ as well as the affirmative ぬ can be conjugated themselves, and here their differences show:

Negative ぬ

[終止形]{しゅうしけい} ず

[連体形]{れんたいけい} ぬ

[連用形]{れんようけい} ず

[未然形]{みぜんけい} - (none)

[已然形]{いぜんけい} ね


Affirmative ぬ

終止形 ぬ

連体形 ぬる

連用形 に

未然形 な

已然形 ぬれ

[命令形]{めいれいけい} ね

It should be pointed out how the negative ぬ posseses a pretty irregular conjugation and seems to combine words of different origins (like am, are, is). On the other hand, affirmative ぬ mostly follows the [四段]{よだん} conjugational pattern. In this context, it is interesting that ぬ is a conjectured copula (=possible, but there is not enough evidence).

See this book , pages 234(conjectured copula), 179(affirmative ぬ), 174(affirmative つ), 192(speculation concerning the history of the conjugation of negative ぬ).

Let me end this with a quote from page 180:

There is just as good reason for supposing that we have in nu and its forms vestiges of an old verb 'to be'. The meanings of nu in composition tend to bear out this supposition. It is not primarily a tense suffix but merely one which definitely asserts the performance of an act. [From these examples, we see that] in (1) we have an imperative, in (2) a future, in (3) and (4) a present tense. There can be no question of any time significance.

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PS: I can't keep count of how many questions I have answered by linking to the above mentioned book. It's well worth the read. – blutorange Aug 19 '13 at 5:49
Just be careful, as it was written before the last 85 years of linguistics research! – snail plane Aug 19 '13 at 6:35
I know, but it's the only book I had found. A few days ago I looked again and found this book, Handbook Japanese Linguistics (Tsujimura), but it has yet to arrive. Would you happen to know of any more or better resources (may be in Japanese)? I'm doing this as a hobby, so I won't read many issues of linguistic magazines. Is there any particular aspect concerning the older book that has been revised? – blutorange Aug 19 '13 at 6:49
Still, irrespective of whether etymologically correct, I think it is a valuable resource for learners (and not researchers) of Japanese, as it, imo, does a good job at making sense of the language, and makes you feel Japanese is not illogical. It is also easily understood even by the layman. – blutorange Aug 19 '13 at 6:55
You could perhaps translate it as "the wind riseth", to preserve the effect. – Zhen Lin Aug 19 '13 at 7:18

According to the Wikipedia article for 風立ちぬ (小説), this 〜ぬ is not the negative ぬ, but the past/perfect auxiliary ぬ (過去・完了の助動詞) and means "風が立った", or "the wind has risen".

However, dictionaries identify it as only a perfect marker (完了), not a past tense marker (過去). For example, take a look at 大辞泉:


This dictionary also says that this ぬ attaches to the 連用形 (continuative stem), which is what we see here in the form of 立ち. The negative ぬ, in contrast, attaches to the 未然形 (irrealis stem), just like the negative ない. The two forms look like this:

立ちぬ - contains the perfect auxiliary ぬ
立たぬ - contains the negative auxiliary ぬ

We can use this difference to tell the two apart.

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