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What does the もて before a verb means?

I found this word in the dictionary http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi-bin/wwwjdic.cgi?1MDEemphatic%20prefix (which only says it is an "emphatic verb prefix" and give no other information on it whatsoever)

I've no idea how it is used / whether it is used / or how to use it

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(1) Please add examples. (2) The link to WWWJDIC is broken. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 17 '11 at 16:40
    
もてあすぶ (which is a single verb all together)? –  Derek Schaab Jun 17 '11 at 16:49
    
He probably means this entry: もて (pref) (before a verb) (See もて囃す, もて扱う .1) emphatic prefix. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 17 '11 at 17:04
    
@Tsuyoshi i've edited the question, is the link ok now? –  Pacerier Jun 17 '11 at 17:14
    
Thanks. The new link seems working. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 17 '11 at 17:15
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1 Answer

up vote 9 down vote accepted

It seems like a rather rare prefix, really. I tried to count all the verbs that have it in my Kenkyusha dictionary (I could go for a larger one, but I didn't want rare verbs) and I've got these:

  • もてあそぶ (sometimes in Kanji: 弄ぶ) - to toy with something or someone
  • 持て余す - to be too much (especially: too much to handle)
  • もてなす (持て成す) - to treat, to welcome
  • もてはやす (持て囃す) 持て囃す- to extol

Four verbs in a medium-sized dictionary, that's it. This "prefix" definitely isn't very productive, and you definitely can't use it with any verbs. In fact, it's just the first part of a tiny closed list of compound verbs that come as is. This is different from a productive verb prefix that can be used to create compounds ad-hoc such as あえて (e.g. in あえて言う dare to say, go ahead and say).

Another thing that makes もて different from a regular prefix is that it doesn't change the meaning of the following verb in a consistent manner. While あえて always adds the same element of daring, もて isn't simply intensifying all verbs in the same way. You can probably say it's an intensifier in all the verbs in my list except for (持て成す), but the intensification works differently in any place and you can't predict the meaning of the compound verb by just knowing what the verb joined with もて means.

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