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I thought this had been asked before (possibly by me), but I couldn't find it. I'm wondering why for certain verbs/words, instead of just a 自他 pair, there is a triplet (or possibly more) where two of the verbs are one type ( or ) and the third is the other type. Some examples:

  • 他 → 縮【ちぢ】める : 自 → 縮【ちぢ】まる : 縮【ちぢ】む → both?
    • see @snailboat comment below - dictionary confirms. Exs.
      • 自 → 寿命が縮む : 他 → 「ちぢめるの文語形」in dictionary def.
  • 他 → 繋【つな】ぐ ・ 繋【つな】げる : 自 → 繋【つな】がる
  • 他 → 緩【ゆる】める : 自 → 緩【ゆる】まる : 緩【ゆる】む → both? (same as above)
  • 他 → 滅【ほろ】ぶ ・ 滅【ほろ】びる : 自 → 滅【ほろ】ぼす
  • 他 → 含【ふく】む ・ 含【ふく】める : 自 → 含【ふく】まる

What's the deal with these triplets? Why are there two accepted verbs of one form for the same meaning? Are they somehow different? Is one of the two a classic/obsolete form like I talked about here? Does one of the two somehow rise to dominance over the other? I admit that I encounter 繋【つな】ぐ a lot less than 繋【つな】げる, but 縮【ちぢ】む seems just as frequent as 縮【ちぢ】まる to me.

Any other examples would be great to list too.

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I found a little quote about one of these verbs by Shibatani. "[T]he suffixes -ar and -e appear to show some [limited] degree of productivity. Thus, ... a new transitive form tunag-e-ru 'connect' has been derived by adding the transitive suffix -e to the root tunag-, despite the fact that this root already has the transitive-intransitive pairs in the forms of tunag-u 'connect' and tunag-ar-u 'be connected'." -The Languages of Japan, p.235 –  snailboat Sep 16 '13 at 9:15
    
This question is also related. –  Earthliŋ Sep 16 '13 at 9:17
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It seems like all three of the left column verbs can represent not only a 下二段 classical form of a modern verb, but also a modern 五段 verb as well. So the classical/obsolete form thing may be a bit of a red herring as far as the modern language is concerned. –  snailboat Sep 16 '13 at 9:32
    
Perhaps you could add つかむ (transitive, eg holding something like a bar in your hand)/つかまえる (transitive, eg catch a thief)/つかまる (intransitive, eg to be caught/hang on to something)?; It would be nice to get a definitive answer because I struggle to remember these but in the meantime for one of your triplets: つなぐ = つなげる and is transitive; つながる is intransitive. –  Tim Sep 16 '13 at 12:31
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@istrasci The ability to produce new words by adding a suffix, in this case. Like how un- or -ness is still productive in English, so we can still make new words with them. So, つなげる was formed as a newer word, it seems, even though Japanese already had つなぐ and つながる. –  snailboat Sep 16 '13 at 19:07
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1 Answer

What's the deal with these triplets?
Why are there two accepted verbs of one form for the same meaning? 
Are they somehow different? 

Yes, their usage is slightly different. A web article below well answers your question:

Coexistent transitive verbs : "Tsunagu" and "Tsunageru" http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110004672022

For '繋げる/繋ぐ' case:

'繋ぐ' refers to connecting something that are meant to be connected, or are naturally connected, or are desired to be connected.

切れたひもをつなぐ/鎖とロープをつないだ/多くの塔をつないだ高い城壁が (from the article)

On the other hand '繋げる' is to connect something that are not naturally connected, so there should be some external force for them to be connected.

6台のテレビをつなげ、GT3を複数画面で同時プレイ可能に.../短いひもをつなげて長くする (from the article)

Sometimes it may be hard to determine whether the connected state is natural / unnnatural: In such cases, either is OK. For example,

ひもをつなげて長くする/ひもをつないで長くする

usually both are accepted.

Is one of the two a classic/obsolete form like I talked about here? 

In your another question Rare/Obsolete verb forms for example, 'ほむべきお方' is not usually used in modern Japanese. Therefore out of 'ほむ/ほめる', 'ほむ' is obsolete. But '繋ぐ/繋げる' are both frequently used expressions. It depends on the word. As far as the examples you have mentioned in your question here, all expressions are currently widely used.

Does one of the two somehow rise to dominance over the other? 
I admit that I encounter 繋つなぐ a lot less than 繋つなげる, 
but 縮ちぢむ seems just as frequent as 縮ちぢまる to me.

Maybe you are encountering a lot of naturally connected things than unnaturally connected things. And you are seeing naturally shrunk/contracted things as frequently as artificially shrunk/contracted things.

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Something is not clear to me here. By comparing 繋ぐ/繋げる to ほむ/ほめる, are you implying that 繋ぐ historically was only 下二段, like ほむ? Online dictionaries give 2 entries for 繋ぐ, one 下二段 and one 四段. Are you implying this is wrong? Did both 連用形s つなげ and つなぎ exist clasically, or not? –  dainichi Nov 6 '13 at 23:15
    
@dainichi Thank you for your comment. > Are you implying this is wrong? ... No. As far as I can remember '繋ぐ' is both 下二段 and 四段. >'Did both 連用形s つなげ and つなぎ exist classically, or not?' ... I am not sure when this form appeared in classical Japanese... –  yanagi_dull Nov 7 '13 at 18:23
    
ok, thanks for the clarification. So I wonder whether classically there was the same or a similar semantic distinction between 下二段 and 四段 繋ぐ as there currently is between modern 繋げる and 繋ぐ. –  dainichi Nov 8 '13 at 2:09
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I think that the attempted analogy between 繋ぐ/繋げる and ほむ/ほめる is misleading. ほむ in ほむべきお方 is just the classical 下二段動詞, whereas 繋ぐ in Modern Japanese is a modern 五段動詞. This explains why ほむ is rare in Modern Japanese whereas 繋ぐ is usual. In other words, the explanations applicable to ほむ are not applicable to the current question. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 13 '13 at 12:23
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