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Where does the ぶり in 五年ぶり (Five years ago?) and ぶり返す come from, does it have a kanji, and what does it mean?

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My guess is you probably first encountered 〜ぶり in お久しぶりですね! –  snailboat May 27 at 20:58
    
Haha. I guess I did! –  Anthony May 27 at 21:03

2 Answers 2

Spelling

In reply to istrasci's final comment, the buri in burikaesu is the same 振る as furu, and can be spelled in kanji as 振り返す. That said, the buri is more often spelled in kana to make the voiced reading explicit.

Phonology

Changing an h- or f- on the front to the voiced b- variant is common in the latter element of compounds (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendaku), explaining why -fur- changes to -bur- in compounds.

When the fur- is in word-initial position, the shift to voicing can imply some kind of pejorative meaning, as noted by a number of linguists. From Laurence Labrune's The Phonology of Japanese (2012), p.102:

The voiced obstruents which appear word-initially in Yamato words come from the following sources. First, one finds a number of cases which result from secondary voicing of an originally unvoiced obstruent, whose phono-pragmatic function is to introduce a pejorative or expressive connotation.

Semantics (Meaning)

振る furu is ultimately cognate with the furu in classical furuu, modern 震{ふる}える "tremble, shake, vibrate, quake". The furu on its own can mean "wave, shake", but it also has a range of other meanings, a number of which imply "the movement of a thing as a whole". That underlying sense might be where derived term 振り furi came to include meanings such as "likeness; kind; one's appearance, style, or behavior".

-Buri as the latter element in compounds derives from this furi, and can be found in words like 身振{みぶ}り "body language, how one moves, appearance", or 女振{おんなぶ}り "a woman's face or appearance".

When appended to a time-related noun or phrase, -buri again carries stronger connotations of "whole, entire", in terms of "the whole XX amount of time has passed". 三週間ぶり would mean "it's been three whole weeks [since ...]". 久しい literally means "eternal; a very long time." 久しぶり is thus often an exaggeration, similar to English "it's been forever!" even though the speaker and listener might have seen each other recently.

For the buri in burikaesu, the meanings given for this verb are generally negative, suggesting that the voicing is indeed pejorative. Whereas furikaesu can mean simply "to turn something back", burikaesu means "to get worse again, as said of a previously improving situation."

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The ぶり in 5年ぶり comes from the verb 振る which is usually read ふる, but can also be ぶる. The kanji is not often used (in my experience) in this context. It means "shake" or "wave", but I'm not sure how that really plays into these time expressions.

As a verb ending (〜ぶり), it can mean "way of doing"; similar to 〜[方]{かた}, but I believe more subjective. Here, 振る takes the meaning of "assume", "pretend", "put on", or "pose as". For example, 高ぶる means to be arrogant -- "assuming" a high position. So you can see the verb ending comes from this.

  • 話し振り → Way of speaking → One's (assumed) mannerisms of speech (subjective)
  • 話し方 → Way of speaking → How to speak (methodically; objective)

As far as ぶり返す, I cannot tell from all the definitions in my dictionaries if this is the same ぶり or not, so I'll defer that question to someone else.

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