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The other day I was musing on chat about 忘れれれば, which I imagined you would get if you started with 忘れられれば and left out ら:

  1. 忘れ
  2. 忘れられる   (忘れる + られる)
  3. 忘れられれば  (忘れる + られる + れば)
  4. 忘れれれば   (忘れる + られる + れば ー ら)

Of course, it sounds a little silly, but I thought it might be a possible example of the so-called ら抜き言葉, where ら is left out of a verb form with 〜られる.

I've read about ら抜き言葉 before, but I'm afraid I've forgotten where! And I'm having trouble finding the reference again. I do have Martin 1975, but it's been almost 40 years since it was written, so I think it's likely to be out of date on this point.

If I recall correctly, I read about some tendencies like "it occurs more often with negatives" and "it occurs most often with short verbs". So I'm aware that it's not really as simple as dropping ら from any form with 〜られる, but I'm not quite sure what the rules are.

I guessed that a form like 忘れれれば would be uncommon. But when I asked about it on chat, 非回答者さん helpfully responded:

[...] no one says 忘れれれば. It is not a matter of how often it is said. That form does not exist in the first place.

If it doesn't exist, there must be a reason ら抜き doesn't occur. What is this reason? Is it because the verb is too long? Or is there perhaps a rule against using ら抜き with verbs ending in 〜れる? Or is it something else?

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What's the れば element supposed to be? If it's the れば that appears in conjugations like 食べれば, your examples above are a bit mistaken -- this れば is られば (derived as passive られる + conditional ば) minus the ら. So passive for 忘れる would be 忘れられる, and passive conditional would be 忘れられば, so ら抜き for that would be 忘れれば -- only two れ, not three. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Aug 18 at 20:52
    
@EiríkrÚtlendi But if I look up られる, the dictionary says the 仮定形 is られれ, and if I look up ば, it says ば attaches to the 仮定形 of 活用語, so 〜られれ+ば. –  snailboat Aug 18 at 21:50
    
I segmented it as 〜られ+れば because I think that's what modern linguists tend to do (calling it -(r)eba to indicate at once how it attaches to consonant-stem and vowel-stem verbs), but if you prefer, you can segment it as 〜られれ+ば, which I think is how it's done in Japanese school grammar. –  snailboat Aug 18 at 21:54
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This bit on the JA Wikipedia makes the case that ら抜き words are only for the potential, not for passive, honorific, or spontaneous meanings. Perhaps that is part of what's going on with 忘れる? For that matter, I'm not sure what the hypothetical 忘れれれば would be meant to convey -- presumably passive potential conditional? –  Eiríkr Útlendi Aug 18 at 22:16
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I just chanced upon this paper in English. It gives a summary of how ra-nuki kotoba (with academic references) are used on pages 13-15. lup.lub.lu.se/luur/… For me the most interesting part of this discussion is how some of us probably have not been conjugating the potential form with the conditional form correctly, even for everyday verbs (bad learning? / bad habit? / not commonly used?/ in reality such expressions such as 「食べらればよい」 get used anyway?) –  Tim Aug 19 at 5:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I, a native speaker, do not even know how to pronounce 「忘れれれば 」 because I have never heard it said and therefore I have no idea where the pitch accent is either in Standard Japanese or the couple of dialects that I am more than just familiar with. I imagine it would sound fairly harsh and unpleasant and would also be difficult to say.

Natural languages will generally avoid those negative effects because it really benefits no one including the most avid ら抜き言葉-users. If they want to omit ら's because it makes it easier and/or faster to say certain words, why would they opt to use a hard-to-say phrase like 「忘れれれば 」?

I thought about this question this morning and have come up with something. Whether that something is the answer, I am not 100% sure yet. It works, however, with the dozens of examples that I tested in my head.

It appears that when ラ行下一段活用 verbs that end with れる in their plain forms get to escape from ら-omission when they are made into their "potential & hypothetical" forms.

Those verbs include: [忘]{わす}れる、[入]{い}れる、[慣]{な}れる、[触]{ふ}れる、[別]{わか}れる、etc. There are so many.

Native speakers, even including the ら抜き言葉-lovers, say 忘れられれば, not 忘れれれば, and 入れられれば, not 入れれれば, etc.

These are definitely "everyday" verbs and if I still do not hear a 「れれれ」 with these verbs, it would have to mean something.

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It's quite possible to know the pronunciation of something you've never heard before. You know that 忘れる has no downstep, therefore 忘れれる has no downstep. れば has a downstep after れ unless there's been a downstep previously in the phrase, therefore 忘れれれば has a downstep at 忘れれれ↓ば. Your claim that native speakers do not say 入れれる is simply false. It's not as universal as 入れられる, but you can hear it e.g. at 0:49 here youtube.com/watch?v=t7hGPbhK08E –  dainichi Aug 19 at 23:48

Under the assumption that ら抜き is correct for all ichidan verbs, 忘れれれば is fully correct, meaning "if [] can forget".

However, ら抜き doesn't seem to occur equally often for all ichidan verbs. These are hits on kotonoha (http://www.kotonoha.gr.jp/). I don't have time to filter out passive られる and other noise now, anybody please feel free to enhance my answer.

root られる れる %れる
来  284  66  18.9
見  5245 629  10.7
信じ 169  5   2.9
入れ 766  12  1.5
忘れ 103  0   0
離れ 22   0   0

Not exactly a lot of statistical material, but enough to create some kind of image. The distributions are likely different in spoken Japanese. Also including other forms than just -る would probably paint a better picture.

My rough hypothesis is that ら抜き is more common for shorter verbs, and more uncommon when it forces confusing forms including sequences like れれ. Still 忘れれれば is not wrong (unless you subscribe to prescriptive rules). If I heard it in speech with enough context, I doubt I'd even notice. If I heard it in isolation, I'd have to think for a second to get it. If I saw it in writing, I'd find it a bit clumsy.

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Wouldn't this be "if something can be forgotten"? ら抜き would imply a full form of 忘れられれば, where られれば is the potential of the passive, no? –  Eiríkr Útlendi Aug 19 at 1:21
    
If it is not wrong, how is 忘れれれば pronounced? Specifically, where is/are the pitch accent(s) placed? All natural and/or correct words and phrases should come with a natural pronunciation. –  非回答者 Aug 19 at 1:55
    
@EiríkrÚtlendi, 忘れ(forget)-られ(potential or passive)-れば(if), so "if [] can forget" or "if [] is forgotten". Potential passives don't exist in one agglutinative verb-form. –  dainichi Aug 19 at 2:20
    
@非回答者, I believe it it 忘れれれ↓ば in 標準語. –  dainichi Aug 19 at 3:28

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