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In Final Fantasy VIII, Bahamut has a little speech:


I'd never seen two るs doubled up like that. Which conjugation is this? It seems to have plenty of Google hits so it's not a typo, as far as I can tell.

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1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A short answer: the form 恐るる (おそるる) is the attributive form (連体形; れんたいけい) of the verb 恐る (おそる) in classical Japanese.

A long answer is as follows.

Classical Japanese has different conjugation rules from modern Japanese. The verb 恐れる (おそれる; to fear) in modern Japanese was 恐る (おそる) in classical Japanese, and its attributive form was 恐るる (おそるる).

If I understand your example correctly, the speaker is a mythological creature, and mixing classical Japanese in its words is probably meant to show that the speaker is very, very old.

However, 恐るるべき is actually incorrect even in classical Japanese. The correct conjugation in classical Japanese is 恐るべき. I do not know why the writer of the video game used the grammatically incorrect 恐るるべき instead of 恐るべき, but here are some speculations.

  1. Although 恐るべき follows the classical grammar, it is in the usual vocabulary in modern Japanese and is not an archaic word. The corresponding phrase in the modern Japanese grammar would be 恐れるべき, but I guess that 恐るべき is much more common than 恐れるべき today. It is possible that the writer of the game chose the form 恐るるべき because it sounded differently from the common expression today and it emphasized that the speaker was archaic.
  2. 恐るるに足らず (“not worth fearing”) is another common fixed phrase which follows the classical grammar, which would be 恐れるに足らない in modern Japanese. It is possible that because of this phrase, the writer incorrectly assumed that 恐れる in modern Japanese should be always translated to 恐るる in classical Japanese.
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The speaker is definitely mythological and ancient, so that jibes with your explanation. Thanks! –  sartak Aug 5 '11 at 22:52
@Tsuyoshi: At a guess, I would say it's due to an incorrect analogy with modern Japanese. On the other hand, notice that while べき attaches to the 終止形 of most verbs, it requires the 連体形 in the case of あり (and the other ラ変 verbs). –  Zhen Lin Aug 6 '11 at 1:12
@Zhen: Modern Japanese does not distinguish 終止形 and 連体形 of most words, including verbs. I completely understand if someone tries to write something in classical Japanese and does not know whether he/she should use 終止形 or 連体形 before べし. But I cannot think of a plausible reason why he/she incorrectly assumes that 連体形 is the correct form before べし without even bothering to check a dictionary. You are right that ラ変 verbs take 連体形 before べし, but if someone is knowledgeable enough to know this rule, it is unlikely that he/she does not know the rule for usual cases. (more) –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 6 '11 at 2:07
@Zhen: (cont’d) So I do not think that your comment fully explains the reason why 恐るるべき is used in the game, but this is not to criticize you; I do not think that it is possible to know the truth at all. I added some speculations to the answer, but, well, they are speculations. There are probably other plausible reasons. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 6 '11 at 2:09
just ran into 恐るるに足らず in harry potter... thanks for saving me! lol –  ogicu8abruok Dec 29 '12 at 20:58
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