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I noticed that some i-adjectives have specific prefixes that can be used to intensify the quality of the states that are described by the adjectives, similar to "flaming hot", "freezing cold" etc in English. Some examples:

物{もの}凄{すご}い

蒸{む}し暑{あつ}い

膚{はだ}寒{さむ}い

[容易]{たやす}い

手{て}厳{きび}しい

真{ま}新{あたら}しい

With color adjectives, there is 真 which intensifies as well as makes the i-adjectives into na-adjectives:

真{ま}っ白{しろ}

真{ま}っ黒{くろ}

真{ま}っ赤{か}

真{ま}っ青{さお}

However, there are prefixes that focus rather than intensify the i-adjectives. Examples for 苦しい {くるしい}:

重{おも}苦{くる}しい = gloomy, heavy (focus on the atmosphere)

息{いき}苦{ぐる}しい = choking, suffocating (focus on the air)

寝{ね}苦{ぐる}しい = unable to sleep well (focus on the sleeping/rest)

見{み}苦{ぐる}しい = ugly (focus on the look)

狭{せま}苦{くる}しい = cramped (focus on the space)

堅{かた}苦{ぐる}しい = strict (focus on the flexibility)

So my questions are:

  1. Is there special categories and treatment for these prefixes in Japanese language?

  2. Are there websites/resources/lists where I can look up if a particular i-adjective has an intensifier or not?

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I think that 蒸し暑い is literally "humid (steaming) hot", and not intensified as you suggest. Also, I think that the 苦しい list is not made of prefix+いadj, but is rather radical+adjいsuffix, but using 苦しい instead of にくい、難い or 辛い. –  Axioplase Aug 8 '11 at 5:04
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

複合形容詞 appears to be the generic term for a compound adjective.

http://ir.lib.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/metadb/up/kiyo/AN10281005/Hiroshima-IntStudentCenter-kiyo_16_13.pdf - this article covers the various types, and gives many examples.

I don't know of any particular lists of these words, but some dictionaries allow you to do a search for words by ending (で終わる) which should bring them up.

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The article is indeed a great reference on this topic! Thanks! :) .. I'm gonna take some time to read it though .. –  Lukman Aug 8 '11 at 12:28
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