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Here are some examples:

取れる+たて -> 取れたて

・取れたてのたけのこ; fresh bamboo shoots that have just been harvested.

できる+たて -> できたて

・できたてのごはん; fresh rice that has just been cooked.

生まれる+たて -> 生まれたて

・生まれたての赤ちゃん; a newly born baby

In what way is it a version of the conjunctive form (連用形?) ? How does this suffix(?) work and what meaning does it express?

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

たて is 立て, which is related to 立つ (to stand up).

立ちながらタバコを吸う (tachinagara tabako o suu: to smoke while standing).

Something just having finished seems to be somehow related to standing, etymologically or semantically. The kanji used to write it reveals the connection.

Verbs take on shifted meanings when used to form agglutinative compounds. 見る (miru) turns into "try something", 置く (oku) turns into "prepare for later convenience" etc.

In 立て there seems to be a similar effect although the grammatic function isn't the same.

If some action recently finished its effect is "standing", in some sense. The rice was cooked, and it is still cooked now: the cooked status "stands" (a metaphor for persistence in a state that was recently achieved).

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thank you, i was looking for this kind of explanation. If you are so inclined, do you have any more thoughts on the metaphoric use of 立つ? (perhaps in other compounds like 役に立つ?)Currently i am relating it to the english use of stand thusly:"the decision stands".(though i concede i shouldn't try to correlate the two closely) – yadokari Apr 28 '12 at 17:44
About your question; sorry, I dare not hypothesize any more about that. The answer you graciously accepted also "works for me" and the "decision stands" analogy fits intuitively. The idea that "standing" is a cross-cultural metaphor for persisting in a state appear sound. – Kaz May 2 '12 at 19:42

It is the suffix -tate and expresses that something was just completed. It attaches to the adverbial form (連用形) of verbs. In kanji, it is written as 立て. It has nothing to do with the past tense marker -ta.

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how is 取れたて different than 取れたばかり? – yadokari Apr 27 '12 at 3:29

The original question was quite different making my initial answer irrelevant. (It originally asked what this -tate means and assumed that it was past tense -ta plus -te.)

In what way is a version of the conjunctive form (連用形?) ?

All verbs have a 連用形. All of the examples that you gave are 一段 verbs, so the 連用形 looks the same: tore-ru --> tore, deki-ru --> deki, umare-ru --> umare. If you expand that to include 五段 verbs such as yom-u, you will see that the 連用形 is yomi.

If you are not familiar with the grammatical vocabulary, the easiest way to remember this is that 連用形 is the form that -masu attaches to. So, tore-ru --> tore-masu, deki-ru --> deki-masu, yom-u --> yom-i-masu, umare-ru --> umare-masu.

Just like -masu, -tate attaches to the 連用形 of verbs.

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how do you translate the term 連用形? – yadokari Apr 27 '12 at 3:27
I have seen both adverbial form and conjunctive form. It is specific to Japanese grammar, so as long as you understand it, the actual English is not very important. – Dono Apr 27 '12 at 3:46

Thank you Dono, with you pointing out the kanji I found a definition.

立て 【たて】 (pref) (1) central; main; head; chief; (suf) (2) (uk) just (done); freshly (baked); indicates activity only just occurred; (ctr) (3) counter for consecutive losses [Edit][Ex][G][GI][S][A]

彼はその時大学を卒業したてであった。 He was then fresh from college.

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