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I ran across this example sentence in a basic dictionary, but I can't figure out what particular meaning まいります has in this context.

雨が降ってまいりました。

Generally speaking, it's used as the humble verb for motion. In this case, [参]{まい}る replaces [来]{く}る. Why would this be attached to rain? Is there another meaning or would this simply be a slightly formal way of talking?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I hope that someone can explain this more accurately, but let me try some explanation.

According to 敬語の指針, the document explaining the use of honorifics in Japanese written by the Council for Cultural Affairs, there are two different kinds of what have been traditionally categorized as 謙譲語 (humble words). Most of them are solely used for actions/belongings of a speaker or someone considered to be on the side of a speaker, and those are called 謙譲語 I. However, the other humble words such as 参る and 申す can also be used for actions/belongings of something which is on neither the speaker’s side nor the audience’s side. In this usage, they play almost the same role as 丁寧語 (polite words). These humble words are called 謙譲語 II.

Therefore, in the example sentence, 参る is essentially used to make the sentence simply more polite than 雨が降ってきました.

To emphasize the difference between 謙譲語 I and 謙譲語 II, we cannot rephrase the example sentence as 雨がお降りしてきました because お…する forms 謙譲語 I from a verb.

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That's really interesting, I had no idea about that. –  silvermaple Jun 10 '12 at 23:29
    
Tiny formatting suggestion: maybe use 謙譲語1/ 謙譲語2 instead of 謙譲語I/謙譲語II, which are a little difficult to notice... –  Dave Jun 11 '12 at 0:39
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@Dave If it is a technical terminology, then it should be left exactly as the original. It is not a good idea to modify it even if it seems the difference is minor. But I suppose there should be a space before "I" or "II". –  user458 Jun 11 '12 at 1:16
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@Dave, sawa: Following your suggestion, I added spaces between 謙譲語 and I/II. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 11 '12 at 1:59
    
@TsuyoshiIto: It was hard to notice for me as well, but now it's much better! Thanks :) –  silvermaple Jun 11 '12 at 2:18

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