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I picked up a bad habit of using ~たら (a form of conditional) when I mean ~てから (once something happens, something else will happen) from a friend many years back while learning Japanese.

In the years since, I learned the difference and felt bad when I still used たら out of habit. But, I was just thinking, since there are spoken short forms of various ~て forms (~ておく → ~とく、~ている → ~てる) and I can't help but wonder if this is another case like that.

In short, is ~たら one of the spoken contractions of ~てから?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm not the first to say "No", but I want to actually show where ~たら comes from, if it's not an abbreviated form of ~てから. Consider it a proof of sorts. :)

The Classical Japanese of early Heian period had a form called ~たり form, which was used for several jobs that today are fulfilled by the ~た, ~て and (the modern) ~たり forms. This form was attached to the renyōkei (連用形), which is the verb stem that ends in I for Godan verbs (this is the stem to which you attach the ~ます or ~たい endings).

The ~たり form was later shortened to ~た in speech and became the past form we all known and love today, but before that, it was actually used to build a few other forms. Now, the ~たり form was actually creating a new verb (just like adding the potential, passive or causative endings to a verb today create a new verb), so it had it's own stem to which other endings could be attached. One of them was the old hypothetical ending ~ば (actually, the famous particle は which became ば after the verb). ば was attached to the mizenkei (未然形), which is the verb stem that ends in A for Godan verbs (this is the stem to which you attach the ~ない ending used for negation). Since, the mizenkei of ~たり was naturally ~たら, the whole thing together was ~たらば, which at sometime became a very common complex form for conditionals. e.g. (I invented this up myself, so it's probably not quite authentic):

書きたらば、死ぬ。 If you write, you die.

In modern Japanese, the classical ~ば form became the modern conditional ~ば which is now attached to the E stem (已然形 izenkei), and is much better known as the -eba conditional ending. But what happened to the complex ~たらば~ form? It was shortened to ~たら, but also started using the different base that ~て and ~た forms (the later also a shortened form of ~たり) were using. In Ichidan verbs (such as 見る or 食べる) this is still the same as good old renyōkei, but in godan verb, a few changes occured:

  • wakari + tara -> wakar + tara -> wakat + tara -> wakattara
  • kaki + tara -> kai + tara -> kaitara
  • oyogi + tara -> oyoi + (voice) + tara -> oyoi + dara -> oyoidara
  • mati + tara -> mat + tara -> mattara

There are more, but that's the gist of it.

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oh, very nice answer. Can you also tell me where ~てから comes from for contrast? –  Jeshii Jun 9 '11 at 17:30
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@Boaz: Two things: 1. Do you teach a class on classical Japanese? 2. If so, where can I sign up? –  Derek Schaab Jun 9 '11 at 17:33
    
@Derek: I wish. I have hard time reading Classical Japanese myself, and I remember only a little bit of the grammar. :( But being a linguist has its perks: I check some books written in linguistic mumbo-jumbo (which turns out to be really useful as a shortcut) and compare everything. In this case I remembered something about たら coming from たらば, but I didn't know all these details before checking the books. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 9 '11 at 18:48
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@Jeshi: I think the origin of ~てから is much simpler. In essence, this is just the regular te-form + the directional particle から. The te-form itself exists, as far as I know, back in Old Japanese as a particle (て)which is joined to the renyōkei. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 9 '11 at 19:05
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What do you mean by “E stem (以前系 izenkei)”? In my knowledge of the modern Japanese grammar, the forms before ば is called 仮定形 (かていけい) (but I am not sure how foreign learners usually learn verb forms). The Classical Japanese has a verb form called 已然形 (いぜんけい), but its use is different. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 9 '11 at 23:07

I would say No.

たら has sense of "if ... then ...."

てから "... then ..."

Following with たら is ok

雨が降ったら出かけないことにする。If it rains, I won't go outside.

but following with てから is kinda strange.

雨が降ってから出かけないことにする After it rains, I won't go outside.

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Short answer: No.

~ておく and ~ている can become ~とく and ~てる because they have consecutive vowels, which are easily slurred/elided, but to get ~てから to become ~たら, you'd have to drop a consonant, which I don't believe ever happens in Japanese (but I would welcome a correction here). In addition, the ~たら and ~てから forms have different functions grammatically, so you can't simply interchange them without considering the context and the rest of the sentence.

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I had a feeling that would be the case. Good point about removing the consonant... I'll see if I can't think of any counter examples. :) –  Jeshii Jun 9 '11 at 15:41
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As a side note, there is a ~ったら ending, used, for example, after a person's name. It carries a different meaning that indicates the user's exasperation or annoyance with the person, but has nothing to do with either ~たら or ~てから. But, you probably know this. :) –  Andrew Prowse Jun 9 '11 at 15:54
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Actually consonant-dropping happened quite a lot in Japanese, but it usually was with "weak" vowels such as /u/ and /i/ and not with /a/. One prominent case is the き that used to be the attributive (rentaikei) ending of adjectives in classical Japanese and became just い in the modern language. So instead of 白き花 we now say 白いはな. Anyway, in this case you are correct: ~たら is note a shortened form of ~てから. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 9 '11 at 16:49
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Dropping a consonant happens a lot, especially in casual speech: だっただろう->だったろう, わからない->わかんない, あたたかい->あったかい, etc. –  Amanda S Jun 9 '11 at 18:55
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@Amanda: You're absolutely right. Curiously, looking at that list, the condensed syllables come from the same vowel row. Are there any such contractions that go across vowel rows? –  Derek Schaab Jun 9 '11 at 19:37

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