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I was looking into a presumably older song, Gion Kouta, and I noticed that one of the lyrics is 「恋しや」. I'm assuming this comes from the adjective 「恋しい」, but I don't know why 「や」 is used instead of 「い」. Does 「や」 make 「い」 adjectives into nouns? Is it an older adjective ending? I'm confused about this.

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恋し is the classical Japanese form of 恋しい. It is already in its terminal form (終止形) so や is just an exclamation word here.

You can check the conjugation table here.

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    No, it is not 終止形 but 語幹. The Classical Japanese has シク活用 adjectives where 語幹 is directly 終止形, but not for example: ありがたし > ありがたや. Aug 14, 2023 at 2:26

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