It has been said elsewhere that だ, な, and の all originate in some for another from Old Japanese copulas. E.g.:

  • だ originates from ~である
  • の sometimes marks the genitive/possessive case, but sometimes it is just the copula (in which case it can be replaced by ~である)
  • な originates from ~にある

Main Question: Does this mean everyone one sees the attributive copula な, one could in principle replace it with ~にある? (I'm likewise curious about replacing だ with である, but should probably keep this post focused).

Attempted Counter-Example:


Literally: As for her, she's an is-beautiful (綺麗な) woman.

Idiomatically: She's a beautiful woman.


Literally: As for her, she's located inside beauty. (???)

Idiomatically: ???

This doesn't seem to make any sense? Perhaps the attributive copula な does originate from ~にある, but ~にある was used completely differently than it is today in modern Japanese?

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    At the very least it can be replaced with ”〜なる” which is sometimes used to affect an archaic tone. I sometimes see “〜にございます” too instead of “〜でございます” to create a more archaic tone for what it's worth. I could find some citations of “〜にある” with na-adjectives even in somewhat modern texts but I've never encountered it without actively searching for it. One also still sometimes encounters “〜なり” instead of “`〜だ” for the conclusive form to affect an old style. Also “綺麗に” doesn't mean “inside beauty” but “beautifully”. See it like “exist beautifully” which makes “be beautiful” more accessible.
    – Zorf
    Oct 1, 2023 at 16:54
  • @Zorf So does 彼女は綺麗にある女性です make sense to you (if 綺麗に is parsed as "beautifully")? "As for her, she exists beautifully". Does that mean the same thing as 彼女は綺麗な女性です?
    – George
    Oct 1, 2023 at 16:57
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    if I encountered it somewhere, I would think it was a deliberately archaic version of “綺麗な”, but I have never encountered it without searching for it. But yes, that's the origin of how na-adjectives function, adding “〜に” to them makes them adverbial. So simply “to exist beautifully”, or “to be beautiful”. Some others formed their adverbial form with “〜と” so “〜とある” and “〜たる” also occurred and still do.
    – Zorf
    Oct 1, 2023 at 17:02
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    that's very old Japanese grammar which would be “綺麗にあり” at that time back when the conclusive form of “ある” was still “あり”. I've never encountered it like that myself. I've seen “〜にございます”,“〜にあり” and “〜なり”. The modern “綺麗だ” derives ultimately from a contraction of “綺麗にある”. Remember that “〜で” derives as a contraction from “〜にて”. “〜にて” is very much still in use in literary styles such as Wikipedia articles or Newspaper articles. The “〜て” simply started to appear in many places historically. Also remember that “楽しく” is a more literary version of “楽しくて” for instance.
    – Zorf
    Oct 1, 2023 at 17:36
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    I think that Attributive にある was somehow redundant, because shorter and functionally equivalent / の existed, and was apparently used for attributive function of adjectival nouns in Old Japanese and maybe Middle Japanese. For predication, Conclusive にあり (or abbreviated なり) was the only possibility (theoretical unattested Conclusive of n- copula would be nu). Maybe better question would be if な can be replaced with for adjectival nouns (e.g. 綺麗の女性) in modern usage, and if modern users would understand it...
    – Arfrever
    Oct 1, 2023 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


No, you can't replace な with にある today. Back then ある was still used for animate and inanimate creatures alike, while now it became inanimate only. You "could" say 綺麗にいる and use に adverbially but that'll trespass on the set usage of [location]にいる. Therefore 綺麗にている would be used instead, which in the modern language would be 綺麗でいる, other alternatives as noted in the comments are the literary conjugation of な adjectives 綺麗なる, and the set literary phrase である. To use にある you need to switch the langauge used entirely to that of ancient Japanese.

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    I am not questioning that extended copula ni ari / aru is not used in modern language, but in later part of your answer, you are making wrong conclusions due to wrong assumptions and anachronistic semantics. Firstly, extended copula (TARGET_OF_BEING) ni ari / aru should be considered separately from (PLACE) ni ari / aru. In the former construction, ni is 連用形/Continuative form of simple copula n-, while in the latter construction, ni is locative particle.
    – Arfrever
    Feb 14 at 8:17
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    Secondly, range of usage (inanimate+animate or inanimate only) of standalone verb ari / aru does not apply to extended copula ni ari / aru. Otherwise, modern (TARGET_OF_BEING) de aru would be incorrect for animate subjects, but it is actually correct (and da is contraction of this de aru, and this de is contraction of nite, which is te- form of simple copula n-).
    – Arfrever
    Feb 14 at 8:18
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    Thirdly, verb iru was developed as existential verb for animate subjects (for (PLACE) ni iru construction) in more recent history, many centuries after (TARGET_OF_BEING) ni ari / aru underwent contraction to (TARGET_OF_BEING) nari / naru. For details of development of iru, see this.
    – Arfrever
    Feb 14 at 8:26
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    @Arfrever thx for the link, I did a bit of searching and it does seem so, I fixed that. but to be clear, I used 綺麗に adverbially, However as I already said in my answer, no one says that and で is used adverbially instead. And now I know the reason why.
    – user52004
    Feb 14 at 9:02

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