For example, in the sentence 飲んだり食べたりした. Does this たり have anything to do with the -(i)tari ending in Classical Japanese that meant the present progressive (and later semantically shifted to past, and then even later truncated to -ta)? As in われ食べたり = 私は食べている?

It seems quite similar, attaching to the 連用形 (albeit with 音便), and with the same form. The meaning is very, very different though. Are they related?


Yes, it does.

In Classical Japanese, たり was an auxiliary verb but in Modern Japanese, it is a particle. The meaning and usage changed somewhat over time in that presently, it is used only in colloquial speech.

Regarding your example phrase われ食べたり, I need to mention the fact that 食べる is a modern verb; therefore, you should not combine it with the Classical auxiliary verb たり. The Classical versions of 食べる are 食ふ・食らふ and 食(た)ぐ.

  • 食べる was not originally a 二段 verb 食ぶ 食ぶる? I guess I am just too stuck with modern vocab...
    – ithisa
    Nov 5 '13 at 1:45
  • 1
    @user546099 Yes, it did come from 食ぶ. The verbs Tokyo Nagoya mentions are classical verbs with similar meaning rather than older versions of 食べる, strictly speaking.
    – user1478
    Nov 5 '13 at 1:48
  • So 食ぶ used to be an uncommon verb?
    – ithisa
    Nov 5 '13 at 1:52
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    @user54609 You might want to ask that as a separate question, since this one is about 〜たり and not about 食ぶ. (I recall reading that 食ぶ was originally from 賜ぶ, and that it became used as a 謙譲語/丁寧語 form of 食ふ・飲む because of its literal meaning, something like the modern いただく.)
    – user1478
    Nov 5 '13 at 1:54
  • 1
    Answers and comment threads like this make me want to ask a question which requires all you smart people to tell me everything. It's all so fascinating :D
    – rintaun
    Nov 5 '13 at 4:01

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