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Is there a grammatical explanation for this pattern, which I have seen a couple times in writing? I'm guessing it comes from classical grammar.

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    It is a recollective past, basically a kind of past tense.
    – ithisa
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 16:57
  • This is related to べき・べし/よい・よし, isn't it? Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 23:36
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    @TrevorAlexander For this particular 助動詞, き is the 終止形 and し is the 連体形. That's the opposite of what you get with classical adjective conjugation, where 〜し is the 終止形 and 〜き is the 連体形.
    – user1478
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 4:34

1 Answer 1

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It is from 'classical' grammar, or rather Early Middle Japanese. -し is the 連体形 (the 'attributive' form, used to modify nouns) of the past tense marker -き. It is used to describe events the speaker knows have happened; in contrast to -けり, which is used for events the speaker has only heard about but not experienced himself. (There are a few other past tense or perfect aspect markers - -ぬ, -り, etc - that are older and in varying stages of loss by Middle Japanese.)

選ばれし者 then means 'the chosen one(s), the one(s) who has/have been chosen'.

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