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I was looking up the definition for [舐]{な}める and "underestimate" was one of them. However, "underestimate" can be both stative or dynamic, so I looked up the Japanese definition and got this:

人を馬鹿にして無礼な態度をとる。あなどる。

While とる is certainly a dynamic verb, I am not quite certain if [侮]{あなど}る is one as well. Looking up the Japanese definition for 侮る leads me to an endless cycle of the following words.

  • 見くびる
  • [軽蔑]{けいべつ}する
  • [見]{み}[下]{くだ}す
  • [見]{み}[下]{お}ろす
  • 見なす
  • 甘く見る
  • ばかにする

While the Japanese definitions of 軽蔑する and 見なす make them seem dynamic, example sentences make them seem stative.

私達は、その計画を価値あるものと見なす。

We think of the plan as of value.

(on jisho.org)

and

彼は社会的地位の低い人を軽蔑する。

He despises people of a lower social class.

(on jisho.org)

This is further complicated by how I am not sure of what 馬鹿にする means anymore. At first I thought it merely meant "to make fun of someone" but on further inspection, にする can mean "to feel A about B" and makes expressions such as 大切にする stative. For example:

一郎は利益よりも友情を大切にする

jisho.org has got this translation:

Ichiro puts friendship above profit.

Now I wonder if 馬鹿にする can mean to merely regard someone as stupid and not that you actively go to make fun of them.

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  • Might depend upon the defintion of stative verb. How about this classification: 金田一の日本語動詞分類 1 and 金田一の日本語動詞分類 2?
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 10:48
  • I think all dynamic verbs can be used in this way. For example: 日本語を話す。酒を飲む。But when you put the verb in the past form, it becomes obvious that they are not stative verbs. For example 日本語を話した・酒を飲んだ・ずいぶん舐められたもんだ ・
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 12:25
  • @"Yang Muye" As far I understand it (see links above), there's also a difference if one thinks about actions/states currently happening. You can't say うちの子は公園で遊ぶ (dynamic), but you can say 子供たちは公園にいる (static).
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:41
  • Well, "stative verb" as defined by wikipedia is "one that describes a state of being," which is what I will use. The main thing that confuses me on verbs such as 舐める and 侮る is whether they refer to "having the opinion that someone is inferior" or "making the judgment that someone is inferior." The former would be stative while the latter would be dynamic.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 18:22
  • I personnally think they are pretty much the same thing. The difference is not in meaning, but in grammar. In English you do not say be having in the stative sense, but in Japanese, you normally say 持っている, and only occationally say 持つ for some reason. 持つ normally means very different from have. However when 取る is used instead of 持つ in the collocation 態度をとる, both 取る and 取っている are possible though not exactly the same. とる are often more abstract than とっている. Similarly, you say 好意を持つ, too. Verbs are hard. Over years, I have never found it possible to fit a verb into the 金田一's four categories.
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 1:53

2 Answers 2

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Aspects in Japanese are complicated. I think there are some concepts at play here which haven't been mentioned. (The below grammaticality assessments are mine.)

  1. The tendency to (ability to) use dictionary forms for 1st person, where ている/でいる must be used for 3rd person for some thought/speech verbs, e.g. 私は思う but 彼は思っている. I think the same thing is going on for みなす here.

    • 私達は、その計画を価値あるものと見なす。
    • 私達は、その計画を価値あるものと見なしている。
    • ?? 彼は、その計画を価値あるものと見なす。
    • 彼は、その計画を価値あるものと見なしている。

      1. The habitual use of the dictionary form. Here it works because 会的地位の低い人 is plural and can be viewed as a stream of people which "he" habitually looks down upon.
    • 彼は社会的地位の低い人を軽蔑する。

    • 彼は社会的地位の低い人を軽蔑している。
    • ?? 彼は母を軽蔑する。
    • 彼は母を軽蔑している。
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  • Well, I think I've come up with a sort of way to test if a verb is stative. In an earlier question, someone told me to use もう to test if a verb is resultive or progressive, and I realized I could also use that to differentiate stative and dynamic. For example, in sentences like もう彼を見下さない and もう彼を侮らない I feel like they are stative similar to sentences like もう彼が敵だと思わない.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 6:38
  • @joe, sorry, what is the test? You use もう with the simple negative form and then...?
    – dainichi
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 8:00
  • @Joe How would もう遊ばない, もう(Xと[は])話さない, もう笑わない, もう届かない feel to you? These are usually not classified as stative, but personally, I can't see much of a difference (?)
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 8:03
  • 1
    @blutorange Your examples describe habitual action, as in you will never do X action again in the future. When もう is used with a stative verb, it describes a situation in the present. For example, もういない means "isn't here anymore" and もう敵だと思わない means "no longer think (hold the opinion) that he is an enemy." However, もう遊ばない would mean "won't play" and もう笑わない means "won't laugh anymore."
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 8:16
2

Meaning-wise

Considering only what a verb means to determine whether it is stative can be somewhat subjective. If we go purely by the semantics, we find as you mentioned the following explanation for the relevant sense:

馬鹿にする。甘くみる。みくびる。あなどる。

As this suggests, underestimate does not convey the nuance of the verb very well. Think of it like this:

彼をなめる (dynamic-like): to view/take him lightly, to treat him like a fool, to disparage him, to make light of him, to look down on him

AはBをなめている (stative-like): A is taking B lightly, A underestimates be

And its more dynamic nature becomes easier to see. In the 〜ている form, it is more stative-like. The zokugo dictionary contains the following explanation

なめるとは相手やある物事を馬鹿にしたり、みくびったり、軽んじる、蔑むといった行為で、戦国時代には既にこうした意味で使われている。

Here we see that the verb usually involves people doing something that could be regarded as them taking something lightly. This makes sense if we consider this an extended meaning of to lick.

Now if we use it in an actual sentences such as

敗戦国民として、われわれは彼らに嘗められているんです

The plain form is not used here as a predicate for a sentence expressing a current action. This is as close to a state as you can get, but (a) it still carries a nuance of them doing something (that makes it seem to us they are taking us lightly); and (b) it needs the passive and 〜ている form for it. As illustrated above, it does not express a state in its plain form.

He we see it is helpful to take a look at the differences in how stative and dynamic verbs are used.

Aspect-wise, classification by 金田一春彦

In (some) analyses of English stative verbs, stative verbs do not take the continous aspect (xJohn is knowing the answer.)

Paralleling this distinction based upon aspect, there is a classification by 金田一春彦【きんだいちはるひこ】 from his article 国語動詞の一分類 (1950) in the journal 言語研究第15号 (link to pdf), which is explained for example here: 金田一の日本語動詞分類 1 and 金田一の日本語動詞分類 2. Note that dynamic (動作動詞) verbs include punctual and durative verbs.

  • durative (継続): 〜ている is used for a current action or completed action: 遊んでいる, x子供は今公園で遊ぶ
  • punctual (瞬間): 〜ている can only mean that the action is completed: (もう・すでに)死んでいる
  • static/stative (状態): continous form 〜ている often not possible, plain form is used for a current action: 猫がいる, x居ている
  • 4th type (第四種): current action expressed by 〜ている, attributive form uses 〜た without expressing a past sense: 話はありふれている, ありふれた話 (this does not imply everybody already forgot about it)

Note that the plain form of durative verbs is used as well, of course. Try to compare a present situation, however, when the action/state is taking place presently.

  • 子供は今公園にいる
  • 子供は今公園で遊んでいる

Instantaneous:

  • 俺さまをなめてんのか? → This means that he underestimates (=currently is underestimating) the speaker, not that he's done with it. → not instantaneous verb
  • (もう・すでに)なめている → This could be is already underestimating, but not a finished action such as もう死んでいる. → not instantaneous verb

Stative:

  • (お前は)(今)俺をなめる。 → This would not be used by somebody currently facing another person. → not stative verb
  • 俺をなめている。 → The -te-iru form is possible. → probably not stative verb

4th type:

  • あんたをなめた俺 → At most this would refer to the past. → not of 4th type

Another test involves testing whether we add the auxilaries -はじめる, expressing the start of an action. In 金田一春彦's article we find

「終る」という語と「始める」という語は継続動詞のみにつく。

Compare dynamic/stative verbs:

  • 話はじめるの
  • 飴を舐めはじめる
  • x(運転)ができはじめる
  • x値しはじめる

How about 舐める is the sense of underestimate? Usages are rare and need some context, but we can find some:

敵をなめはじめていた搭乗員たちも、本気で取り組まざるをえなかつた。

田中光二, シドニー攻略, ISBN-13:9784059006077

or

最近運転をなめはじめていた気がするから、初心を思い出せました。

or

まさかの鬼畜ステージ登場!回復ばかりのゆとり使用かと思いきや…。凶悪配置地獄、スノボー面が姿を現しました。正直、このゲームを舐めはじめていたところです。怖い怖い。

In English, you can use the plain form as in I think that guy there underestimates me. and consider it a stative verb in this case. But in Japanese that becomes 俺をなめている.

Summary

Therefore I'd classify なめる as a dynamic verb. But perhaps its usage with different forms such as 〜ている is a remnant of its original meaning, and meaning-wise it is now often closer to a state.

As an exception, it could be regarded as being of 4th type in なめたことを言う or なめた真似をする.

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  • Well, this is my take. Perhaps somebody has got more insights on linguistics.stackexchange.com ?
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 8:04
  • Interesting, but I have a question regarding "俺は(今)あんたをなめる。 → This does not work by itself. → not stative verb." Why can't it work by itself? 見なす certainly does, as shown in my example sentence, but I can't find a Japanese dictionary that classifies it as stative.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 8:29
  • I don't think なめている is a ongoing action. あんたをなめる is fine to my ears. Besides, I think there are very few verbs that cannot take ている form, perhaps only ある and いる. Even potential verbs are often used with ている, e.g. パンツが見えてるぞ。
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 8:30
  • @Joe Yes, most verbs can be used in the plain form. But think about a situation currently taking place: Would somebody say お前、俺をなめてるだろう or お前、俺をなめるだろう ? With stative verbs, it sounds fine if yousay 今いる? or 水、要る? or 賞賛に値する or それ、出来る? or 走れる? (not 走れている?)
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 9:30
  • See also here books.google.de/books?id=l-C4H2sBJlEC&pg=PA69 (状態動詞:テイル形がない and see at the top of 69 as well) We need to be careful whether this is an argument about the definition of stative verb. There are more stative verbs than いる and ある, but the definition/categorization by 金田一 might be more narrow than what you might have in mind.
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 9:31

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