3

Japanese verbs can take the suffix -tai, which attaches to the ren'youkei form and turns the verb into an -i adjective, expressing desire to do what the verb says. I have recently wondered where this suffix comes from. Is it known? I mean, do we know where the -tai suffix in question comes from? Someone proposed it might be from -te + ai, love, as a comparison with how "oi", to love, means also to want in Hakka. Could that be?

6

According to this article in Japanese WP, -たい is the descendant of Middle Japanese -たし (-tasi), which ultimately traces back to Old Japanese (or Proto-Japonic) いたし (itasi; "sore, acute").

A paper referred by that page argues that this form has changed its meaning taking the path of "painful" → "sorely felt" → "of physiological necessity" → "of emotional necessity" → "desire".

Someone proposed it might be from -te + ai, love...

It's unlikely to be true considering the oldest attested form of this word ended in -asi, not -ai. Additionally, if Japanese speakers want to incorporate Chinese words in such a way, they never use te-form but append them directly to word stem or 連用形. For instance, -そう in 「雨{あめ}が降{ふ}りそう」 is said to originate from 相{そう} ("appearance").

  • If ai is a Chinese loanword, what would the "indigenous", "original" Japanese word for love be? Perhaps koi? – MickG Apr 27 '15 at 5:09
  • And "ame ga orisou"... "looks like it's raining / going to rain"? – MickG Apr 27 '15 at 5:12
  • 1
    (1) Yes, the indigenous word for love should be "koi" (lit. "yearning"). "Ai" for "love" is relatively new, being an outcome of modern translation from Western languages. (2) It's "furisou"... I think I'd put furiganas on it. Your translation is correct. – broccoli forest Apr 27 '15 at 5:30
  • Stupid Google Translate had me miscorrecting my transliteration :). – MickG Apr 27 '15 at 6:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.