Of course 来る is most often read as くる. However, it can also be read as きたる. Is きたる mostly an archaic reading? Does it carry a different, or any additional meanings?? When are "appropriate" (socially, grammatically, etc.) times to use it?

  • 1
    Etymologically, it's くる plus the past/perfect auxiliary 〜たる. As for its use, it is indeed literary, but its precise meaning is unclear to me, so I'll let someone else answer.
    – Zhen Lin
    Aug 17 '11 at 4:31
  • Archaic? I don't remember the sentence, but it was used a couple of weeks ago on a huge banner in front of Tohoku University… Something like "明日が来る" with the furiganas.
    – Axioplase
    Aug 18 '11 at 6:40
  • @Axioplase - was it「あすがきたる」or 「みょうにちがきたる」?
    – istrasci
    Aug 18 '11 at 14:16
  • I don't remember, it might even have been 将来… I'll try to find the original banner.
    – Axioplase
    Aug 18 '11 at 18:31

Basically, it is literary (and archaic), but there are some situations when it is still appropriate to use it in a modern context.

  • In the sense of "the coming [time or event]" e.g. 来【きた】る土曜日 = "the coming Saturday"
  • Related to the above, in the form 来【きた】るべき, meaning "the coming [thing]", "the [thing] that is sure to come", e.g. the title of Tezuka Osamu's manga "来【きた】るべき世界", translated as "Next World" in English I believe
  • In the imperative form, as an invitation. For example, junior high and high school clubs often promote themselves at the start of the year with signs saying things like "来【き】たれ!野球部" or whatever. This is not an order but an attempt to entice people to come and check the club out.
  • In set phrases like "来【きた】る者拒まず", which means that anyone who comes will be accepted (often paired with "去る者追わず", "... and anyone who leaves will not be pursued")

Outside of these usages, it has a literary flavor, sort of like "is come" or "cometh" (rather than "has come") in modern English.

Incidentally, I learned that although it looks like 来る + past/perfect aux. たる, it is actually a separate word derived from 来る + 至る; I just checked the 広辞苑 and 日本国語大辞典, and they agree with this (although obviously, sometimes the word きたる will in fact be 来る + たる). Special bonus trivia: the 来る + 至る /kitaru/ got its big break in the world of kanbun 漢文, as a pinch hitter for 来(る). (And it is true that the character 来 is generally rendered /kitaru/ in kanbun.) I can't find a reliable source for why kanbun kundoku doesn't just use /ku(ru)/, but some (e.g. fontomanie at Chiebukuro) suggest that it was because /ku(ru)/ didn't have enough syllables for convenient okurigana affixation (cf /nasu/ instead of /su(ru)/ for 為).

So, the specific literary flavor is that of kanbun or heavily Chinese-influenced Japanese, not "pure" classical Japanese.

  • Gah, I should have checked the dictionary first. Interesting. I was also going to remark that, as far as I know, くべき does not occur, くるべき sounds a bit off, and it's usually きたるべき.
    – Zhen Lin
    Aug 17 '11 at 8:03
  • Yeah, it totally seems like it should be that other /taru/... I'm pretty sure I made that exact same mistake once, although apparently not online. About combining /kuru/ with /beki/, probably the terms of reference need a-narrowing. くるべき is apparently OK in modern colloquial Japanese (no doubt only sounds off to us frustrated classicists); does some formal authority proscribe it? Also, you can find くべき in the Kokinshu (e.g. こゑたえずなけやうぐひすひととせにふたたびとだにくべき春かは) + Genji (e.g. ここに来べきよし、忍びて言へ), which actually makes sense if きたる, being 漢文ish, was generally avoided in waka/monogatari-type stuff.
    – Matt
    Aug 17 '11 at 14:02
  • Haha, I'm no classicist. Just an amateur linguist. To clarify my comments: While くるべき does sound a bit off, it's not as unnatural-sounding to me as くべき (in modern Japanese). すべき is fine though, and するべき is not all too disagreeable either.
    – Zhen Lin
    Aug 17 '11 at 14:26

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