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In one of the Bleach anime ending songs, "Hanabi" has the following line:

繋ぎゆく この想い 愛しき 君

"itoshiki" seems to come from "itoshii", but how does this -ki form of i-adjective work? I found a few other adjectives that have -ki forms, e.g. 幼き{おさなき}, 素晴らしき{すばらしき}, 古き{ふるき}, 良き{よき} etc but that's about it.

Is this form productive? Is it selective, i.e. only some i-adjectives can have this form? Or has it become archaic, and thus only limited to those that survived into present Japanese?

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The -ki ending is the archaic rentaikee (adnominal form). It used to be standardly used in relative clauses/attributive uses of an adjective. The change from -ki to the present -i is called i-ombin. Today, this is used only when the writer wants to use the archaic form for some literary effect such as in literature, lyrics, poems, etc.

  • To add to sawa's answer, I don't think it's used that much in daily speech anymore, but you might hear it occasionally, maybe preserved in some dialects (@Matt might know more about that). It is productive, and gives an archaic or literary flavor, so it's more common in writing and songs:  youtube.com/watch?v=MMXHiFKccyM&feature=related – rdb Sep 13 '11 at 6:34
  • So the -ki form is a predecessor of the -i form? Although @rdb stated that it's productive, is it only limited to those i-adjectives that originated from -ki form but not those that took different paths (e.g. 黄色 -> 黄色い)? – Lukman Sep 13 '11 at 12:43
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    @Lukman It is productive. 黄色き seems to be used. – user458 Sep 13 '11 at 15:03

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