I am under impression that the first syllable in a word gets a dakuten when it is transformed into voiced form under the effect of rendaku. But in the idiomatic expression 様みろ {ざまみろ}, the kanji 様 which is read as さま gets voiced and obtains the dakuten without any rendaku. How did that happen? Apart from saying "well, it's a set phrase so just accept it as is", could there be any reason, etymologically speaking, why it became ざま?

Also, are there any other scenario where words get voiced/dakuten without rendaku?

1 Answer 1


According to J-J dictionaries (e.g. 大辞林{だいじりん}), ざま exists as an independent word, although derived from さま, taking a similar meaning with a negative/jeering sort of nuance.

Would you count くらい・ぐらい as another example?

  • ぐらい is always used after another word.
    – user458
    Sep 20, 2011 at 13:55
  • @sawa err, so is くらい, no? And is it not independent when one says "どのぐらい?"? I'm not sure I understand.
    – Axioplase
    Sep 27, 2011 at 5:23
  • @Axioplase Rendaku is an optional rule. There are rules that tells you when it does not apply (Lyman's law, or Obligatory Contour Principle), but there is no rule that tells you when it applies. So, くらい and ぐらい are not complementary. they both always appear after another word. I mentioned ぐらい because whether or not it is rendaku is what is relevant to the question. I am not sure if どのぐらい is grammatical. I would say どれくらい or どれぐらい. In the latter, it is obviously rendaku.
    – user458
    Sep 27, 2011 at 5:48
  • 3
    @Axioplase Pedantic note: くらい was original an independent word meaning "position", "level", etc. (example given in 日本国語大辞典from Genji Monogatari: 三位のくらひ贈り給ふよし...). As an independent word like this, it is only pronounced くらい; only the particle can be voiced.
    – Matt
    Oct 8, 2011 at 14:11
  • @Matt, くらい is still very much used with that meaning.
    – dainichi
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:36

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