Today when I came across the verb [訴]{うった}える in a sentence somewhere, it suddenly hit me that I don't very often see verbs like that: ones that have a sokuon (little っ) in their stem. The only verbs that come to my mind are ones of the type ホッとする、[発展]{はってん}する、[決定]{けってい}する et cetera, i.e. verbs that stem from a noun.

It so happens that the noun 訴え is the heart of 訴える so this verb, though not ending in する, also belongs to that category of verbs stemming from nouns.

My question is the following: Are there verbs that do contain this little っ in their stem, but do not derive from some noun? Even more strongly, could you state as a rule that a っ does not occur in the stem of a (let me just call it) "pure" verb?

I would be interested in reading more on origins of Japanese verbs, so any recommendations on this are also very welcome!


Here are some "pure"(?) verbs that include っ in their stem:

  • いらっしゃる ←いらせらる
  • 仰る(おっしゃる) ←おおせある
  • 尊ぶ(たっとぶ) ←たふとぶ
  • 則る(のっとる) ←のりとる
  • 欲する(ほっする) ←ほりす

According to デジタル大辞泉, these are simply lexicalized euphonic changes of archaic verbs. 訴える was originally うるたふ.

If you can include compound verbs and verbs with intensifier prefixes, many verbs contain っ. To list a few:

  • 乗っ取る
  • かっ飛ぶ、すっ飛ぶ、ぶっ飛ぶ、吹っ飛ぶ
  • はっ倒す
  • 引っこ抜く、引っ張る、引っ付く、引っかける
  • くっつく、突っつく、せっつく
  • ぶっ放す、ぶっ倒す、ぶっ殺す、ぶっ刺す、ぶっちぎる

訴{うった}える does not derive from noun 訴{うった}え, but rather the opposite -- the noun 訴{うった}え derives from verb 訴{うった}える, as the stem or continuative form of the verb.

In turn, 訴{うった}える comes from older classical form 訴{うった}ふ. This was a 下{しも}二段{にだん}活用{かつよう}動詞{どうし}, or "lower bigrade conjugation verb". The "lower" part refers to the vowel of the stem, and "bigrade" means that there were two different vowel endings. For 下{しも} verbs, these vowel endings were ‑u and ‑e. (JA Wikipedia article here.) This contrasted with 上{かみ}二段{にだん}活用{かつよう}動詞{どうし}, for which the two vowel endings were ‑u and ‑i. (JA Wikipedia article here.) Over time (some time around the Muromachi period, 1336–1573) both bigrade forms collapsed to unigrade forms, losing the ‑u verb-stem endings to just have ‑e for 下{しも} verbs like 訴{うった}ふ (now 訴{うった}える) and 食{た}ぶ (now 食{た}べる), and to just have ‑i for 上{かみ} verbs like 落{お}つ (now 落{お}ちる) and 過{す}ぐ (now 過{す}ぎる).

Looking back further, 訴{うった}ふ got its geminated ‑tt‑ as a phonological contraction or erosion of older form 訴{うるた}ふ, which was apparently the form in use in the early Heian period (794–1185).

I cannot find much beyond this point in history to divine the verb's derivation any further. This verb urutapu is long enough to suggest a compound derivation, but I cannot find any clear roots. The verb ending in classical Japanese and earlier was ふ, a common auxiliary verb used to indicate repeated action or ongoing state, but this only attached to the incomplete form (未然形{みぜんけい}) of the preceding verb, and I cannot find any clear indication of an ancient verb urutu. The last two morae, たふ, could have been ancient verb 給{た}ふ used as an honorific auxiliary, but this only attached to the continuative form of a verb, and うる does not conform to continuative conjugation patterns. The underlying ultimate derivation appears to be lost in time.

(Note: Shogakukan's big 国語{こくご}大{だい}辞典{じてん} is my primary source.)

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    Wow, so this っ in 訴える can be traced back as far as to the Heian period - that's quite extraordinary. I think I might start saving some money to buy a 大辞典 myself... Thank you so much for this detailed response, I really appreciate it! – Eva van der Noord Nov 22 '16 at 23:23

Some verbs in past tense include a little っ, such as 勝った, 持った, 取った, 蹴った, etc.

Other examples would be: 持っていく(もっていく), いらっしゃる, 張っ倒す(はったおす), 引っ越す(ひっこす), etc.

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