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A quote from 80日間世界一周:

巨大な湖が凍ったらかくやという景色だった。
It seemed like a vast frozen lake.

I'm guessing the 「かく」 is this one, but I don't understand how the 「や」 works. Could this be a set phrase?

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It's short for かくやあらん, which is one of the fixed expressions from archaic Japanese.

  • 斯く: "like this"
  • や: archaic question marker (eighth definition here; grammatical rule here and here)
  • あらん (あらむ in historical kana usage): あり ("to be") + ("to seem; should"). → "should be; to seem to be"

So in modern Japanese, it's このようであろうか or こんな感じだろうか.

かくや is used to give an unrealistic/extreme analogy (~もかくや, ~ればかくや, ~ならかくや). Your sentence is a typical example of かくや(あらん).

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  • Thanks, I'm not sure if this should be tagged [archaic-language] or [classical-japanese] or even both because that tofugu article is about classical Japanese and if it should be [particle-や] at all (coined the tag...) so feel free to edit them
    – siikamiika
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 5:04
  • @siikamiika I use this word in a set phrase かくやありなん meaning きっとこんなんだよね sometimes, but not so often; more often than きんだい/近大/. 巨大な湖が凍ったらきっとこんなんだよねという景色だった。
    – user20624
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 6:49
  • @mackygoo So the 「なん」 is this one (emphasis indicator) in the phrase you use? Also I don't really understand the conjugation rules here but is 「あり」 in your example just 連体形 and in かくやあらん something else?
    – siikamiika
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 8:16

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