I've come across several cases of verbs with the suffix ~てくたっとしてしまう, but am unsure how to break this suffix down, or what it means exactly. It seems that this is the て-form of the base verb, followed by something that looks like くたっ, perhaps followed by the particle と and the verb する in the て-form, followed by the auxiliary verb しまう, but I'm having no luck finding a grammatical description of the middle part here (くたっとする?).

A quick Google search finds many examples of sentences using this kind of structure, such as:

  • きんぴらごぼうなども、そのまま鍋に入れておくと、余熱で火が通ってくたっとしてしまうので同じような処理をする。
  • レザーのクラッチバックというと重くてくたっとしてしまうイメージでしたが、これは全く違う印象でした。
  • 冬はさむくてくたっとしてしまうので、暖かいお部屋に入れてあげるか、いっそ球根(というかイモですね)で越冬させるか。

Would anyone be able to clarify the grammatical function at work here?

  • 3
    まるで文法に関する質問のように聞かれていますが、実は「くたっと」の意味がそもそも理解できていないのでは?要するに、基本的には文法ではなく語彙に関する質問なのでは? – l'électeur Jul 22 '17 at 8:16

くたっ is a mimetic word meaning something like "floppy", "tired", "withered", etc. It's a variation of くたくた / ぐだぐだ. くたっとする means "to become withered", etc.

When you have seen an unfamiliar mimetic/onomatopoeic word in the form of ~っと, it's a good idea to repeat the mimetic/onomatopoeic part and look it up in a dictionary. (e.g., look up にょきにょき instead of にょきっと) See: How are the giongo/gitaigo double form and tto form related (きらきら vs. きらっと)

You have parsed the remaining part correctly. To clarify, ~てくたっとしてしまう is not a set "suffix" at all. It's just four words: ~て + くたっと + して + しまう, meaning something like "and (it) ends up becoming floppy".

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