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だが、主であるそなたの許可なくばそれも許されぬ…!

I understand it pretty much means "However, being our master, we can't even do that without your permission." but I don't get why なく and ば are both together. I would have said : "なく" or "なければ" but never "なくば". What could the explanation behind this be ?

2 Answers 2

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なくば is an older form of なければ. It's not generally used in modern Japanese (outside of perhaps a few fossilised expressions like さもなくば), but is still recognised and can be used as part of an affected style of speech.

This character's speech is clearly somewhat archaic in flavour (as also evidenced by the use of そなた and the ぬ negation), so the use of なくば seems in fitting with that style.

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なくば and なければ do not have the same meaning in classical Japanese. なくば is the 未然形 of 無し, to which the particle ば has been attached, to give the meaning of 'if ... does not exist'. なければ is the 已然形 of the かり conjugation of the same verb, 無し, with the particle ば attached, meaning 'when/since/because ... does not exist'.

When the distinction between these two forms was starting to fade, I imagine they were used inter-changeably in the 'if' sense, but one can't say that one is an older form of the other.

In modern Japanese, the 已然形 + ば form is used exclusively for the hypothetical 'if' sense. There is one example though, in modern Japanese, of the original 未然形 + ば, namely, ならば, 'if it is'. The copula in classical Japanese is に + ある, contracted usually to なる, and the 未然形 of that is なら. Modern Japanese なら is a shortened form of ならば.

The only survival of the original 已然形 + ば is in the phrase V + ばこそ, used in the sense of 'precisely because'.

Thus, in modern Japanese no distinction is made between なければ and なくば, the latter having, in addition to the archaic flavour mentioned, perhaps an imperious, feel about it.

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  • Another example of original 未然形 + ば is [然]{さ​}らば. And VERB〜たら is shortened form of VERB〜たらば.
    – Arfrever
    Sep 26, 2023 at 22:49

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