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From Basho:

蓮池や折らでそのまま玉祭

I have the impression that 折らで would be 折らないで without ない. If that's the case is it an artistic choice or some obscure grammar?

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In classical Japanese, で after an irrealis-form (未然形) means ないで in modern Japanese. So 折らで means 折らないで or "without snapping off".

接続助詞

《接続》活用語の未然形に付く。〔打消の接続〕…ないで。…ずに。

This で is surviving as part of ならでは (etymologically, copula-なり + で + contrastive-は → "unless so", "if it were not" → "unique to", "found only in")

  • 2
    Thanks! But could you elaborate that part about ならでは? – Alberto Andrade Feb 20 at 18:27
  • @naruto What resource is your definition from? – sazarando Feb 21 at 0:02
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    @AlbertoAndrade ならでは is a grammar pattern; see the link and the edit. – naruto Feb 21 at 2:30
  • 1
    @sazarando From 学研全訳古語辞典. – naruto Feb 21 at 2:32

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