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Was casually browsing through the Wikipedia page on modern Japanese literature and came across this line that has been bugging me for a bit. For context, I've included a bit of the beginning of the sentence, followed by the part I'm interested in bolded:

言文一致の結果、日本語の書き言葉は、それまで日本文学において重きをおかれていた漢文の伝統から切り離され、明治中期には現代の日本語の書き言葉に直接連なる文体が確立した

Any time I've come across the verb 確立する, it's always been presented as a transitive verb (他動詞), with を specifying what is being established. One example would be something like 「方針を確立する」.

Yet in the quoted passage above, it looks to me as though 確立する is functioning as an intransitive verb (自動詞). I understand the passage to read as:

As a result of the unification of written and spoken Japanese, written Japanese was separated from the tradition of kanbun, which, up until then, had held significance in Japanese literature; and a formal writing style directly related to the modern Japanese written language was established during the middle of the Meiji period.

Once again, I've bolded my translation of 確立する. I've translated it as "was established" (even though I appreciate it's not a passive verb in this context) mainly because I can't figure out how to make the verb work as a transitive verb in translation.

Can this verb function as either an intransitive or a transitive verb given specific contexts? I know that's not necessarily true of all する verbs. I also wonder if perhaps I've mistranslated as a result of assuming that 確立する must be an intransitive verb in this context.

  • A transitive verb doesn't need to use を, but it can use を. – Ringil Feb 24 at 15:32
  • @Ringil Right, but that doesn't answer my question. Regardless of whether or not a transitive verb needs that particle or not, that doesn't address the way the verb is working in this particular passage. – ガース Feb 24 at 15:33
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Yes, 確立する can be either transitive or intransitive. From 明鏡国語辞典 第二版 (emphasis mine):

かく‐りつ【確立】

《名・自他サ変》基礎となる物事などを、しっかりとうち立てること。また、しっかりと定まって動かないこと。

「制度[名声・信頼関係]を/が━する」

Not quite sure why the online dictionaries (デジタル大辞泉, 大辞林 第三版, etc.) don't label the transitivity.

  • 4
    The 語法 note is also relevant: 「〜を 確立する/確立させる」では、前者が一般的。 In addition, there’s a wealth of information under the 名詞サ変動詞 article in 明鏡 about exactly this topic, but it’d feel a bit odd to paste an entire article here... – Darius Jahandarie Feb 24 at 22:17
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    With the "loanword + する" type of verbs such as 「確立する」, their transitivity is often more ambiguous than that of originally Japanese verbs. – l'électeur Feb 25 at 1:42

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