What is the difference in nuance between 完成に努{つと}めるand 完成に努{つとむ}むる? I heard 努むる{つとむむる} and it threw me as I had never heard it before.

  • 1
    Did you intend to type つとむむる like that, with a む "within" the kanji and a む in the okurigana?
    – Leebo
    Jul 19, 2019 at 13:25
  • @Leebo yes. That つとむむる is part of the confusion for me. The speaker was 101 years old from OKINAWA. My ears might have missed something between the accent and the time. Even with つとむる, I'm still interested in the nuance. I think that むむ might just be her accent.
    – b degnan
    Jul 19, 2019 at 14:23

1 Answer 1


If you have context, that would be most appreciated. つとむ(む)る could reflect a specific Okinawan form, or it might be a remnant of the earlier つとむる form as part of the regular shift in the 下【しも】二【に】段【だん】活【かつ】用【よう】 pattern to the modern 下【しも】一【いち】段【だん】活【かつ】用【よう】 pattern, possibly as a dialectal remnant, or as a deliberate archaism.

What we call "Okinawan"

For Okinawa proper (not the other islands like Amami or Yonaguni, about which I know very little), I've learned that there are two different language varieties called "Okinawan" in English: Okinawan as the modern form of the ancient language brought to the island by initial settlers, which appears to be dying out; and Okinawan as the local dialectal variant of mainland Japanese. I've also learned that the two are quite different, with the dialectal variant apparently much easier to learn for speakers of the mainland standard. See also the Wikipedia articles for Okinawan language and Okinawan Japanese (the dialect based on mainland Japanese). For purposes of this thread, I use the term "Okinawan" to refer to the distinct language, and "dialect" to refer to the dialect based on mainland Japanese.

Possible Okinawan term

From what I've been able to find in materials provided by the 国立国語研究所 (National Institute of Japanese Language and Linguistics), the Okinawan cognate to mainland Japanese tsutomeru is listed as CitumijuN, where the C represents the voiceless palatal fricative, as heard in the "H" of mainland Japanese ひと, j represents the palatal approximant, as heard in the "Y" of English yet, and N represents the moraic nasal spelled ん in mainland kana usage. Depending on the audio quality, I can imagine that this might sound a bit like つとむむる.

Possible archaism or dialectal remnant

If the doubled-む is a mistake (perhaps a mis-hearing, or a stutter, or bad audio, etc.), then the verb form in question might be つとむる. This means the same thing as modern つとめる, but depending on the speaker it could have dialectal overtones, and if this was a deliberate shift (where they usually use つとめる in everyday life but used つとむる here as an intentional deviation from normal use) it might be "old-timey", poetic, formal, or just plain archaic.

The shift in conjugated forms for modern つとめる

The 下【しも】二【に】段【だん】 to 下【しも】一【いち】段【だん】 shift for this verb つとめる started from old つとむ as the terminal form (終【しゅう】止【し】形【けい】). This merged with つとむる, originally the attributive / adnominal form (連【れん】体【たい】形【けい】), some time around the Ashikaga or Muromachi periods. Then some time since 1603, the first //-u-// in the //-uru// terminal ending unified with the //-e-// of the incomplete (未【み】然【ぜん】形【けい】), continuative (連【れん】用【よう】形【けい】), and imperative (命【めい】令【れい】形【けい】) forms, giving us modern つとめる.

If you can read Japanese, see also https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/下二段活用 and https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/下一段活用. See also the entry for tsutomuru in the 1603 Nippo Jisho Japanese-Portuguese dictionary. Look for the yellow highlighting. The entry headline is:

Tçutome, uru, eta.

All content uses Portuguese spellings from 1603, where tçu equates to modern romaji tsu, x equates to modern romaji sh, etc. Also, this dictionary's entries for verbs give the continuative form first, followed by the terminal / attributive, and then the past tense. So this headline can be interpreted as:



Without more context, we can't really say for sure. The above should give you a good background as a starting point.

  • 1
    Thank you for all of the context, and this is an amazing answer. I regret that I've had very little formal language training even though I have a high degree of fluency, even if I have a terrible 金沢 accent. I say a lot of things that are archaic (which makes me fun in business meetings). My suspicion is that this むむ pairing might be the same thing. I'll update with a note after I read the links and revisit a conversation with the original speaker.
    – b degnan
    Jul 21, 2019 at 11:40

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