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My understanding is that the Japanese equivalent of "-iru/eru" verbs or "group 2 verbs" are the groups 上一段活用動詞{かみいちだんかつようどうし} and 下一段活用動詞{しもいちだんかつようどうし}, where 上一段活用動詞 represents the -iru verbs and 下一段活用動詞 represents the -eru verbs. However, since the conjugations are identical, why is this distinction made? This video seems to make a distinction between them implying that the differences are as important as the difference between group 1 and group 3 verbs, but of course this is not the case. It appears that other grammar resources in Japanese also make an effort to distinguish 上一段 and 下一段 verbs as well. Why?

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... grammar resources in Japanese also make an effort to distinguish 上一段 and 下一段 verbs as well. Why?

At its most basic, //i// is not //e//. :)

Digging deeper, there do appear to be subtle historical differences. For instance, many of the 下一段 verbs have corresponding root 五段 verbs, such as つける ↔ つく, or corresponding not-quite-root 五段 verbs, such as ひろめる ↔ ひろまる or でる ↔ だす. Meanwhile, there are much fewer 上一段 verbs to begin with, and these appear to be less likely to have 五段 near-relatives.

For non-native learners of Japanese, the distinctions between the two are largely irrelevant: as you note, in terms of the basics of learning conjugation patterns, the two are mostly identical. You've got to be pretty deep into Japanese structure and etymology before this starts to matter much. For native speakers, this is more of a big deal, which may be why monolingual Japanese materials appear to emphasize this more than English-language materials do.

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  • Why are ひろまる and だす not quite 五段? – Sweeper Feb 9 '20 at 16:57
  • @Sweeper - they’re 五段, but not quite the root forms. For ひろめるーひろまる, the root verb would be ひろむ. For だすーでる, the root form would be (ancient and obsolete) いづ. – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 9 '20 at 19:39

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