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I found a HiNative question where someone asked about the difference between [痛]{いた}さ and [痛]{いた}み. A native Japanese speaker gave this answer:

「痛さ」は形容詞「痛い」が名詞化した名詞です。

「痛み」は動詞「痛む」の連用形が名詞化した名詞です。

I was taught that み was a nominalizing suffix that is placed after [形]{けい}[容]{よう}[詞]{し}. However, this answer seems to suggest that it is just the [連]{れん}[用]{よう}[形]{けい} of a verb ending in ~む.

This made sense to me at first; [痛]{いた}む、[悲]{かな}しむ、[苦]{くる}しむ、[楽]{たの}しむ、[愛]{いと}しむ → [痛]{いた}み、[悲]{かな}しみ、[苦]{くる}しみ、[楽]{たの}しみ、[愛]{いと}しみ.

However, you then have words like nidan [温]{あたた}む, which has a [連]{れん}[用]{よう}[形]{けい} of [温]{あたた}め, but there is an [温]{あたた}かみ, and not to mention the extra か in there from the [形]{けい}[容]{よう}[詞]{し} [温]{あたた}かい.

So what is the deal with ~み? Where exactly does it come from? Or is it that [痛]{いた}み is just the [連]{れん}[用]{よう}[形]{けい} of 痛む, but み in [温]{あたた}かみ is something grammatically separate?

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"All of the み!" 😄

More seriously, all of the ~み here are indeed just the 連用形【れんようけい】 of the verb-forming suffix ~む, with a base underlying meaning of "seems like, looks like, appears like: having that quality". This ~む is very likely cognate with suppositional and volitional verbal suffix ~む, which, via regular sound shifts, became the modern volitional verb ending ~おう (like in 行【い】こう) or ~よう (like in 食【た】べよう). This is also likely cognate with similar suffix ~びる (as in words like 大人【おとな】びる, "to be or seem like an adult"; this had older form ~ぶ, exhibiting not-uncommon //m// ↔ //b// alternation). And, this is all likely also cognate with 見【み】る, and with 目【ま・め】.

(Consider the English cluster around see and seem, look and look like, etc.)

Note that this is looking derivationally, at where things come from and how things have changed through time. My impression from various Japanese-language materials is that most folks may well view ~み as just "a nominalizing suffix that is placed after [形容詞]{けいようし}", and they don't think too much about how it might be related to other things.

(To be fair, most native speakers of any language don't think too much about the language itself -- it's up to us word nerds and language geeks to do that kind of pondering. ✨🥰)

Regarding your observation that some verbs that end in ~む have a 連用形 of ~め~, that's actually a slightly different derivation: あたたむ is a verb, not an adjective + derivational suffix. あたたむ is the older form of modern あたためる. The related adjective + derivational suffix word is instead あたたかむ, which indeed has a 連用形 of あたたかみ.

That said, the ~む that becomes ~める in あたたむ is in turn likely cognate again with the same ~む in あたたかむ -- but that involves a discussion of verb conjugation paradigms that gets quite deep and involved, which would go beyond the scope of this question. :)

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  • What about 〜気味, like in 風邪気味? Coincidence? – Igor Skochinsky Jan 15 at 12:05
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    @IgorSkochinsky: The suffix ~気味 evolved from noun 気味. According to the Kokugo Dai Jiten entry here, the noun is first cited to the late 1100s with the reading きび (perhaps evidence of the common //m// ↔ //b// alternation pattern), and a literal meaning based on its constituent parts -- 「物【もの】のにおいと味【あじ】」 ("the odor and flavor of a thing"). This then gradually shifted to the more abstract "qualities of a thing" sense that we see in more modern usage. – Eiríkr Útlendi Jan 15 at 18:17
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Is it that 痛み is just the 連用形 of 痛む, but み in 温かみ is something grammatically separate?

Yes, 痛み is the noun form (転成名詞) derived from the 連用形 of the verb 痛む, which derived from the i-adjective 痛い.

痛い → 痛む → 痛み
悲しい → 悲しむ → 悲しみ
苦しい → 苦しむ → 苦しみ
あわれな → あわれむ → あわれみ

The み in 温かみ is categorized as a suffix (接尾辞). According to some 国語辞典:

み〘接尾〙
❶ 《形容詞・形容動詞語幹に付いて名詞を作る》
㋐ そのような性質や状態である、そのように感じられる意を表す。
「赤みを帯びる」「温かみのある人柄」「甘み・新鮮み・ありがたみ」
㋑ そのような状態である場所の意を表す。
「高みに立つ」「深みにはまる」「茂みに入る」
◇表記㋐㋑とも、「味」と当てるが、近年はかな書きが一般的(ただし、漢語形容動詞語幹に付くときは、「味」も多い)。なお、これは和語の接尾語で、「甘味料」「人間[醍醐]味」など漢語の「味」とは別。
(明鏡国語辞典)

み[接尾]
1 形容詞・形容動詞の語幹に付いて名詞をつくる。
㋐そういう性質や状態、また、そういう感じを表す。「暖かみ」「ありがたみ」「新鮮み」
㋑そういう状態の場所を表す。「深みにはまる」「茂みに入る」
(デジタル大辞泉)

あたたかい(「あたたかな」もあります)→ あたたかみ
やわらかい(「やわらかな」もあります)→ やわらかみ
ありがたい → ありがたみ
おもしろい → おもしろみ
青い → 青み
新鮮な → 新鮮み
真剣な → 真剣み
嫌な → 嫌み

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  • ... でも「しげみ」は? 「しげる(茂る/繁る)」→ 「しげ+み」? 「しげむ」って動詞はないし、「しげる」の連用形は「しげり」だし。。「しげい」っていう形容詞も「しげな」って形容動詞もないし。。 – Chocolate Jan 15 at 17:35
  • 17世紀には「しげむ」という動詞が存在したそうです。それから「しげみ」が派生したのでしょう。なお、「しげむ」の「~む」は多分上記と同じく「~のように見える、~のようである」等の接尾なのでしょうか。 – Eiríkr Útlendi Jan 15 at 18:30
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    おお、では「しげみ」は「しげむ」の連用形が名詞に転成したものっぽいですよね。そうすると複数の辞書で「形容詞・形容動詞について名詞を作る」のところに「しげみ」を載せているのは変な感じです。「しげむ」の「む」が接尾かどうかはわかんないですが・・・ – Chocolate Jan 16 at 2:56
  • So was this み in 新鮮み made by analogy to the 連用形 of む, or is it something else? I feel like in a synchronous analysis, the difference between 〜さ and 〜み is roughly one of "objectivity" vs. "subjectivity", so I can see why this would have been useful to extend from 形容詞 to 形容動詞. – dainichi Feb 9 at 4:13
  • @dainichi 「新鮮み」「真剣み」「嫌み」とかは「新鮮む」「真剣む」「嫌む」とかいう動詞からできたのではなく「新鮮+み」「真剣+み」「嫌+み」っていうふうにできたものだと思うんですけど、その「み」はもともとは「む」の連用形ですか、って言われると、ちょっとわかんないです。 – Chocolate Feb 10 at 1:51

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