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For example, one definition for かける is "❶物をほかの物に取り付ける" (first thing「三省堂 スーパー大辞林」shows in the Yomichan browser plugin) . This definition is fine, but I might struggle to see the connection with metaphorical uses such as "迷惑をかける" or "魔法をかける". The dictionary just gives further definitions for this kind of usage: ❸他にある作用を与える。他に影響を及ぼす。The definitions go up to twenty or so, so now I'm stuck with ~20 seemingly unrelated concepts when a single concept would do if the metaphorical extensions are explained properly (e.g. found in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MbqmZPySPQ).

There are a handful of very common verbs, such as 差す、抜く、当たる、込む where I'm pretty sure a native would see 1-2 concepts, while it usually seems like 2-20 different concepts to me (depending on the verb). Unfortunately I only know dictionaries that list definitions, not the common idea behind the word.

Does someone have a resource explaining the central idea behind these kinds of verbs and their further metaphors? Ideally I'm looking for similar depth to the video linked above. A good dictionary would also do the job. I'm also happy if it's Japanese-Japanese.

(related: this question)


To be clear, I'm not expecting to magically be able to guess that we say 電話をかける ("hang an electronic conversation"). I'm fully aware that set phrases like these are arbitrary. Every language has those. But I expect to be able to tell what an expression means when I see it in the wild. For instance, I can understand 取り受ける without looking up the word because both 取る and 受ける are very clear to my English brain and context takes care of the rest. I don't have the same luxury with 差す and the combinations it appears in, because I don't understand the general concept behind the verb. So any time 差す appears in expressions (e.g. 傘を差す) I have to look over ~20 definitions to be able to guess its meaning. Repeat this like 30 times, because it's hard for me to remember these seemingly arbitrary and unconnected uses.

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    I'll post as a comment since this is not an answer. :) In short -- I'm not aware of any such resource myself. I've encountered similar challenges over the years, and found that I just had to read more and learn the hard way (through repetition and volume). Part of what you're struggling with is called polysemy, a fancy term for "having multiple meanings". Consider the English word get, and all the different senses there. Imagine learning English and trying to make sense of that! 😆 – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 8 at 18:25
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    FWIW, I've been trying to add this kind of information over at Wiktionary. For さす, for instance, the core meaning seems to be something like "pointing or thrusting one thing (usually long and skinny) toward or into or onto something else". For かける, the core meaning seems to be something like "to catch something on something else so it stays". For つく, it's probably "to stick with, into, or onto something else". Anyway, good luck! – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 8 at 18:26
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I'll give one resource I'm not fully happy with, but it might still be of help to some:

異字同訓 | 常用漢字情報サイト

has useful disambiguations for "異字同訓", or different-spelling-same-reading nuances.


For example if you scroll down to 差す:

【差す】挟み込む。かざす。注ぐ。生じる。 腰に刀を差す。抜き差しならない状況にある。傘を差す。日が差す。目薬を差す。差しつ差されつ。顔に赤みが差す。嫌気が差す。魔が差す。

It sort of describes 差す by using 差す itself, but they're some very compact usage examples which is already very useful. I can now somewhat interpolate that the fundamental meaning of 差す is probably "to point" in an abstract sense (日が指す - the sunlight points somewhere; 傘を差す - you point the umbrella over your head).
I'll see if this intuition holds up when I encounter 差す in the wild next time.

I'm still not fully happy because e.g. I don't see how 差し当たる comes to mean "その場に出くわす。当面する。直面する。". Is the metaphor maybe that my 気 points towards the situation and then hits (当たる) it head-on?

Ideally, there would exist a resource that gives such a good intution for 差す that I don't have to second-guess myself. But it's already a step in the right direction :)

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