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I've noticed the following sets of words that seem to have a very obvious pattern, and, of course, their meanings are very closely related:

  • これ、 それ、 あれ、 どれ
  • この、 その、 あの、 どの
  • ここ、 そこ、 あそこ、 どこ

What are the origins of these sets of words? I'm asking them all together because I'm thinking that their origin is interrelated.

  • 3
    こっち、そっち、あっち、どっち, こなた、そなた、あなた、どなた, and more. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jun 12 '11 at 3:35
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    My favorite set of this type is こいつ, そいつ, あいつ. Haven't seen どいつ yet though! – sartak Jun 12 '11 at 4:15
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    @sartak I usually only see it in the phrase どいつもこいつも. – Amanda S Jun 12 '11 at 5:02
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    @istrasci I see ああ a lot with いう, like ああいう人 ("a person like that") – Amanda S Jun 12 '11 at 5:28
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    @sartak I sometimes hear 「これやらかしたのはどこのどいつだ!!」which I may, not reading the 空気, accidentally reply with 「ヨーロッパのドイツ」 – syockit Jun 20 '11 at 19:34
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Well, if you use the kanjis, you see the pattern even better!

此れ、 其れ、 彼、 何れ

此の、 其の、 彼の、 何の

此処、 其処、 彼処、 何処

From there, the suffixes "れ"、 "の"、 and "こ" indicate whether you're talking about a thing, a "possessive", or a location.
The prefixes are, as you had guessed, the "distance": close, somehow far, far, and the question "which".

So, "これ" is the close thing, そのX is "the X of mildly far away" and "どこ" is "which location?".
Understanding the others is then straightforward.

  • 1
    Ah! That must be where 彼(かれ)comes from as well. – Troyen Jun 21 '11 at 0:36
  • @Troyen cool, i was thinking how there may be a relation. but it seems like there's no relation at all. – Pacerier Aug 26 '11 at 20:02
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    This doesn't really answer the question, which is about origins. – dainichi Apr 7 '14 at 13:06

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