Sunday, October 3, 2010


(Apologies—this needs editing, but I haven't had time.)

日本語の授業 on Thursday. Much fun. We discussed honorific forms, 遠慮, etc. What I'm finding most fascinating about these honorifics is how they can combine: meshiagatteiru, meshiagatteirasshaimasu, meshiagatteirassharu. Tabeteirasshaimasu? Tabeteirasshatta koto ga arimasu ka? Tabeteirasshatta koto, aru? They create interesting possibilities, like おなおしになっていらっしゃったら onaoshininatteirasshattara, something like "if/when you have so kindly been correcting". Such a combination seems possible grammatically, but what would it mean to an actual person? And what about onaoshininatteirasshareba?

This is one of many reasons why I'm glad to have my 日本語の先生 as a guide—he's very, very good at explaining the nuances of meaning. I wish I were as good at understanding them!

すみません sumimasen: presumably from すむ sumu, to feel at ease. 遅くなってどうもすみませんでした (osoku natte doumo sumimasen deshita)—very sorry I was late; I didn't feel at ease about it—or, more literally, i became late and was very uneasy (about it). Interesting question, then, of apologies for things you didn't realize at the time were wrong:
Xさんのりんごをたべてすみませんでした. だれのだったか分からなかったんです。
X-san no ringo o tabete, sumimasen deshita. dare no datta ka wakaranakatta n desu.
Sorry I ate your apple, X-san. I just didn't know whose it was.
That (or something like that) is how we'd probably translate it and how it's probably understood, but funny that from a strict semantic perspective the (-te...verb) construction doesn't work: it's not that I ate the apple and felt bad about it at the time, but that I felt bad only when I discovered that the apple had belonged to X-san. Then again, maybe it does work, as a sequence: I ate the apple and later felt bad about it. ringo o tabete, sumimasen deshita. And presumably the speaker is still in that state (and thus is apologizing for it). So, then, could you apologize for a past action with a present-tense sumimasen? ringo o tabemashita kara, ima sumimasen. Or has that specificity of sumimasen been lost? Is it now a stock phrase of obscure origin? 面白いですね。

There's a kanji that I need to follow up on: it had the same first two strokes as 有る, and sensei said (I believe) that it's pronounced ある, but the tsukuri was 子. I think. I haven't been able to find it anywhere.

ごめんなさい gomennasai: We talked about なさる with the other honorific verbs, so now I'm into that. I've wondered before about the -sai endings in ごめんなさい、ください, おやすみなさい, etc. Now it seems that the -nasai endings may derive from nasaru なさる, the honorific form of suru する, to do. So that got me thinking that in gomen the go may also be honorific, and now I see (from that the men in ご免 go-men does have a meaning of "pardon". So that makes sense. But I'm still wondering about ending all these things with -sai, especially as that's complicated by the more formal -saimase, which I assume must come from the -masu form. I've heard before that ごめんなさい can sound childish; would saying ごめんなさいませ make it more formal/appropriate? Google turns up only six results for ごめんなさいませ in romaji but almost 24,000 in kana. お休みなさいませ。 Now I'm suspecting -sai is an imperative form; that would make sense. Ringo o kudasai = kindly bestow upon me the/an apple. Gomen nasai = perform your honorable pardon [on me]. Could there be an irrashai, "honorably come on in"?

Aha: the Internet tells me that -sai and -mase are indeed, respectively, informal and formal imperative forms. (まだimperativeを学んでいないんです。) One page says that you can use いらっしゃい to a friend arriving at your house, and of course いらっしゃいませ is for shop clerks to greet customers. "Come on in" vs. a much more polite way. (So where would 食べませ leave us?)


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