www.classical-japanese.net

 

Past tense in classical Japanese

The two most common suffices to indicate past tense in classical Japanese are -ki and -keri. Both are attached to the renyoukei stem. Their conjugation:
mizenkei (-se) (-kera)
renyoukei    
shuushikei -ki -keri
rentaikei -shi -keru
izenkei -shika -kere
meireikei    
The izenkei is only rarely used. Moreover, there are some irregularities when the ki suffix is added to kuru and suru (note the changing stem; and some forms are missing, eg. the renyoukei of kuru):
mizenkei    
renyoukei    
shuushikei   shiki
rentaikei koshi seshi
izenkei koshika seshika
meireikei    

Some examples of usage of ki and keri:

mishi hito, "the person seen", would be mita hito in modern Japanese. It is formed by adding the ki to the renyoukei of miru, "to see", and forming the rentaikei.

mukashi, otoko arikeri. "Once upon a time, there was a man." - Several episodes of the Ise monogatari begins with this line. (Note that in classical Japanes aru was used for humans as well.)

Although -keri originally means past tense, it is often used only to express poetic emphasis. It is at times difficult to find an appropriate English equivalent. For example, in this poem from Manyoushuu (No. 287):

koko ni shite
ie yamo izuku
shirakumo no
tanabiku yama o
koete kinikeri


I would build a house
here, where the
white clouds
disperse, descending
from the mountains.
Back to index...




This webpage is printer-friendly, free of ads, banners, CSS, and JavaScript.
© 2002, Zoltan Barczikay