Thursday, November 7, 2019

イ音便

In Japanese, i-onbin イ音便 is a change in pronunciation often seen in conjugations where a kana 仮名 of the word gets pronounced as i い instead.

For example: the past form of sagasu 探す is sagashi-ta 探した, but the past form of kaku 書く, isn't kaki-ta 書きた, it's kaitaた, with an i い.

Explanation

Like all other changes in pronunciation, i-onbin exists because of the following process:
  1. You make a word out of two morphemes, like kaki 書き and ta た.
  2. Logically, the outcome is the sum of the morphemes, kaki-ta 書きた, and that's how you're supposed to pronounce it.
  3. In practice, people pronounce it wrong differently, kaitaた, because the way it's "supposed" to be is too difficult to pronounce naturally.
  4. The official orthography of the word changes to match its usage in real life, and a linguist comes up with a term for the phenomenon: i-onbin. Not necessarily in this order

連用形

The i-onbin affects the ren'youkei form of godan verbs ending in ku く and gu ぐ, but only under certain circumstances.

In general, the ren'youkei form is derived by changing the vowel of the ending of the verb to ~i. If the case of ~ku ~く, that's ~ki ~き, and for ~gu ~ぐ, that's ~gi ~ぎ.
  • sagasu
    探す
    To search.
  • sagashi
    探し
    The search.
  • kaku
    書く
    To write.
  • kaki
    書き
    The writing.
  • oyogu
    泳ぐ
    To swim.
  • oyogi
    泳ぎ
    The swimming.

There are many auxiliaries that attach to the ren'youkei above.

For example, the jodoushi 助動詞 ~masu ~ます:
  • sagashimasu
    探します
    To search. (polite.)
  • kakimasu
    書きます
    To write. (polite.)
  • oyogimasu
    泳ぎます
    To swim. (polite.)

And the auxiliary adjective ~yasui ~やすい:
  • sagashi-yasui
    探しやすい
    Easy to search.
  • kaki-yasui
    書きやすい
    Easy to write.
  • oyogi-yasui
    泳ぎやすい
    Easy to swim.

The i-onbin only manifests when the jodoushi ta た or te て are suffixed to the ren'youkei.

The ~ta ~た jodoushi creates the past form:
  • sagashita
    探した
    Searched.
  • *kakita
    書きた
    (wrong.)
  • kaita

    Wrote.
  • *oyogita
    泳ぎた
    (wrong.)
  • *oyoita

    (also wrong, since ~gu ~ぐ has dakuten 濁点, ~ta ~た gets dakuten, too.)
  • oyoida
    いだ
    Swam.

While ~te ~て has various functions, like asking people to do things, or connecting to actions together.
  • sagashite
    探して
    Search [it for me].
    Search, and.
  • kaite

    Write [it for me].
    Write, and.
  • oyoide
    いで
    Swim [for me].
    Swim, and.

Note that i-onbin applies to derived forms of the ta た and tejodoushi.

For example, the conditional ~tara ~たら jodoushi is derived from ~ta ~た, so i-onbin applies to it, too.
  • kaitara
    たら
    If wrote.
  • oyoidara
    いだ
    If swam.

On the other hand, the desiderative ~tai ~たい jodoushi has nothing to do with ~ta ~た, and gets attached to the ren'youkei without i-onbin.
  • kakitai
    書きたい
    Want to write.
  • oyogitai
    泳ぎたい
    Want to swim.

います

There are a few words that don't fit in the usual rule above, but that normally receive i-onbin when attached to ~masu.
  • degozaru
    でござる
    To be.
  • degozari
    でござり
    (ren'youkei.)
  • degozaimasu
    でござます
    (same meaning, polite.)
  • ossharu
    おっしゃる
    To say.
  • osshari
    おっしゃり
    (ren'youkei.)
  • osshaimasu
    おっしゃます
    (same meaning, polite.)

According to the dictionary, i-onbin only affects the syllables ~ki ~き, ~gi ~ぎ, ~shi ~し, and ~ri り.

Consequently, the phrase suimasen すいません, "[I'm] sorry," isn't i-onbin, but merely a relaxed pronunciation of sumimasen すみません.

連体形

The i-onbin also seems to have affected the rentaikei 連体形, attributive form, of ku-adjectives and shiku-adjectives, which are kind of archaic, but I'm including them here anyway.

Such attributive form would end in ~ki, like atsuki 熱き, and utsukushiki 美しき, but end up becoming atsui 熱い, "hot," and utsukushii 美しい, "beautiful," instead.

Maybe ku-adjectives and shiku-adjectives are the origin of the modern i-adjective? I don't know for sure, but they seem somehow related.

References

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