Friday, August 10, 2007

Learning Japanese, I really think so - part 2

Hurrah - it's official. Professor Shinohara of Tohoku University has kindly agreed to let me come for an academic exchange visit in October. I will join is group for a few weeks, which is an exciting, if somewhat terrifying, prospect. Rob seemed to enjoy the perplexity of the whole experience. Learning a little Japanese would, it seems, be essential.

So today let's look at verbs and versions of the present tense. It seems that things are a lot more straightforward than I'd feared.

All uninflected verbs end in a "u":

飲 to drink Nomu (のむ)
食 to eat Taberu (たべる)
来 to come Kuru (くる)

There are three "forms" of verbs.

1) Irregulars: of which there are only two: 来 and する (suru - to do)
2) All others ending in "ru": 食
3) All the rest: 飲

Among "informal' company, the present tense is simply the uninflected form of the verb. In more polite situation, the verb ending changes according to one of the following rules:

Type 1: These become "kimasu" (来ます) and "shimasu" (します) respectively
Type 2: Drop the "ru" and add add "masu": 食ます = tabemasu: I eat - politely ^-^ )
Type 3: Drop the "u" and add "imasu": 飲います = nomimasu: I drink, politely)

Next up - the past tense: in which we learn that there are seven rules for informal speech and only three for formal speech. This leads to a shaky hypothesis about why the Japanese tend to politeness.

Thanks to Amanda (アマンダ) and this webpage by Namiko Abe.

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