On Tue, 29 Aug 2006 19:36:56 -0500, Eric Christopherson <[log in to unmask]>

>On Aug 29, 2006, at 6:07 PM, Javier BF wrote:
>> In Japanese there are:
>> - 'normal' verbs or "do^shi", which come in three closely related
>> conjugations (1: the -u ones like "kak-u" 'to write' and "kaer-u" 'to
>> return', 2: the -ru ones like "tabe-ru" 'to eat' and "mi-ru" 'to
>> look', and
>> 3: the irregular "suru" 'to do' and "kuru" 'to come')
>> - "i"-adjectives or "keiyo^shi" (like "aoi" '[to be] blue/green' and
>> "atarashii" '[to be] new'), very much like verbs but with their very
>> different conjugation
>> - "na"-adjectives or "keiyo^do^shi" (e.g. "shizuka na", ), not really
>> verbal, since they are used with the verb "desu" 'to be' (unlike the
>> "i"-adjectives which function fully as verbs in their own)
>Isn't it that you can use "desu" to form polite forms of -i
>adjectives, but you can't use the non-polite copula "da", the way you
>can with -na adjectives?

Yes, you can say "aoi desu" for politeness, but that is actually an
auxiliary use of "desu" (similar to using "be" with another verb to form the
passive in English), that literally translates as something like "[it] is
[that it] is blue". The fact that "desu" is here merely an auxiliary is more
easily seen in the past form, "aokatta desu", which literally means "[it] is
[that it] was blue", clearly analyzable as a grammaticalized subordinated
construction in which the sentence in the past tense "aokatta" ([it] was
blue) is subordinated to the present tense "desu" ([it] is), merely so as to
make the assertion less direct and thus more polite.

Japanese has a tendency to use convoluted constructions for politeness, in
which verbs 'pile up' successively in subordination (adding levels of
indirectness to the statement), frequently ending in some form of "desu"
used as an auxiliary. For example, the negative polite form of "desu"
itself, "de-wa nai", literally means "as for being, [it] is not" (with the
lexical 'be' in the gerund: "de", and the auxiliary 'be' in the negative:
"nai"; alternatively you can say "de-wa arimasen", using the formal negative
form of "aru", to exist, as the auxiliary). The formal negative past form of
"aoi" is even more convoluted: "aoku nakatta desu", literally meaning "[it]
is [that] being blue was not" (all that just to mean "it wasn't blue").

The point is that so-called "i"-adjectives are truly stative verbs in
themselves, meaning "to be ...". They do not need "desu" to predicate, and
have a full-fledged conjugation with tenses and all: "aoi" (it is blue),
"aokatta" (it was blue), "aoku nai" (it is not blue, lit. being blue is
not), "aoku nakatta" (it wasn't blue, lit. being blue was not), etc. Their
use in attributive position (as in "aoi sora", blue sky), in which they
directly precede a noun without any change or addition (and which makes them
look as if they were functioning the same as English adjectives) is in fact
sentence subordination that parallels the subordination procedure of the
other kind of verbs (in which the mere fact that the verb doesn't end the
sentence, as it would have to for a simple sentence, but is followed by the
element it modifies, is what turns it into a subordinate).

For example, "Tanaka-san-wa asagohan-wo tabeta" (Mr. Tanaka had breakfast)
--> "Watashi-wa asagohan-wo tabeta Tanaka-san-wo miru" (I see Mr. Tanaka,
who had breakfast). As you can see, in order to subordinate you just place
the verb before the element it modifies, not needing any particle or change.
This structure applies equally to "i"-adjectives: "Sora-wa aoi" (The sky is
blue) --> "Watashi-wa aoi sora-wo miru" (I see the blue sky), coincidentally
resulting in what outwardly appears to be a parallel construction to English
attributive adjectives (adjective followed by noun), but that actually is a
subordinated sentence. The literal translation would be "I see the sky that
is blue", rather than "I see the blue sky"; cf. the past: "Sora-wa aokatta"
(The sky was blue) --> "Watashi-wa aokatta sora-wo miru" (I see the sky that
was blue / I see the formerly-blue sky).