号外 – もうちょっと聞かせてって言ったでしょう?

Matt added a couple of great comments to Wednesday’s post that are worthy of their own post.

Dude, I totally got dinged for calling -te the imperative form the other week. You’d better watch your back.

I just want to summarize the “miru 見る is controversial” thing for non-reading linguists: “miru” does indeed become “misaseru” if you add the “-saseru” ending according to modern rules. The controversy is whether it is acceptable to use this form instead of “miseru”, which is a separate verb meaning “show”. As far as I can tell there are two prongs to the controversy: (1) “misaseru” and “miseru” are equivalent, therefore the former is redundant, therefore it should not be used (you wouldn’t say “shisaseru” either, just “saseru”), and (2) “miseru” itself can be analyzed as “miru” + OJ causative suffix, therefore, “misaseru” is an ugly, modern usurper, functionally and semantically identical but aesthetically and morally inferior, and should be avoided. I’ve seen similar complaints about 着せる vs 着させる.

The counterarguments to the above include (1) to some speakers at least, they aren’t equivalent; everyone has “miseru” in their vocabulary, and the fact that some people also use “misaseru” indicates that for them it performs a function that “miseru” can’t, and (2) whatever, dude, living Japanese isn’t bound by your rules and regulations, and these forms sound fine to me.

Nice. I see how they are semi-redundant, but I also see the logic behind having them both – one is “you show it to me” and the other is “please allow me to see it.” Even in English the latter feels more かたい, which is why I think all three of the links bring up television “announcers”: people on television, especially the MCs for game shows, speak in keigo constantly. They are a dirty petri dish for the evolution of polite new linguistic terms (or at least terms that sound new/strange to everyday folk). Japanese people love arguing about this stuff. I heard lectures about 不思議な日本語 or whatever at three different midyear conferences during my stint as a JET, and at each one the speaker debunked some sort of new keigo usage.

さ、参りましょう. Matt then provided this great parallel which shows that these must be separate terms:

Incidentally the case for non-equivalence is more obvious with “kiseru” vs “kisaseru”. The former means “put clothing on someone” (e.g. a child) and the latter means “cause/allow someone to put clothing on”. Because there is an indirect object the difference is more stark, but then compare to “miseru” vs “misaseru” using a fanciful but parallel definition: “put something into someone’s visual cortex” vs “cause/allow someone to put something into their visual cortex”. The difference, or at least the possibility of some speakers keeping the two conceptually separate, becomes a little clearer.

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