The Subjunctive Suffix -amasi in Japonic
Brent Yelle
May 2024

In texts of Old Japanese (ca. 600 ~ 850 ad) and Early Middle Japanese (ca. 850 ~ 1200), there exists a verb suffix -amasi indicating approximately a subjunctive mood, with a broad range of uses. As a standalone predicate, its meanings are often described as optative and conjectural; it is also frequently used in counterfactual conditionals both in the antecedent consequent to emphasize the hypotheticality of the sentence. In the course of this paper, I illustrate and explain the various uses of -amasi and its cognates throughout history, from the earliest records to the modern day. Attention will be given to the gradual shifts and specifications in meaning in the daughter varieties, as well as on the phonological & morphological changes that have resulted in the daughter suffixes having the forms that they do. More specifically, in the major varieties of spoken Japanese, this suffix -amasi died out during the mid- to late Heian Period (Frellesvig 2010: p 330). However, in a small minority of other Japonic varieties, relatives of -amasi have remained up through more recent memory–the primary examples being in the Ryukyu islands, namely in Old and Classical Okinawan and in the Amami dialect of Kikai-jima in Kagoshima Prefecture. In addition, I aim to demonstrate that several suffixes in the Hachijō language of the southern Izu Islands are in fact ultimately derived from Old Japanese -amasi.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/008141
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Middle Tennessee State University (research project)
keywords: hachijo, hachijō, subjunctive, optative, japonic, japanese, okinawan, kikai, morphology, verbs
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