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Thread: Prefixes

  1. #1
    Властелин
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    Prefixes

    Thinking about the recent example with 失楽園, one thing I have always wondered about in Japanese language was the usage of different kanji prefixes. Apparently 失 is not one of them but there are others that work, e.g. this example from Lammers:

    夏子: 葬式は?
    くさかべ: 今夜通夜で、明日本葬です。
    (What are the funeral plans? -- tonight is the wake, and tomorrow is the actual funeral).
    Looks like 本葬 was constructed with a prefix and even with one kanji dropped (looks more hardcore than 失鉛筆 to me ), yet 夏子 apparently understands what is being said...
    Another common prefix like that seems to be 新...

    Are there some rules for these? Maybe a list of more common ones somewhere? Maybe such words have a special name?

    EDIT: Oops!!!! Apparently there is such a word as 本葬 and Edict knows it (eijiro at alc.co.jp didn't, and I didn't think of checking Edict too, I have always thought eijiro was more complete). So I was wrong about interpreting it as a newly constructed word, and it is not surprising that 夏子 understands. It is still an interesting topic though imo.

  2. #2
    MOG
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    Re: Prefixes

    I presume that what is confusing for you is the way we make up these rather exceptional words like 失楽園, which is possibly translated differently and actually it is also called 楽園喪失, though the latter name is not so common as the former one, because of its weaker impression it gives I suppose, which seems a bit too literal and sounds straightforward in Japanese. I don’t think 失 should be understood as a prefix, but is merely prefixed to the noun. Um, it might be categorized into a prefix, but it’s not a normal one, though I can’t speak aloud I don’t really know the rule. On the other hand, 新 or 旧 can be attached to many nouns, it just show the quality of them. It’s different.

    本葬(formal funeral) is another thing, it’s absolutely normal. What kanji seems dropped is apparently 儀 or式, with which would have been 本葬儀 or 本葬式, short for 本式の葬儀. If you look for more big, accurate explanation of the word using its original calligraphies, one can say, for instance, 本格的形式の死者を葬るための儀式、or you can say much longer. But why you can make longer explanative sentence from a couple of calligraphies is that each of the calligraphies have much sense itself and they are defined by combining them. To put it the other way around, a long explanation can be shortened more and more, e.g.「本格的」 into 「本」、「形式」 to 「式」、「死者を葬るための」 to 「葬」、「儀式」 to 「儀」. Moreover, 「本式」 and 「葬儀」 is understandable enough by saying 「本葬」 not to speak of 「本式葬儀」.

    Generally speaking, most Japanese words made of a couple of calligraphies are constructed in this way. So you can say there are various kinds of prefixes in Japanese, perhaps. The logic is working with 失楽園 as well, I think. But I can’t see the modification of the word clearly, but of 楽園喪失. According to that method, 喪失 seems to be able to be shortened into 失 with the combination of 楽園 but somewhat it doesn’t so well to my ear... maybe because of the lack of my understanding of the language But I believe 失 as a prefix is not common, no one would ever say 失鉛筆.

  3. #3
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    Re: Prefixes

    Thanks a lot for the explanations, MOGさん.

    本葬(formal funeral) is another thing, it’s absolutely normal. What kanji seems dropped is apparently 儀 or式, with which would have been 本葬儀 or 本葬式, short for 本式の葬儀.
    So a Japanese person who has never ever heard the word 本葬 before would still be able to understand and recognize it in speech, correct?

    Quote Originally Posted by MOG
    On the other hand, 新 or 旧 can be attached to many nouns, it just show the quality of them. It’s different.
    This is what I am primarily interested in -- I understand how existing compound words are often formed, but there is this special set of characters that one can apparently just attach to another word to change its' meaning in a straightforward way, like 本、新 or 旧 (would smth like 旧部長 and 新部長 be correct?). I wonder if there is a list of them somewhere, or if they have a special name.

    But I believe 失 as a prefix is not common, no one would ever say 失鉛筆.
    I understood that, it was more of a joke here I just meant that it was formed in the same way as 本葬 with perhaps even less distortion, so 本 and 失 must be different on some level, since one works and the other doesn't.

  4. #4
    MOG
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    Re: Prefixes

    Quote Originally Posted by laxxy
    Thanks a lot for the explanations, MOGさん.

    本葬(formal funeral) is another thing, it’s absolutely normal. What kanji seems dropped is apparently 儀 or式, with which would have been 本葬儀 or 本葬式, short for 本式の葬儀.
    So a Japanese person who has never ever heard the word 本葬 before would still be able to understand and recognize it in speech, correct?
    It's my pleasure.

    I think he or she can easily make out what it means.

    Quote Originally Posted by laxxy
    Quote Originally Posted by MOG
    On the other hand, 新 or 旧 can be attached to many nouns, it just show the quality of them. It’s different.
    This is what I am primarily interested in -- I understand how existing compound words are often formed, but there is this special set of characters that one can apparently just attach to another word to change its' meaning in a straightforward way, like 本、新 or 旧 (would smth like 旧部長 and 新部長 be correct?). I wonder if there is a list of them somewhere, or if they have a special name.
    I don't know if they have a special name for it.
    旧部長 doesn't sound well. Better 元部長. And you can always speak with adjectives, and sometimes it'll be more easy to understand.
    前の部長、新しい部長 are clear enough.

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    Re: Prefixes

    Quote Originally Posted by MOG
    旧部長 doesn't sound well. Better 元部長. And you can always speak with adjectives, and sometimes it'll be more easy to understand.
    Thanks.
    And you are right that for a beginner like me it is better to speak with adjectives and avoid expressions I don't feel confident about in general, but I still wanted to understand how these things work.

  6. #6
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    BTW -- looks like there is a book that covers exactly that!
    http://www.amazon.com/Building-Word-Pow ... F8&s=books

    Looks nice, I'll try to get it from a library...

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