I’m reading a 1903 travel guide to Japan from OpenLibrary.org. They have a pretty good vocabulary and grammar guide for tourists. Some of the expressions are naturally archaic (e.g. at night it tells you how to ask for a candle) but what caught my eye was a form of grammar I’ve never seen before – the “improbable future” conjugation.
For example consider the plain form of the verb, “come.” Here are the various conjugations explained, most just the way I learned them:
- present / certain future: kuru (I come, I will come)
- past: kita (I came)
- probable future: koyou (I shall probably come)
- gerund: kite (coming, having come)
- negative present: konai (I do not or shall not come)
- negative past: konakatta (I did not come)
- desirable adjective: kitai (I want to come)
- negative adjective: kitakunai (I don’t want to come)
All those are fine. Then there is this form I never heard of before:
- improbable future: kimai (I shall probably not come)
I asked a Japanese friend and he never heard of that form either. Has anybody heard of it before? There were other examples too: arumai (there probably will not be); ikumai (I probably shall not go); shimai (I probably shall not do).
I wonder why and when that form fell out of use. It seems useful.
Completely fascinating. This digitized traveler’s handbook for Japan from 1903. The entire book is online for free from OpenLibrary.org.
I just started reading it and am already engrossed.
Did you know you can get to Japan in a mere 16 days from San Francisco? And with trains, domestic transportation has become much easier. There are even daily steamships from Yokohama to Kobe. I didn’t know that Shunbun no Hi (the vernal equinox) used to be called Shunki Koureisai. And I’m only up to page two.
Please check it out. It’s really a fascinating read. “Handbook for Travellers in Japan – Including the Whole Empire from Yezo to Formosa”.