Japanese Phrasal Verbs?

I was going to write this week about Kalispel numbers, but yesterday I learned something interesting in Japanese class.

I already knew the verb hikkosu (引っ越す*; to move house), but yesterday I learned the verb ikineku (生きねく; to survive something**) and my teacher broke the words down in a way I hadn’t seen before.

Hikkosu is a compound of the verb hiku (引く; to pull) and the verb kosu (越す), which my teacher had a hard time translating. She finally got the meaning across to me by giving me the transitive form of kosu: koeru (越える; to exceed).

Ondo ga 30do wo koeru (温度が30度を越える; The temperature went over 30 degrees).

Yama wo koeru (山を越える; I climb over the mountain).

So what the intransitive kosu must mean is not a verb in English at all, but a preposition. Kosu just means OVER.

Therefore hikkosu (to move house) is a lot like an English phrasal verb (AKA prepositional verb). It might be translated literally as “pull over.” And you can see how you might express the difficulties of changing residences as “pulling (all your crap) over (all the stupid space between you and your new house).”

Then we got to ikinuku (生き抜く; to survive something). It’s a compound of ikiru (生きる; to live) and nuku (抜く), the intransitive form of nukeru (抜ける), a word my teacher explained with the sentence “toneru wo nukeru” (トンネルを抜ける;I pass through a tunnel). So see what’s happening here? Ikineku means “to live THROUGH something!”

I might think I was just seeing patterns where none exist, except that hikkosu and ikineku don’t work like other Japanese compound verbs. Verbs like tsuretekuru (連れて来る; to bring someone somewhere, literally to attach-and-come) and itterasshai (行ってらっしゃい; to be welcome, literally to go-and-honorably-come) connect to each other by different rules, as do any other compound verb phrases that you might make up off the cuff.
Yondenomu (読んで飲む; I read-and-drink). Tottetobu (取って飛ぶ; I take-out-and-fly). Erandeoyogu (選んで泳ぐ; I choose-and-swim). I have no idea what those phrases might actually mean. They’re just ways that verbs can be combined.

But it’s ikineku (to live through something) not ikiteneku (to live-and-pass-through). It’s hikkosu (to move house or “pull over”) not hiitekosu (to pull-and-surpass). I just thought of another one. It’s hakidasu (吐き出す; to “spew out” i.e. to vomit) not haitedasu (to spew-flow).***

I need to find more of these “prepositional verbs,” verbs which modify the meaning of other verbs the same way prepositions do in English phrasal verbs. Is this real? Am I real? Any suggestions?


*yes, roumaji first and then kanji and kana in parentheses. Most of my readers can’t read Japanese.

**you may prefer a different translation. Depending on context, ikineku might be translated as “to survive something,” “to live through something,” or just “to live.” Here and elsewhere I give one translation, but there are usually many others just as good.

***That is, they aren’t te-form+verb, they’re verb-stem+verb.


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