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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



In 1999 on the Honyaku mailing list, Mark Spahn pointed out that while the most common past tense form of the verb 乞う is 乞うた (similar verbs include 恋う and 問う) this fact is not noted in dictionaries. Prompted by his remark, I checked a couple of dozen kokugo dictionaries and found none that mentioned this verb conjugation, even though at least one dictionary had an example sentence that included the past tense form:
(父ハ)本堂の玄関に立って案内を乞うた <三島・金閣寺>) (学研国語大辞典, 第二版, 1988)
I raised the issue on a Japanese lexicography mailing list, resulting in an interesting discussion there as well.

Since then, at least two kokugo dictionaries have added notes to their entries for 乞う and some other verbs noting this irregular conjugation:
こう【請う】【乞う】… [参考] 「た(て)」につづく場合は、「請うた(て)」となる。(新選国語辞典, 第八版, 2002)

こう【請う(乞う)】… [語法] 「て」「た」に続くときは、「こって」「こった」とならずに、「こうて」「こうた」となる。前項「恋う」の場合も同じ。 (明鏡国語辞典, 2002)
I wonder if those mailing-list discussions prompted the addition of these notes.
(March 25, 2003)