No-sword has posted another entry (earlier LH posts on this here and here) about wacky Japanese verbal forms, this time involving an English suffix:

Here are some words that would probably be understood by a Japanese speaker my age:

Can you spot the English? Yep, -ing. Present continuous tense. Of course Japanese has its own present continuous — -te form + iru (or just ru) — which if applied to those three words would make them look like this:
wakatteru (literally “[I am] understanding”, generally used to mean something like “all right, all right, I get it”)
komatteru (“[I am] troubled/in trouble”)
hashitteru (“[I am] running”)
To make the borrowed -ing form, apparently one takes the -te form (stem + -te: wakar + te = wakatte, etc.), removes the final e, and adds ingu. So, for hashiru:
hashir-u –> hashir-te –> hashitte –> hashitt –> hashittingu
Two things are worth noting about this transformation:

1. The resultant /ti/ in the final word might be pronounced [ti] or it might become [tSi], depending on the speaker. [ti] is a sound that was only introduced to Japanese quite recently, in loan words from other languages (especially English); the native Japanese syllable /ti/ is always pronounced [tSi]. (And /tu/ is [tsu], which is why the Hepburn Romanisation system for the t-row goes “ta, chi, tsu, te, to”. The vocalised versions have the same pattern, so “building” is generally pronounced/written “birujingu”).
So, saying [ti] instead of [tSi] sounds foreign — I believe in a slightly sophisticated/pretentious (depending on viewpoint) way, like an English speaker who can pronounce French words properly. On the other hand, pronouncing a foreign word in the Japanese way might reflect the speaker’s unfamiliarity with the “correct” foreign pronunciation, or it might be an intentionally cutesy affectation. Foreign words usually written in katakana are sometimes written in hiragana to get a similar effect.
Which is why two of those “ing” words up there are “t”, and two are “ch”.
2. Note the hard g at the end. Lots of Japanese people with no interest in English (beyond what they were forced to learn in high school) make this mistake. It obviously derives from the spelling, and represents further proof that high-school-level English education in Japan is still too hung up on the written side of things, because that’s what’s on the standardised tests.
All three of these words, incidentally, I have either seen or heard in unprompted discourse. This ingu thing is not standard Japanese, there’s a definite playful feel to it, but it is nevertheless a loaned pattern that can (apparently) be applied to any verb.

While I’m at it, here‘s a funny post about tones.


  1. Fascinating. Could you post some links to actual examples of this kind of usage?

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