This paper examines the meaning and usage of the expressions「～nikui」「～zurai」「～gatai」, which connect to a verb and state difficulties in carrying out an action.
A usage analysis of BCCWJ confirms that verbs connecting with「nikui」 include non-volitional verbs as well as volitional verbs, and that verbs with specific, concrete meanings can also come before it. Previously, it was thought that「～zurai」 cannot connect with non-volitional verbs, but it proves to be false and 「～zurai」connects with diverse verbs. Another expression「～gatai」was also known to be unable to connect with non-volitional verbs, which has also turned out to be false. Non-volitional verbs, with some limitations, can come before 「～gatai」 and it was found that verbs describing human mental activities most frequently connect with the expression.
The analysis of the meaning and usage of 「～nikui」「～zurai」「～gatai」 focuses on the causes or sources of difficulties in taking the action described by the verb.
「～nikui」 can be divided into objective(physical, situational, physiological) causes and subjective(psychological) causes. In case of 「～zurai」,we can classify it into objective(physical(corporal), physical(material), situational) causes and subjective(psychological) causes. In particular, it is found that physical causes and objective situations suggested by 「～zurai」 do not accompany mental and physical pain or displeasure, regardless of the etymology of 「～zurai」. Meanwhile, 「～gatai」 usually connects with verbs involving human mental activities. The study also confirms that it expresses the narrator’s subjective judgment that the extent or degree of a subject is prohibitively alarming, and mostly used in idiomatic expressions, literal expressions, and formal settings.