Curious Question about 少ない


#1

So usually with い-adjectives, the negative form is 〜くない as in おいしい and おいしくない

So why is 少ない “few” and not “not a few” or “a lot”? Does that make sense?

Just curious if there is a linguistic or perhaps cultural/historical reason for this, or if it’s just one of those weird exceptions you just have to get in your brain. Thanks!


#2

少ない is not a negative form. That’s just the plain adjective.
The negative form is 少なくない, following the standard rules for i-adjective conjugation.

So rather than being a negation of an adjective meaning “few,” this is an adjective meaning “few.” Even though it has ない in there, it’s the affirmative form.


#3

I don’t know about the etimology, but if it helps to get it into your brain, it can be inflected in the negative just like any other i-adjective: 少なくない;

この種の人間も少なくない.
There are quite a few people of this sort.

Example from Weblio.

Edit: beaten to it.

More edit: I can’t think of another adjective ending in -kunai, but there are some that end in -nai, such as _kitanai, tsumaranai etc.

Further edit about the example sentence: the fact that 少なくない is translated as quite a few might throw people off. Perhaps I didn’t choose the best example sentence. A very literal translation of that sentence would be “People of this kind are not few.”


#5

The く part of くない in 少ない is not okurigana, it’s in the kanji. So I guess that indicates this is not an adjective conjugated in the negative.


#6

Oh, that’s true, the くない isn’t okurigana. That helps, thanks.

@rodrigowaick Oh I forgot about those other adjectives. Guess this one isn’t so unusual then. Thanks!


#7

It actually seems that the original form was 少い which would make sense.


#8

危ない (あぶない) confuses me, because my brain wants to go “not dangerous”, which could end up being quite dangerous some day.


#9

A similarly confusing word I came across on iKnow.jp is 励ます. That’s the dictionary form, so the polite form is 励まします.


#10

Oh wow that’s crazy!