Is my hypothesis about 'to mix' verbs correct? Is there a better one?


I have searched the forums for this info already, but haven’t found a definitive answer all in one place yet.

I have a hunch/hypothesis about the various verbs regarding ‘mixing’ that I’d like to see what other folks think about it.

For reference, the words I’m focused on here are these three:
まぜる, まざる, まじる.

Well, each of these three can use one of two kanji, so it’s actually these six:
交ぜる, 交ざる, 交じる;
混ぜる, 混ざる, 混じる.

The Kanji Nuances / Connotations – 交 vs. 混

There seems to be pretty wide consensus in the WK forums that 交 is for mixing when the items remain distinguishable after being mixed, like different photographs being mixed in a pile, and 混 is for mixing when the items become indistinguishable after mixing, like different colours of paint being mixed into a single blended colour of paint.

So, we might associate with the connotation ‘shuffle’, and with the connotation ‘blend’.

That’s fairly simple. Whew! (Though I still didn’t get it until putting together my research for this post. :sweat_smile:)

Transitivity – Transitive (他動詞) vs. Intransitive (自動詞)

This one is also pretty straightforward, once you know that the ones with are transitive, and the others, and , are intransitive.

Summary so far

shuffle blend
trans 交ぜる 混ぜる
intrans 交ざる 混ざる
intrans 交じる 混じる

So far so good. But I’m often getting confused as to the difference between the two intransitive versions, either ざ or じ.

One comment I read said that they’ve become mostly synonymous, but I wonder… Maybe there is a distinction between them. And this is where my hunch/hypothesis comes in.

Hypothesis – Passive vs. Active

My hunch is that one of the intransitive versions (I think ざ) is for ‘passive’ mixing, when the objects mix ‘on their own’ so to speak, and the other intransitive version (I think じ) is for ‘active’ mixing, when there is some external ‘actor’ doing the mixing.

For example, I see example sentences like:
油と水は混ざらない。(Oil and water don’t blend.)
油と水は混じり合わない。(Oil and water don’t blend.)

Notice that the version with じ seems to require the addition of 合わない, which seems to indicate to me that it is the one that involves some ‘outside actor’ to do the mixing.

So, in other words, if my hunch is correct, then the meanings of those two sentences would be more like:
油と水は混ざらない。(Oil and water don’t blend by themselves, left on their own.)
油と水は混じり合わない。(Oil and water don’t blend when someone tries to mix them.)

Maybe I’ve confused the terms ‘active’ and ‘passive’. Or maybe I’ve got the labels right, but got the two versions exactly backwards. Or maybe there’s a better way to distinguish these two variants. Or maybe that other comment I read is correct, and there’s no real discernible difference in nuance or connotation between the two.

But, for the record, here’s my hypothesis with a proposed revision to the previous table:

shuffle blend
trans 交ぜる 混ぜる
intr. passive 交ざる 混ざる
intr. active 交じる 混じる

Does this sound right? If so, let me know. If not, how would you describe it?

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Interesting hypothesis. I’d use the terms agentive and patientive myself to borrow terms from talking about semantics, which seems to be the distinction you’re trying make. But I can’t really say for sure these terms are “better” or even good.