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Another Time When One Kana Really Matters

The final hiragana makes all the difference in the meanings of these words:

明け渡る (akewataru: to become daylight)
     to become light + to spread
明け渡す (akewatasu: to evacuate, surrender)
     to break + to hand over

Toshi o teki ni akewatashita.
They surrendered the city to the enemy.

都市 (toshi: city)     metropolis + city
(teki: opponent; adversary; danger; threat; enemy)

By the way, when I saw the definition of 明け渡す, I wondered what range of events it might cover, since English speakers use “evacuating” for everything from leaving cities during hurricanes to emptying their bowels! I also mused that “evacuation” and “surrender” are very different in English but apparently not in Japanese.

A native speaker explained that 明け渡す applies to a broad range of things, but it’s mainly about leaving a house or building under some kind of outside pressure: “When a feudal lord has lost a battle, he has to evacuate the castle to give it to the winner, so to the Japanese mind, surrendering is a natural extension of evacuating a castle.”

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