The best guess of scholars is that there was a suffix "-ya" in the Nara era, meaning "softness", followed by a suffix "-ka", meaning "visible" "apparent", thus the original nuance of "xxxx-yaka" was "looks slightly xxxx".
This yaka was attached to nouns, adjective stems, onomatopoetic words, and other words that express a state, forming adjectives. It expresses the meaning "not [the thing] itself, but almost like it; not in that state, but almost so; it's just as if ..."
Anciently, it was used the same way as the suffix "raka", which has a similar meaning, but "yaka" became more common beginning in the Heian era (794-1185). Also, "yaka" is seen more commonly than "raka" in more psychological, subjective words; it is considered to express somewhat of a distance from the object.
Yaka cannot be added to words to make a new word, as can be done with, for example, sō. The following table of some of the yaka words was extracted from Edict:
|Rōmaji||Kanji/kana||Meaning||Similar Japanese words|
|adeyaka||艶やか||bewitching, fascinatingly elegant|
|azayaka||鮮やか||vivid, clear, brilliant|
|hanayaka||花やか・華やか||gay, showy, brilliant, gorgeous, florid|
|hiyayaka||冷やか||cold, chilly, cool, indifferent, cold-hearted, surly, curt, composed|
|karoyaka||軽やか||light, easy, non-serious, minor|
|karuyaka||軽やか||light, easy, non-serious, minor|
|kirabiyaka||煌びやか・綺羅びやか||gorgeous, gaudy, dazzling, gay|
|maroyaka||円やか||round, circular, spherical, mild (taste)|
|nagoyaka||和やか||mild, calm, gentle, quiet, harmonious|
|odayaka||穏やか||calm, gentle, quiet|
|sasayaka||細やか||meagre, meager, modest|
|sawayaka||爽やか||fresh, refreshing, invigorating, clear, fluent, eloquent|
|shinayaka||嫋か||supple, flexible, elastic|
|sukoyaka||健やか||vigorous, healthy, sound|
This material is used under the licence of the Electronic Dictionary Research and Development Group of Monash University, Australia.
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