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On vs. Kun

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On vs. Kun

Postby h3lladvocate » Wed 12.28.2005 12:47 am

What is the difference between the On and Kun readings of the kanji. I think it has something to do with combining kanji to form differnt words but im not exactly sure so can someone explain?
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby Christian_ » Wed 12.28.2005 1:04 am

You need to know both On and Kun readings of all kanji. Its not always true but a lot of kanji use On readings in compounds and Kun readings when the kanji is used by itself.
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby mandolin » Wed 12.28.2005 4:25 am

The simplest difference:
ON = chinese reading
kun = japanese reading

More elaborate explanation:

When kanji were imported from china, of course they already had pronounciations (chinese ones). Sometimes, the japanese incorporated the chinese words into japanese. However, japanese obviously already had a language, and had words of their own for some things, so they assigned appropriate kanji to their already existing vocabulary, and kun-yomi was born.

Knowing all the ON/kun-yomi is good for helping you try to guess at the pronounciation of a jukugo you've never seen before, or for guessing the kanji of a word you've never heard before, but even then you'll still want to look it up just to be sure.

An intersting side note... this is largely the reason why japanese has so many homophones. Chinese has 5 tones. Japanese only has 2, but even if you don't inflect correctly, you're generally understood. The 5-tone chinese is not nearly as forgiving.
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby h3lladvocate » Thu 12.29.2005 1:55 am

Grr, this is so confusing. Most of the time, when i see the kanji used with another, its On, but sometimes its kun. But im not allways sure if the kanji are being used together to form new words or just to kanji in the same word. This is so confusing. Could someone explain more when to use eash and give some examples?
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby mandolin » Thu 12.29.2005 2:56 am

There's no real rules for it. Some general guidelines, maybe, but they have as many examples that don't fit as there are that do.

You're best off learning them word-by-word. You won't find a perfect pattern that will let you know what reading to use. When coming across a new kanji, sometimes even japanese will misread. Sometimes, when writing words, the will use the wrong kanji that has the same pronounciation.

Both ways, it's always best to look them up to be sure, or hope they have furigana. For the most part, there's the really common words that you will just come to know on sight, and less common words will have furigana anyway.
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby h3lladvocate » Thu 12.29.2005 8:13 pm

So, im better off learning the judego then trying to combine them myself?
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby ryuubu » Thu 12.29.2005 9:12 pm

Good way to remember them, the ones that sound like their old Chinese counterparts are the On readings. On means sound (it's the onyomi of 音 (oto)).

So 音読み onyomi means sound reading.
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RE: On vs. Kun

Postby mandolin » Fri 12.30.2005 12:01 am

Only really helps if you also know chinese. :P
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