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Multiple kun and on readings

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Multiple kun and on readings

Postby redfoxer » Sat 04.16.2005 6:45 pm

Does anyone know why certain kanjis have multiple Kuns or ON readings. Take for example GOLD. For Kun, it uses KIN or KON. I just wanted to know does the kun reading 'adapt' to the kanji around it, eg, the gold kun would be kon for readings such as konbanwa? so instead of kinbanwa, it is read as konbanwa which is why it could be KIN or KON (like EARTH kanji has DO or TO KUN readings)? also, does this adaption rule apply to the (TSU) which are bracketed in ON readings, eg, 7 is nana or nana(tsu). so in some cases the 7 kanji is read as nana and in other cases where needed it is read as nanatsu? or is that tsu there to create a pause in the pronounciation like in kana text? Hope someone can help field this question and that i havent confused anyone. Arigatou!
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby clay » Sat 04.16.2005 10:13 pm

My guess is the Chinese readings were imported at different times and/or were pronounced slightly different in different areas of Japan. Eventually, the both became a 'reading.'
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby Spaztick » Sun 04.17.2005 10:41 am

Yea, that and sometimes it's easier to pronounce in some readings. If you try and get a Japanese accent and don't "force" the pronounciation, it becomes easier to see which is the right reading (IE doboku - civil engineering, is easier to pronounce than domoku).
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby redfoxer » Sun 04.17.2005 10:47 am

arrigatou guys :) XD at spatz sig :)
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RE: Oy, did you pick a thorny question!

Postby InsanityRanch » Tue 04.19.2005 3:04 pm

redfoxer wrote:
Does anyone know why certain kanjis have multiple Kuns or ON readings. Take for example GOLD. For Kun, it uses KIN or KON. I just wanted to know does the kun reading 'adapt' to the kanji around it, eg, the gold kun would be kon for readings such as konbanwa? so instead of kinbanwa, it is read as konbanwa which is why it could be KIN or KON (like EARTH kanji has DO or TO KUN readings)? also, does this adaption rule apply to the (TSU) which are bracketed in ON readings, eg, 7 is nana or nana(tsu). so in some cases the 7 kanji is read as nana and in other cases where needed it is read as nanatsu? or is that tsu there to create a pause in the pronounciation like in kana text? Hope someone can help field this question and that i havent confused anyone. Arigatou!


Wow... there's a lot of questions in there. And in answering them, you uncover several problems that come up when learning to read and write Japanese.

OK, to the best of my knowledge: Kanji have multiple ON readings because they were borrowed multiple times, over several centuries. Sometimes the Chinese language had shifted in the meantime, and sometimes teachers spoke different regional variants, so the words that were borrowed at that time added a new pronunciation to a known character. (Somebody later went along and cataloged the various pronunciations of each character in various words and codified them as ON readings.)

SOMETIMES it is possible to differentiate meaning based on ON-reading. For instance, GATSU is used for the names of months and GETSU to mean month in general. But very often, which on reading to use is based on historical accident and simply must be memorized. As a consequence, (PROBLEM 1) when one encounters a new kanji compound, it is not always obvious what the pronunciation should be. This is a huge problem for foreigners and not a small one for Japanese -- hence the invention of furigana.

Your question also indicates a further misconception, which illustrates the opposite side of this problem. The "Kon" in "konban" has nothing to do with gold. It is one of the ON readings of the kanji ima, now. A quick dictionary check turned up 51 kanji that have KON as one of their ON readings. Of course, some are more common than others. But there are still a lot of possibilities for "spelling" a word that includes "KON" as one of its component (which is PROBLEM 2). Often when I hear a new word and want to write it down, I have to ask which of several possible and logical kanji I should use to write it!

As for multiple KUN readings, sometimes these are simply Japanese words or word-parts that have related meanings. For instance, take the first-grade kanji "ue" -- over, above. If it appears alone it probably is pronounced "ue". It can be used as a suffix to mean "above, more than or the upper part of the preceding noun" and in that case may be pronounced JOU (one of its ON-readings), kami or ue (two kun-readings) as in IJOU (more than, the above-mentioned), kawakami (the upper reaches of a river) or toshiue (older). It may be used as a prefix meaning "upper" and is then said "uwa" as in "uwagi" a jacket. And it also forms the root of several verbs and verb-derived words such as "ag(garu)" to rise, "a(geru)" to raise, "nobo(ru)" to climb, etc. When you see something written in parens like that, they are okurigana -- kana that are added to the root for grammatical purposes. So a(geru) is written 上げる. By and large, it is fairly easy to memorize "spellings" of verbs and adjectives (which syllables are covered by the kanji and which by the okurigana), however, there is some variation in actual usage (which is PROBLEM 3, but that one isn't as difficult to manage as the first 2)

As for the question of the "tsu" in numbers, generally, when using native-Japanese numbers to count, the "tsu" is used and writen in kana after the number's kanji (一つ、二つ、三つ / hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, etc.) When using numbers in compounds, even if the Japanese form is used, the "tsu" is dropped. (二日、三日、四日 / futsuka, mikka, yokka etc.)


....But I flat out refuse to make this longer by going into the tortured Japanese number system! <g>

I hope this helps!

Shira
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RE: Japanese Counting

Postby spin13 » Thu 04.21.2005 2:11 am

Because Shira mentions it briefly above, I thought I'd share this interesting conversation on the 'tortured Japanese counting system.'

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7826

I don't understand it myself but I'm also pretty sure I'm not supposed to :).

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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby InsanityRanch » Thu 04.21.2005 1:50 pm

OK, Eric, that was one of the funniest threads I've seen in awhile. Thanks for sharing it!

Shira
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby redfoxer » Thu 04.21.2005 4:52 pm

Thanks insanity for the input about multiple on readings. It really helps and i did do some reseach explaining that on readings were imported at different times and different locations hence the multiple variations :)

InsanityRanch wrote:

Your question also indicates a further misconception, which illustrates the opposite side of this problem. The "Kon" in "konban" has nothing to do with gold.


:D lol, i knew that it wasnt in the right context (gold in konbanwa, doesnt make sense) But the fact that you highlighted that there are many other kanjis which also share ON readings does help me grasp this (At first i thought ON readings are unique to kanji which is why it stumpt me trying to figure out the whole kanji thing. i think i know better now :D

InsanityRanch wrote:

...And it also forms the root of several verbs and verb-derived words such as "ag(garu)" to rise, "a(geru)" to raise, "nobo(ru)" to climb, etc. When you see something written in parens like that, they are okurigana -- kana that are added to the root for grammatical purposes. So a(geru) is written 上げる. By and large, it is fairly easy to memorize "spellings" of verbs and adjectives (which syllables are covered by the kanji and which by the okurigana), however, there is some variation in actual usage (which is PROBLEM 3, but that one isn't as difficult to manage as the first 2)

As for the question of the "tsu" in numbers, generally, when using native-Japanese numbers to count, the "tsu" is used and writen in kana after the number's kanji (一つ、二つ...

Shira


I understood the tsu bit from counters but i didnt understand why some kanji (eg kanji for big/university (I think) is KUN ee(kii)) but you explained it well. :) Thanks. One more question...

InsanityRanch wrote:
kana that are added to the root for grammatical purposes. So a(geru) is written 上げる. By and large, it is fairly easy to memorize "spellings" of...


Isnt 上げる = yogeru? (which if it was shouldnt the yo have a looping tail because what is shown is a kata 'hi') Thank you

- one very confused dude ^^
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby clay » Thu 04.21.2005 5:00 pm

Actually 上げる is a(geru) (the paranthesis show kana that isn't included in the kanji pronunciation.)

The hiragana よ (yo) does look like the kanji 上 (ue - up), but they are different. Kanji has a ton of these look-a-likes! :o
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby InsanityRanch » Thu 04.21.2005 6:06 pm

>Isnt 上げる = yogeru? (which if it was shouldnt the yo have a looping tail
>because what is shown is a kata 'hi' Thank you

I was sorely puzzled (since yogeru doesn't appear to be a word) until Clay explained what was going on!

The first character in 上げる is the kanji 上 = ue or above. Verbs are generally written this way, with the "root" syllable(s) written as kanji and the conjugations written after the root in hiragana.

Let me try to explain it in a bit more detail. Three verbs are commonly written with the kanji 上, meaning "upward":

上げる / ageru / raise
上がる / agaru / rise
上る / noboru / climb

See how the okurigana after the kanji tell which verb it is? They also tell the *form* of the verb. Here are the polite forms of all three verbs:

上げます / agemasu / raise
上がります / agarimasu / rise
上ります / noborimasu / climb

See how it is possible to differentiate between the verbs based on the okurigana? Believe it or not, this sort of decoding gets pretty simple with practice. It is a *lot* easier than figuring out new kanji compounds!

HTH!

Shira
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RE: Multiple kun and on readings

Postby redfoxer » Fri 04.22.2005 3:12 pm

lol, gomen ne. I didnt realise that was kanji for ue. But alot of what you've said has really helped me out. Arrigatougozaimasu
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