音読みと訓読みと熟字訓 – 3 different ways of reading Kanji

音読みと訓読みと熟字訓 – 3 different ways of reading Kanji

This post is about 音読おんよみ、訓読くんよみ and 熟字訓じゅくじくん.I have been asked by a number of people why some kanji readings are written in Katakana and others in Hiragana. The reason is most kanji dictionaries use katakana for 音読おんよみ and Hiragana for 訓読くんよみ and I follow the same rule. 音読おんよみ and 訓読くんよみ are explained as:

音読おんよみ – reading of a kanji by its Chinese-derived pronunciation(s).

訓読くんよみ – reading of a kanji character by the native Japanese equivalent.

It is said that Chinese characters were first brought to Japan during the 4th century. Some meanings of kanji were imported into the Japanese language together with their sounds and they became 音読おんよみ but people applied kanji characters for the Japanese words which had already existed and these readings are called 訓読くんよみ.

Importing of Kanji characters was not a one-time affair. So some kanji characters have two or more different 音読おんよみ as Chinese pronunciation has also changed over the years.

Some characters form a compound word called 熟字訓じゅくじくん, which is explained as “an idiosyncratic reading of a kanji compound bearing no relation to the individual readings of the constituent kanji.” Examples of this is 明日(あす)、大人(おとな), etc. These words are mentioned in my posts as “customary reading” of “difficult reading.”

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One thought on “音読みと訓読みと熟字訓 – 3 different ways of reading Kanji

  1. Reply
    昨 | EasyJapaneseE
    14 August 2021 at 8:00 am

    […] day before yesterday 一昨年(おととし、イッサクネン*): the year before last year*音読おんよみ sounds more […]

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