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Featured How do you know... ON/KUN and beyond

Discussion in 'Learning Japanese' started by Putrefaction, Nov 7, 2008.

  1. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    This is my first post, I would like the chance to introduce myself and post a question in the hopes it'll save everyone aggravation and trouble later on, so here we go:
    I am a 19 year old male in New York who has wanted to learn Japanese for a while, but never got the chance to until college. Now that I have started to on my own, before taking a full class, I have learned 99% of hiragana and katakana. (In both, small tsus and shi's sometimes confuse me; I am still not 100% certain of the difference when I see shi and tsu in katakana, and even sometimes so and n get me handwritten. Other than that, mostly everything I get.) I have delved into Kanji and was immediately infuriated, but mostly confused.
    As I opened my college's Japanese teacher's semester's book, I noticed that the first Kanji were 1-10. Sure, this was easy. And then I noticed this, shortly after: 人 had three words next to it: JIN, NIN, HITO. And this is where the problems started. Then I looked back and saw that 1-10 had them as well, itchi - hito, ni - futu(tsu), futa-...and I was just completely lost. I still don't understand.
    So I committed my second mistake and just went on. There were compounds of words being formed. All of which I got horribly, horribly wrong. For example: 四月 would, by me extremely incorrectly, be labeled as "yontsuki". As if to slap me in the face, it was of course, shigatsu. April. Well. Perhaps people will consider me unintelligent as I no doubt am, but still...
    So now my question boils down to something so broad I would be surprised and grateful beyond belief if were answered so I would rarely be confused anymore: How do I know what to use? When? I'll give you another example with my favorite "JIN NIN HITO". 日本人. Ni. Hon. Jin. No way it can be anything else. Clear, cut, NI HON JIN. Well, I thought, how can it be Jin. Maybe if it's at the end, it's JIN. So I went on. 互人: goNIN. Hm. What? Let's...go...on...月(o)(miru)人. This time, it's HITO at the end.Now, I've had it. I have absolutely no idea when to use what.
    I talked to a native Japanese speaker and she said it had something to do with ideas before the class was over, unfortunately I don't see her until next Wednesday. I mean, I'm not an impatient person most of the time, but I can't continue learning if I continuously get everything wrong. I may as well pose another question:
    In scrolling through Wikipedia's list of Joyo Kanji, I typed in Ken and hit find. At least five results came up. How would you ever differentiate them, though conversation, since they're all different? For my example: 木 is what, moku and boku and ki, right? This would mean tree. 目 means eye, and has the same. exact. moku boku, but this time me. So...in conversation, would you have to look into it to assume, kind of like an english "i must read the paper tonight" against the "you should clean your instrument reed" ?
    I'm sorry if this is very long and I'm probably a weird person, but you know what? I'm just trying to learn! I'll end off with an Arigato Gozaimasu.
     
  2. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

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    #2 Glenn, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
    Your book doesn't have the readings differentiated by case, e.g., 日 NICHI, JITSU, hi, ka? The lowercase ones are kun-yomi, capital letters are on-yomi (in kana it's hiragana for kun, katakana for on).

    Now on to your question, try thinking of it like this: how do you pronounce "ough?" Think about the words "cough," "through," and "thorough." It's different in each case. It's sort of the same with kanji. You know because you know the word. 日本人 is nihonjin because the word is nihonjin. It's really that simple. 人 is sort of like "ough," you don't know how to read it unless you see it in a word or sentence.

    Also, most kanji when used alone represent a word which is almost always native Japanese, so they get read with kun-yomi. 人 (hito), 目 (me), 木 (ki), 蛙 (kaeru), and 靴 (kutsu) are examples of this. 本 (HON) and 情 () are two exceptions I can think of.

    Another thing -- it's not all that important to learn all of the readings of an individual kanji. 生 would drive you insane if that were the case. (Off the top of my head: SEI, SHÔ, nama, ha.eru, ha.yasu, u.mu, u.mareru, i.kiru). For example, 目 you can just learn as MOKU and me. The only word that comes to my mind that uses BOKU is 面目 (menboku).

    Basically what I would suggest is this: learn a lot of words and what kanji they're written with. Read Japanese text with furigana so that you learn the correct readings for words. You'll get a feel for the different readings once you've seen them used a bit. Sometimes different readings have different meanings, so those will be a bit easier to distinguish (e.g., 本: HON -- "book," "root," "base"; moto -- "root," "base"). The big point, though, is exposure. And yes, context does play a large role (like in your "read" vs. "reed" example).

    And one last note a bit off topic: arigatô (gozaimasu) is used only after someone has done something for you. "Thanks in advance" is onegai shimasu.

    [Edit] See also this post.
     
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  3. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Perhaps I should have been more clear--the book has them like this: NIN, JIN, hito, and then two examples.

    Your second paragraph is like a...now, let me see...切 to my foggy brain. I thank you for your great example!

    ...YES!!! This makes things clear, but I still have a question: Yes, you can use hito by itself. And it will not be JIN or NIN as you have said. What about 本を読む人 ? This is used in compound and is still hito. I realize this is a weird example. Or another one: 男の子. The first symbol (getting a little tired of copy paste) has DAN, NAN, otoko. This is in a compound...but maybe since it's separated by no, it can be otoko? same thing with ko...Hm.

    Are you sure that I shouldn't read all the entries? This may mess me up later on....

    I'll read that second post later as I gotta go to school now!

    Soo desu. Now I can say arigatoo gozaimasu!
     
  4. Mike Cash

    Mike Cash 骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう

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    And if you'll look in the front part of your book you'll almost certainly find some incredibly boring-looking explanation of the convention they use regarding the differences between writing in all caps and in lower case. You know....the part of books that people typically skip right over without even looking at.
     
  5. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

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    Like I said about 本, it's an exception to the principle that characters on their own get kun-yomi, so it's read hon (which is the only reading that means "book"). That is actually a phrase made up of individual words, and not a compound word, so it's hon o yomu hito. 男の子 is otoko no ko, which I believe is one word, but since it has の in it kun-yomi is the safe bet (and it's right in this case).

    I didn't mean to say that you shouldn't learn the readings individually at all, I just meant to say that you'd be better served reading actual Japanese sentences and learning them that way as well as learning them on their own to reinforce the knowledge. Knowing all of the readings for a character certainly won't hurt, but not knowing when to apply them will confuse things, and that's where reading actual Japanese sentences (kanji with furigana would be best) comes into play and is really effective. So it's OK and may even be helpful to learn 男 -- DAN, NAN, otoko, but that on its own won't help you to actually read, especially when you see things like 男の子 (otoko no ko), 長男 (chônan), and 男女 (danjo). Does that make sense?
     
  6. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Mike San, you are very correct--except I didn't skip through them, I did read that it was Kun and On, but I was really quite confused as to WHAT they meant, it's like learning English for the first time and seeing the words "predicate", "adjective"...maybe I'm just stupid.

    Glenn san: What you said makes perfect sense and I must have misinterpreted, sumimasen. I was actually going to post, after seeing a lot of -no- and other things, the "other things" took their kun form! Other things I saw were hiragana he and ni, na sometimes. I now kind of understand it. Here is what I did, please critique it before I go any further:

    For the case of SAN, yama, I read the On (Sama) and remembered that when in compounds with others, it is used, and yama is used when separated by a particle of sorts or by itself. So, in the case of water (SUI, mizu, I'm not doing this for you, just as I go along my memory) if I wanted to say mountain water it would be a compound and therefore SANSUI, of which I did get correct! I was quite happy. I read the english side and then did the translation in my head before uncovering the Kanji that was correct.

    I did have some problem with yamadera though (mountain temple). I said it was SANJI, hm. I've never been happier doing Kanji (since the week I've been doing it), you guys are amazing help! I think there are more characters that get their kun reading, is eye one of them (moku, boku, me <- the only way I've seen it) ? As I go through my Kanji book I am sure I will come across examples where this rule takes place, may I ask you to clarify?
     
  7. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

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    #7 Glenn, Nov 9, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
    It looks like what you're doing is fine. Checking yourself, as I'm sure you're aware, is extremely important. I'm not sure I understand your question there, though, about more characters getting their kun-yomi. Basically they get any reading they have, it just depends on the word. Some are read with their kun-yomi more frequently than others, e.g., 手. 手数 is tesû, 手加減 is tekagen, 先手 is sente and 一手 (the one that means all this stuff) is itte for example. But then there are 手段 (shudan), 手榴弾 (syuryûdan), 選手 (senshu), 騎手 (kishu), etc. 目 seems like it could be similar to 手 in that sense, but I haven't taken too close a look at it, so I can't say with confidence. I hope that answers your question, and yes, it is alright to ask for clarification. :)
     
  8. grapefruit

    grapefruit 先輩

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    The learning of how to read kanji has no end. Even native speakers have trouble reading kanji. When it comes to people's names, as well as place names, the only sure way is to ask the person how to read the character. The other day, a friend of mine was asking how to read 男色 in the field of Japanese literature to another person who specializes in Japanese literature. The answer turned out to be "danshoku". Anyway, this complexity makes kanji reading in Japanese more fascinating. The Chinese language (and the Korean language to some extent) uses Chinese characters, but it usually has only one pronunciation for each character (yes, that really helped me learning Chinese. But these days good electric dictionaries have a handwriting input method... It must have been really tough to learn Japanese 10 or 20 years ago)
     
  9. Chidoriashi

    Chidoriashi In imagination land

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    Oh man, you aren't kidding, if had not been introduced to old elecki i got here I think i would have shot myself. I still remember the days fresh off the boat here in Japanese class with a paper dictionary writing down and defining every word I heard that i did not understand, which was every other one. (I just stopped trying to understand in class cuz i had no idea what was going on half the time, and wrote down words I heard). It sucked and then about 2 months into my study, i was shown how to use and bought my first electronic dictionary. Life, and my proficiency in Japanese got way better from that point. My learning speed probably doubled.
     
  10. Red5

    Red5 Sempai

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    #10 Red5, Nov 10, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2008
    @Putrefaction@Putrefaction .... hello
    as I see you're beginner in Japanese ,so you'll see a lot of some thing differclt and stranger.. (like me in the first ) so you have to study hard as they it .
    KUN .. it's japanese reading and kanji take the meaning of it. 木 tree
    ON , it's chinese reading and if kanji come with other kanji you have to read it in ON
    木曜日,mokuyoubiツ , so you have to study all kanji reading to can understand them exactly..
    not soon you'll be able but in 4 or 5 level in japanese ,it'll be for you like piece of cake .
    good luck , and try to post reply in this forum in Japanese and always ask ...

    :thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
  11. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Hm...as I go more and more, I get some correct. I've been doing what you said, Glenn san, not memorizing the ON/KUN by itself, but in conjunction (I learned the words for East and West, To and Sei, and together they make ToSei (east + west), I separate them whenever I see them!) but some kanji are just overwhelming with possibilities. I think you used 行 in an example, right? (This one I believe has Ko and An, or something of that nature, I am pretty sure of Ko.) I can't remember that for the life of me. Past that, I now know at least 30 Kanji! :)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Sun, Person, Wood, Fire, Water, Earth/Ground, Moon, Day, Up, Down, East, West, Tree, Big, Small, Come, Mountain, Middle/Throughout, Direction, Sword, Cut, Money, See, Book, Mouth, Hand, Man, Woman, Eye, Rice Field, ...and then some ones which I don't know the prounciation to but know the symbols: Sparkle, Rising Sun, Goods, Chant, Olden Times, Mother, Old, Companion, Bright, Spine, Generation, Span.
    Italics means sometimes I can't get either the Kun/On right, or I just forget lol. Let me see...East: To/Higashi, as in Toho (east direction), which ties in with West as Nichi or Sei, like Seiho (west direction), obviously direction = ho/kata (always forget kata). Come = Rai and something else, I forget that too. I think Kiru. Hand is te, but I can't always remember the Kanji. Hm...Big is Dai/Tai, and Small is Sho: Daisho = small/big. Cut...sh something, setsu? I think so. See is just eye with human feet, Ken/miru, mouth is ko kuchi, man is rice patty with human feet Dansho, woman is something different being jo like joshi...middle is a mouth with a line cut straight through it...blaaaaah...sorry for this, just typing as I think.
    I have three books for Kanji - A Kanji Dictionary by 'O Neill, which just has the Kanji, stroke order, On / Kun, and definition, then this Remembering the Kanji, which has a supposedly easy way to distinguish Kanji (works for me, most of the time) and my textbook, which I hate sometimes: It introduces the Kanji and then never uses them in the example. In the first Kanji lesson, you had 1-10, Sun, Book, Day, Time, and something else I forgot introduced. In the lesson? Movie, Train, nothing even close to introductionary Kanji...Well, maybe they want me to memorize like fourty Kanji each lesson, sounds good to me.
    I'll start learning names when I get to around 500 Kanji, does that seem like a safe thing? I don't even have all the Level 4 Kanji memorized and I'm sure as heck that I don't have the vocabulary or sentence structure yet. I'm juggling learning Kanji and doing textbook work.
    You were REALLY right in recommending that I learn compounds instead of singular. Thanks again!
     
  12. grapefruit

    grapefruit 先輩

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    I agree. Native speakers would never memorize 来 as "rai". It only becomes "rai" with "未来" or "将来". By the way, native speakers always say something like "mirai no rai" (”未来”の”来”)to refer to on-yomi, which suggests that in mental lexicon "rai" does not independently exist.
     
  13. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Interesting, I memorized it as such :\ I'm sure after some practice I can distinguish between the two. Another thing that is very complicated, or at least for me, is on a repetition of a Kanji, it is changed (tokidoki, kigi). I noticed that at least for those two examples, the letters were changed to the ones they would be if the beginning would have a " on it (t"->d, k"->g).
     
  14. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

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    #14 Glenn, Nov 11, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
    Yes, it's assimilation (the non-voiced consonant becomes voiced when surrounded by other voiced sounds -- vowels in this case). The Japanese have a special name for this particular type, though: 連濁 (rendaku), or "sequential voicing." You'll come across is a fair amount, like sushi becoming zushi in some compounds, 刀狩り (katana + kari) becomes katanagari, etc. You don't have to worry about that for now, though, as it gets a bit complicated.

    On a similar topic, 東西 is actually not tôsei, it's tôzai. This voicing by assimilation comes via a different mechanism, but I'm not sure you need to worry about that right now.

    One other thing I'm wondering about after having seen your use of rômaji -- you do know the difference between long and short vowels in Japanese, right?
     
  15. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    I know you have to hold them twice as long as normal sounds, and they're connected via a dash in katakana, small tsu/shi in hiragana.
     
  16. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

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    What you have written is not quite right. Hold them twice as long as short vowels -> right. Represented via 棒 () in katakana -> right. However, small tsu has nothing to do with vowels, and it functions the same in hiragana and katakana, and shi is even less connected. In hiragana, depending on spelling, long vowels are represented by the kana of the previous vowel (おかあさん, くうき, おとおさん), or in many cases for え and お they're followed by い and う (たんとう, けいき).
     
  17. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Oh man, I totally misread...yes of course, that's what I would have said if I read it correctly. The one I was describing is elongated consonants like itte... I remember that oneesan is one of the words that have the regular e instead of i elongation for historical purposes, or maybe I'm mistaken in that as well...

    Anyways, I memorized a few more Kanji! It's becoming harder though.
     
  18. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

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    Yes, おねえさん is another that uses the え for elongation.

    For お there are also おおかみ (狼), とお (十), とおり (通り), とおる (通る・透), とおす (通す), おおきい (大きい), and ほお (頰).
     
  19. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Ah, thanks again Glenn San. Another small question, nothing to do with Kanji per se, but in reading the Kanji for Mother and Father (haha, chichi, at least I remember the kun readings) I noticed in my book they were also Otoosan and Okaasan. Is this kind of like mom and dad / Mother and Father, or are they homonyms?
     
  20. Red5

    Red5 Sempai

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    japanese different from other languages ...


    when you say 窶「ニ陳,窶「テェツ it means only your father and other ONLY

    but when you speak with other person and you want to tell him about his
    mother or father you say : 窶堋ィ窶「ニ停?堋ウ窶堙アツ ツ(ツ otousan ) .. father
    窶堋ィ窶「テェ窶堋ウ窶堙アツ ( okaasan) mother ...

    you notice that :

    窶「ニ端/COLOR] : one's own father ( chichi in KUN )

    窶「テェ: one's own mother .(haha in KUN)

    窶堋ィ窶「ニ停?堋ウ窶堙ア : one else's father (tou ON)

    窶堋ィ窶「テェ窶堋ウ窶堙ア : one else's mother ( kaa ON )

    it's not complex but it's very easy .... :thumbsup:
     
  21. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Hm. I should have noticed that, thanks again. I would have never figured out oneself/others.

    One of the most fun things I noticed in kanji, so to say, is that I learned most of the expressions in hiragana (konnichiwa, namae) and now I'm seeing them in Kanji. On yeah, today I finally broke the 100 Kanji mark! I'm pretty damn happy.
     
  22. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
    Staff Member Moderator

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    Actually, 窶「ニ?窶「テェ is basically used to address the speaker's own father/mother in formal situations, and 窶堋ィ窶「ニ停?堋ウ窶堙ア/窶堋ィ窶「テェ窶堋ウ窶堙ア is not. It's because the latter is a kind of honorific form, so it also can be used to address the speaker's own father/mother depending on the context (e.g. at home/by kids.)
     
  23. Red5

    Red5 Sempai

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    thanks for you advice but I'm not Great in Japanese , I'm still beganing in it.
    so that's what I learn . and as you can see japanese people has more polite
    words not like other languages ..
    maybe as you said it's imformal language but as i learn maybe it's more specialize in this case ......:geek:
     
  24. Putrefaction

    Putrefaction 不幸中の幸い. . . がない.

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    Hm, so if I am understanding this correctly, you use the Kanji for formal uses and the mix of Hira + Kanji when not in formal occasions?
     
  25. grapefruit

    grapefruit 先輩

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    It is not the matter of writing. These pairs are different words. So, the distinction still remains even when you engage in conversation.
     

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