Japanese Kanji ON & KUN pronunciations
Today we explain the derivations of the two different Japanese pronunciations of kanji.
In Japanese there is generally more than one pronunciation of a kanji. The ON pronunciation (onyomi) is taken from the Chinese pronunciation while the KUN pronunciation (kunyomi) is derived from the indigenous Japanese pronunciation of the same word/meaning.
Most kanji compounds (words made up of two or more kanji) are built up from the the individual kanji onyomi. For example:
自動車 The onyomi: zi-dou-sha combine to mean car or automobile:
自- zi meaning self
動 – dou meaning move
車 – sha meaning vehicle or cart
When a kanji stands alone and is not part of a compound word the kunyomi pronunciation is usually used. For example:
人 – hito meaning person
鳥 – tori meaning bird
夢 – yumi meaning dream