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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.

ON Pronunciation

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
 
KUN Pronunciation

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

Comments

Comment from Remembering the kanji
Time: 7 May, 2011, 10:59 am

Very informative article about the ON and KUN yomis of kanji. Thanks!

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