う vs. お: Does it matter?

I will, not infrequently, miss a vocab reading by mixing up the long う and お after a syllable that ends in an “o” sound. Common ones I screw up include 八日 (I say よおか instead of ようか) and 通り (I say とうり instead of とおり). But does this this matter? Purism aside, is there any reason not to ignore (via the script) these (technically) wrong answers and just get on with my life, rather than having these words bounce between Guru and Apprentice forever? Here is my thinking:

  1. They are pronounced exactly the same.
  2. My IME will generally suggest the right kanji even if I use the wrong one (and if it doesn’t, that will remind me that I need to use the other one).
  3. I’m never going to need to write these words in hiragana.

Based on these assumptions, I am inclined to count vocab words where this is my only mistake as “correct.” But…are my assumptions right? And if so, is my conclusion reasonable? Really interested in peoples’ thoughts. In an ideal world, I’d like to be technically correct (“the best kind of correct”) all the time, but life is short.

Thanks!

On point 3, you may not need to write them in hiragana but you may end up having to read them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a word in kana and just completely forgot it because I’ve been too reliant on kanji. If you reinforce bad habits it will only make it worse, and honestly what does it really matter if you keep getting them wrong? It just means those items will come back quicker and srs will allow you to reinforce those words better.

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You can make an argument that it’s giving you some insight into the etymology of the words.

Instances where お follows another お sound inside the same kanji only exist in native Japanese words.

If a う follows an お sound within a single kanji, that’s an onyomi (Chinese) reading.

As such, I think this problem will just resolve itself the more you get used to distinguishing the two.

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I must confess that words written in hiragana cause me big problems generally at my beginner stage of learning–I rely on the kanji a lot for context. That said, I’m skeptical that that one-character difference would ever affect whether I recognize these words or not.

“What does it matter” is a good and fair question. I guess it just means more reviews (reducing, however marginally, the time I could be spending on other Japanese study). It’s also really demoralizing to keep getting the same Level 1 words wrong. But rationally, you’re probably right.

That’s very interesting, and potentially very helpful. So “ou” only occurs in words with onyomi readings? And “oo” only occurs in words with kunyomi readings? What about words that are a mix of onyomi and kunyomi?

(By the way, Leebo, I’m a huge fan of your contributions here. Understanding the “why” of a language really helps me learn the “how.”)

If you ask anyone at a decently high level, it’s embarrassing but they probably have a few low level leeches sticking around till this day. Eventually you’ll either try to think of a better mnemonic or move on and not considering it worth you time depending on it’s importance to you.

You can basically say the extra う is because of Chinese variations in tone, some long or shorter sounding being interpreted by foreigners. (best way I can describe it, not being a linguist)

I made sure to include “within one kanji” in the description. In other words, these rules tell you what’s going on at the level of reading an individual kanji, but you can see おお in an onyomi word, if the readings are divided by a kanji boundary, and you can have う after お in a kunyomi if the う is okurigana.

So you can see 女王 (じょおう), a word with onyomi readings, which looks like it has a お sound after another お sound (じょ). But the first お sound is in a different kanji than the other お sound so the rule is unrelated. The う at the end after an お is within the same kanji, so it follows the onyomi rule.

And you can see 覆う (おおう) which again has 3 of these in a row, but this one is kunyomi, so within the kanji is おお and then う is okurigana, outside the kanji.

Thanks, glad it helps.

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You will if you ever want to write the words on a computer.

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No, i do not think you can consider correct when you write よお instead of よう, is almost like, in English, considering “your” a correct variation for “you’re”

Also i believe the pronunciation of the two cases is slightly different.

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Right, but that’s my point #2. My phone gives me the correct Kanji for both of those words even if I use the wrong “o” character. And if some other IME in the future doesn’t, that’ll be a clear sign that I used the wrong one.

My understanding is that おお is the exception, so maybe you could just pay special attention to those words / kanji? To use your example, ようか 「八日」would be expected so you shouldn’t have to worry about it, but とおか「十日」 is unusual, so you could think of the 0 in 10 or something.

I don’t have any knowledge on whether it’s “necessary” to know the difference, but I do know that if you try converting とうか you won’t get 十日 on the default microsoft IME, because I tried it just now :slight_smile:

(Also, if you don’t already use it I highly recommend KaniWani, which should help with recognising words without their kanji.)

To me it’s the opposite, because よう is an exception to the “usually おお comes up in kunyomi and おう comes up in onyomi” thing. From looking at よう you’d expect it to be an onyomi, but it’s a kunyomi.

とお on the other hand is a kunyomi (easy to remember that the 1-10 numbers for days are kunyomi) and it does follow that rule.

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Well, maybe bad example :grin: But it depends on what your previous knowledge is; when I originally learned those words, I didn’t really know about kunyomi vs. onyomi. But I think picking one as a base should make learning new readings easier (tbh, if I didn’t have the onyomi in katakana script installed, I don’t think I’d remember whether readings were onyomi or kunyomi).

The days up to 10 and the つ counting numbers 1-10 use the native (kunyomi) numbers, so it’s generally easy to just say “yeah, those are just all kunyomi” and you don’t have to guess them individually.

The reading of ついたち for 一日 is not from the native numbers, but it is kunyomi, because the origin is 月立 つきたち, where 立 is being used in the “establish” or “start” sense.

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I don’t think it’s accurate to say they are pronounced exactly the same. 通る is と-お-る, not と-う-る. Depending on the person and speed at which the words are read, pronunciation can and should be different. You wouldn’t pronounce しおる and しうる the same way.

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Actually, I’m pretty sure the う used as a “お vowel sound extender” is pronounced お. You wouldn’t pronounce しおる and しうる the same way, but there would be no difference in pronunciation between とおか and とうか. It just makes the お sound longer.

It is read as う if it’s a verb termination, however, like in 覆う(おおう) and 思う(おもう).

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Read とおか real slowly and then read とうか real slowly. Or spell them verbally.

I think it’s more of a spelling issue than a pronunciation issue. Can you write “yoor” instead of “your” (in English, for example) and have people understand what you mean? Sure. Is it still wrong? Absolutely.

If you were to read the exact way it’s written, sure, it would be different. But my point is that’s not the correct way to read it. It’s kind of an exception.

I’m doubling down. I don’t think とおか and とうか are truly pronounced identically by native speakers. They are very close, but different. Wonder if there’s a native resource that can confirm.