ぴ, ぱ, ぺ, ぽ, ぷ after ん


I have recently noticed a pattern that if a kanji reading ends with ん, and the next kanji reading starts with a ひ, は, へ, ほ or ふ, the second reading always receives a handakuten.

えん + ひつ = えんぴつ (Lead + Writing Brush = Pencil)
せん + はい = せん ぱい (Previous + Comrade = Senior)
きん + はつ = きんぱつ (Gold + Hair = Blonde)

Am I correct in assuming that this will always happen? Thanks! :slight_smile:


半分(はんぶん) has ぶ and not ぷ but I can’t come up with a word where no rendaku happens what so ever


Yeah but 分 is probably ぶん to begin with in this situation, I’m talking about kanji that begin with ひ/は/へ/ほ/ふ.

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Oh yeah you’re probably right… sorry :sweat_smile:

According to this article, your statement is correct due to the following rule:
If the first word ends in つ or ん the h consonant will rendaku to p.


Ah! Good to know :slight_smile: That proves it then. Thank you so much!
I didn’t connect the dots with tsu, but that’s a good point too. It usually changes into a sokuon, so that’s maybe why it was harder to spot.

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https://jisho.org/word/上海 does this count? :joy:

How about counters with 四 that start with h, like 四匹 or 四本?

These mostly seem like exceptions, though.


Just searching for fun, a lot of these might not be what you mean, too. :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh! That Tofugu article makes sense, then. Nvm me.


I never read about these rules before but can still guess with ok accuracy whether rendaku is applied or not when I come across a new word. It’s interesting how the brain starts to figure out these unknown patterns as you go.


What about 三百?



Isn’t this one just zenpan though?

This one is probably because of the repeater, I’ve seen those rendaku and sometimes not rendaku

City names?

Actually these consist of a pre existing kanji combination, followed by an extra kanji. In those cases, rendaku and sokuon never occurs, so that’s definitely a good exception. I found this in a different topic:

Those last ones are a pretty good point though, words made of other smaller words do not adhere to those rules.

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That’s a pretty solid one, but maybe it is indeed because of the chinese origin words?

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In the tofugu article on rendaku it is written that 半 as a prefix does not rendaku.
“The meaning of this word is “half and half,” so there’s dvandva blocking rendaku, too.”


The h-/b-/p- sounds are special, compared to the rest, and I think especially p- should not be treated as rendaku.

I’ll just parrot Frellesvig (see History 11.3 and 7.3.1). There seems to be some agreement that p- used to be the original sound, which changed several times throughout the history of the language. Thus, depending on when words were coined, different patterns stuck and remained, so it’s a bit of a mess.

The changes are complicated, but one thing that holds is that p- became either (w)-, or f- then h-, except after N (ん) or Q (っ), where either it remained p- or became b- (in older words). So, according to this analysis, what you see is that those kanji have always had alternating readings associated with them, e.g., 輩 was pai, but the sound became fai then hai, except after N or Q, where it remained.

Therefore, it’s not that 輩 is hai and mutates to pai, but rather the opposite; it was originally pai and retains that shape after some sounds. This does not explain why a few words do not respect the rule; I would guess that they were formed transparently after the change took place and were seen as two separate words juxtaposed (similar to what the Tofugu article calls dvandva rule), but phonetics aren’t really my thing and I haven’t looked further.

Speaking of the Tofugu article, I would caution against reasonings such as:

This high probability for misunderstanding is most likely why kango compound words do not rendaku.

It might be that speakers are voluntarily avoiding homophony at any one point in time, but if you look at history, it is a fact that many sound changes have contributed to creating more homophones in Japanese. Just look at all the sounds that merged into -oo: anything that was -au, -ou or -eu became -oo (or -yoo for -eu), and of course there’s the genuine -oo. Plus, as we’ve seen above, since pu changed to (w)u at some point, that doubles the number of moras that morphed to -oo… so I’m not quite sure I buy the “homophone avoidance” argument.


I think I finally found an exception!



日本橋?I guess 橋 usually rendakus to ば

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Might be because it’s an on+kun combination, and the same rules don’t apply :thinking:

はし is usually ばし when it’s the last kanji of the word.


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