I’m learning the word for ‘unskilled’ which is 下手。When I look that the on’yomi and kun’yomi readings for 下 I don’t see へ listed as a possible reading and I don’t understand why. Can someone help me please?
The reading for 下手 is a special kind of reading exclusively for this pair of kanji, which is called a jukujikun reading. The reading of へた is assigned to the pair, not to either kanji individually.
It’s the same thing going on in 今日 (きょう) and 大人 (おとな). These words existed in Japanese before kanji came into the picture, and then the full word got assigned to a set of kanji, so you cannot assign any given part of the reading to either kanji specifically.
This is different from onyomi, where each kanji has its own associated readings that come from Chinese, and from kunyomi, where a native Japanese word was assigned to just one kanji on its own.
Thanks for the info. Are these types of words very common?
Depends what you mean. I don’t think they make up a huge percentage of all words, but there are some very common words that are jukujikun.
We already had examples of 3, but some common words that are jukujikun include:
昨日 きのう yesterday
明日 あした tomorrow
今朝 けさ this morning
田舎 いなか countryside
果物 くだもの fruit
お土産 おみやげ souvenir
相撲 すもう sumo
But those are just ones that I think many beginners would be familiar with the words themselves.
The Japanese Wikipedia article for jukujikun has many more examples.
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