~え to ~あ sound change in kun'yomi compounds

Does anyone know anything about this phenomenon? It’s relatively common for a single word using kun’yomi reading to end in an ~え sound, but when in a compound (still kun’yomi) it becomes an ~あ sound. Here are two examples I just saw when reading:

  • 爪先 (つまさき) even though 爪 by itself is つめ.
  • 胸倉 (むなぐら) even though 胸 by itself is むね.

I know I’ve seen other examples of this, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. Does anyone know anything about this or if there’s a term for it? I’m not really sure how I’d phrase this question for a google search.

6 Likes

I thought of 風車 (かざぐるま pinwheel) when I read the title. Yeah, not sure of a name for it.

Stack Exchange might know.

2 Likes

Compounds that start with 雨 is what popped in my head when I saw the title.

2 Likes

Yeah, I thought of that one after posting too.

Same for 風向き (かざむき)
Also in the special kanji derived from other word topic there is plenty of example of 目 pronounced as ま (窓=目戸=まど, 瞬く=目叩く=またたく,瞼=目蓋=まぶた), so I wonder if there was some kind of sound change from あ to え long ago, and the あ form only survived in a few expressions.

2 Likes

Reddit knows.

from another hand, those words could have verb form, and there are rules for such sound change, though あ usually is for negation, but it can be that it was used in the past for conjugation as well.

Thanks for the link. I don’t really see a connection to verb conjugation with these words, but I guess you’re saying maybe verb conjugation originated in a similar way?

the idea is that conjugations (in the past) are subjected for some phonetic change. and since the topic is for kun’yomi, it is not that reading is changed - it is that kanji were adopted to represent existing words.
so it is on the contrary: what was the reason for applying same kanji to words with different pronunciation of its parts? but, none is able to answer this now.

Yeah, I’m familiar with how kanji came to be used in Japanese. I’m not sure it’s all that mysterious that they used 風 in words that have かぜ and words that have かざ. The important thing for matching up with Japanese words was representing the meaning and the meaning doesn’t change with the change in pronunciation.

It’s possible I’m misunderstanding your post though.

Reddit post has link to PDF, there is section 4.13 (and overall section 4), which should explain this change after conjugation better.

should admit, it is hard to explain things clearly having fever, really. :frowning:

I thought we were now talking about how kanji were matched with Japanese words, not verb conjugation…

Take care.

probably, the confusion is because of it’s me using “conjugation” instead of “compounding”, as it implies changes to some degree

(さけ) related words came to mind. 酒場(さかば), さかずき, 居酒屋(いざかや).

I noticed this trend for -e finishing nouns in compounds turning to -a, for some reason I’d always assumed the -a version was somehow more archaic, not sure how I got that idea, somehow that’s the impression I got. :thinking: The reddit thread mentions a similar thing about Old Japanese

1 Like

Is 船酔い also one? Or is ふな just a normal reading of 船?

1 Like

I think it applies. There’s also 船便(ふなびん)

1 Like

more like, there was in the distant past a “root word” with reading “ふな”, and its noun form “ふない” which is “ふね” now, and in some words, it is still “ふな”.
(that’s why it feels like some kind of “conjugation”.)

yeah, it is also in PDF paper under 4.9.b.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.