Good morning all!
I was wondering for a while if the fact that there are so many homophones in Japanese (as we all get to realize when starting to learn the language) is a problem for native speakers in oral communication.
For example the fact that the utterance ‘go’ has many meanings is not a problem in itself, but when you hear a sentence with
午後五時です(the first three are go go go), will a native speaker figure this out without confusion?


Not only would natives have no trouble understanding 午後五時です, it is probably spoken regularly by plenty of them. It’s a normal, common thing to say.

By the way, the pitch accent for this in standard Japanese would be GOgoGojidesu, so it’s not just 3 go’s that sound exactly the same.

Strictly speaking this doesn’t actually have any homophones, because 午後 and 五時 are separate words and don’t sound the same.


I tested the IME with this and interestingly the current time comes only third in the proposed transcriptions, after two rather obscure guesses:
午後誤字です (a typo in the afternoon?)
午後護持です (afternoon protection?)
午後五時です (it’s 5 pm)
EDIT: Hey, WK offers me a birthday cake!


Most people probably wouldn’t write 五 with kanji, so that’s probably contributing, but did you convert it all in one long stretch? That does often give IMEs issues.

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I typed ごごごじです in one stretch.

If I type ごごごじです+Space, it’s different:
The IME marks the first ごご with a double underline and asks me to choose for this one. I then can go on with ‘cursor right’ to the second part.

(Unfortunately I can’t do a screenshot as the IME selection vanishes when I click to take the screenshot.)

Thanks for your insights!
On a related note, have you ever come across a logical sentence where the same phoneme is used more than 3 times in sequence?

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… 季も桃?

How about this one?

Of course this is an artificial example :joy_cat:

He also gives a bit of an explanation in this one:


Did you mean something like 李も桃も桃のうち?
(Roughly: sumomo and momo are both classified as momo)

That’s an established tongue twister


There are definitely some overlaps, like how there are jokes about きせいちゅう, which matches both 寄生虫 (parasite) and 帰省中 (in the process of returning to one’s hometown), which apparently have the same pitch accent pattern. (The OJAD will disagree with me, but I dug through a few NHK videos and heard exactly the same intonation pattern.) That means a sentence like 課長はきせいちゅうです。could be either an insult or (more likely) a way of saying your section manager is heading home on his day off. However, generally, context helps. It’s the same thing in Mandarin: there are countless words with exactly the same sounds and tones, but context tells us whatever we need. And one can always ask for clarification anyway.


Haha, this is brilliant! Thank you

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I’ve noticed that IMEs don’t tend to expect you to type things like 五時 in full kanji form. I typically see them typed as 5時 for example, which converts very quickly from 5じ. As leebo mentioned it can also help to convert word-by-word, as that gives you more control over the kanji selection from the IME. If you type ごじ by itself, you get 五時 after a few options, and once you convert it that way once the IME will often move it higher up in the list.

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