How do Japanese People know when to read which exceptions of Kanji-Pronunciations?

Hey, so, I don’t understand how Japanese People can determine which Pronunciation to use when reading out loud. For example:

上る is read as のぼる, while 上げる is read as あげる. If Japanese-speaking People would read that out loud, do they have to look at the Okurigana and then determine which word it is and what kind of exceptional reading the Kanji has?

Or am I just overthinking this and once you get fluent enough, you just immediately know? (I’m new by the way, so sorry if this is a dumb question)

Thank you very much :smiley:


Yes, that’s basically how it works. Sometimes you even get two readings (with different meanings) for the same okurigana, so you have to understand which one to use in the given context.
Here is an example:開く

Of course, once you get fluent enough, you have learned a bunch of these and after a while it becomes intuitive to use the correct reading.


Yes, just like you probably have no trouble determining which way you would say ‘read’ in these two sentences:

Yesterday, I read a book.
Today, I will read a book.

At some point it really is just instinctual. I really doubt most literate Japanese people are consciously having to determine this when reading.


It also helps that native learners of a language usually learn how to speak first before reading, which is sort of the opposite order most second-language learners usually do it. Japanese speakers would already know that the word for “climb” is のぼる, so all they have left to learn is what kanji that word happens to be represented in in writing. It’s kind of like how lots of English speakers may have no trouble saying certain words like “Rotisserie” or “Emotion” or “Mississippi” out loud and knowing what they mean, but have trouble writing them because of all the weird ways we spell things specifically in our writing system.


Firstly, these aren’t really considered exceptional readings. These are both extremely common words and Japanese kids have to do tons of drills for kanji, and they would learn 上 in first grade.

Second, when you look at a sentence you always see more than one character at a time. So there’s really no reason to think that anyone would just look at the first character alone, unless they were intentionally covering the rest of the word up.


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