Identifying patterns in radical pronunciation?

Obviously the WaniKani system is built around naming radicals, and building mnemonics around these combinations, but I often find that there’s a much more obvious way of remembering due to the actual composition of the kanji.

I don’t have as many examples of this for kanji, though I think some radicals could use synonyms, like how 貝 means “shellfish” but in kanji often represents wealth.

For pronunciations though, I think it would be really helpful to mention how certain radicals have associated pronunciations that will show up a lot in kanji. For instance, the kanji 制 appears in the kanji 製, and both are pronounced せい.

An even more obvious example is 青 being pronounced せい. Of the 8 kanji that this radical appears in, 7 of them (青, 晴, 清, 静, 精, 請, 靖) are pronounced せい, but that’s not mentioned in any of their pronunciation mnemonics. Just a bunch of talk about sabers. Once I figured it out myself, those pronunciations became way easier to remember. Likewise, 4 of the 6 kanji using 分 are pronounced ふん (分, 雰, 粉, 紛). One of these actually does mention the commonality, but none of the others do.

I would love to see these pointed out, rather than having to recognize them myself. I think 攻 has a comment along these lines and it was super helpful for me.


The Keisei Semantic-Phonetic composition script displays this kind of information. The Item Inspector script also displays Keisei information.


Cure Dolly has a video about this. She refers to it as the Sound Sisters system.


I think not mentioning it is a deliberate choice, to make you link the meaning with reading with a mnemonics instead of just saying “this kanji contains 分 so it’s pronounced ふん”

I think one could still explain the meaning from individual radicals and how they work together to form a kanji. I actually really like this part of WaniKani :slight_smile: .

The reason I agree with @Guribot , is because it’s far easier to glance at a kanji, notice how it contains 青 and know its pronunciation, rather than trying to pull its mnemonic from memory and trying to infer its reading for each of them separately. Worth noting that kanji with the reading せい don’t have much to do with “sabres”, so through meaning one would have to backpedal quite a bit to remember how sabres are related and then recall the reading せい.

I’m not sure how people usually do it, but I very heavily rely on phonetics, so if I’m able to read a word or kanji, I’m mostly able to recall its meaning.

I use this for kanji with 反, 相 (and its variations), etc.


WK does sometimes include mentions of phonetic components, but I think explicitly adding the stuff that the Keisei script provides would interfere with the way the mnemonics are taught.

I noticed that similar kanji often have the same reading about halfway through wk. It’s really helpful and I can guess a reading of an unfamiliar kanji quite often. However, I don’t think it’s worth adding the phonetic components into the wk for beginners. It’s just extra information that will be overwhelming. Besides, it works only for some on’yomi readings. You still need a way to memorize kun’yomi and secondary readings.

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As a beginner who started using the Keisei script really early, I think it has actually helped me substantially. It’s not always the most useful at the very beginning of WK because most of the kanji you’re learning are phonetic components in other kanji (so you still just have to memorize them), but even just knowing the information is helpful, I think. I use it pretty heavily when looking up kanji from future levels that I encounter in vocabulary that I’m trying to learn. Personally, I think having an awareness that these patterns exist very early on is a good thing. If the information is too confusing, you can just ignore it and move on.

But my general philosophy with learning kanji (and associated vocab) is to add scripts like Keisei, the rendaku information script, and the pitch info script, then just glance over that information each time I do my lessons and slowly build up an understanding of how those things work. I didn’t even grasp exactly what rendaku was when I installed that script, haha, but now I understand it much better and can identify some patterns in vocab I learn outside of WK.

With the Keisei script, I agree with @alo. If WK were to integrate that information into the core program, they’d probably have to change their mnemonics so that they’re based on the phonetic components and not WK’s current system. Honestly, I think this would be a change for the better, personally, especially for the more complicated kanji consisting of a whole bunch of WK radicals that the program has to provide a really convoluted mnemonic for.


I too can wholeheartedly recommend the Keisei userscript. It’s very compact and informative, showing the phonetic radical followed by a list of Kanji that use it accompanied by their on’yomi readings and whether or not these readings are consistent with the radical. It’s a feature I wish that base WK would have (it doesn’t, but at least userscripts exist to supplement this need!).

My current workflow when learning a new kanji is just to immediately check if it’s possible to predict the reading from the radicals. If yes, then I mostly skip the mnemonic and learn the reading through the radical instead. After a while, you start to get a feel for this, passively improving the retention of past kanji you learned (since you can just look at the radicals).

Do note that this is not applicable to every kanji since some of them either have a disputed origin or weren’t made through phonetic-semantic composition (and you still have to learn through the mnemonics when WK asks for kun’yomi anyway).

That’s a fair point, but I’d still like for WK to be it’s own thing with the Keisei stuff as optional. Although in my case, it really wouldn’t affect me right now since I’m pretty much done with WK until I ever decide to do a refresher run.

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I’ll check out the Keisei script you all mentioned, that sounds useful! And yeah, I think I agree that it would be distracting for the reminders to be woven into the mnemonics. I like how has it as a separate hint.