Is there any rules on twisted reading in a vocaburary?

First, to make things clear, I am not talking about reading of Kanji like 人(ひと, にん or じん) or 月(がつ, げつ or つき) All theese readings is in the list of On’yomi or Kun’yomi when you check the Kanji page of and . There may be some rules or pattern behind, and I see there were already discussion on that, but they are specific for each of these Kanji.

What I would like to ask is I found sometimes the reading of the Kanji is twisted to add Dakuten. For example, pronounciation of 国 in 四国, 米国, 外国, 国王 or 全国 are all こく , but that in 中国 and 天国 is ごく. If you take a look at the Kanji page of 国, the reading of ごく is not in the list. So it seems it is some rule behind to twist the reading こく to ごく. I see that is also happening on 中 (from ちゅう to じゅう) and 大 (from たい to だい) as well. I keep missing the review on these vocabs and it would be great if there are some rules for these twists. So, are there any rules behind these twists? And if yes, is there a term for this twist (for further google search)?


It’s called rendaku. Random article from tofugu on the topic: Rendaku: Why Hito-Bito isn't Hito-Hito


Definite rules? no
But after a while you get a feel for it
This is kalled Rendaku btw, and Tofugu has an article on it

The tl;dr is that if a word is hard to pronounce without the rendaku, it will usually rendaku, except in some cases.


There is this script you might find interesting. It even tells when the rules are broken.


I think this is good advice, I remember also thinking how in the world could you learn all of this, but after enough exposure you’ll just start thinking automatically “that doesn’t sound right” when you come across Rendaku and most likely you’ll be right.


What an authoritative set of replies. Bravo everyone!


Hey there!

So the main idea behind rendaku or sequential voicing is that following these rules makes pronunciation way more comfortable and natural. After some time rendaku will become something pretty natural for you, as this is a phenomena occurring in several words.

The main thing you want to understand is that kun’yomi readings generally rendaku if it is possible. Let’s look at an example below:

出口でぐち, meaning exit. As you are using the kun’yomi readings, rendaku appears on くち

Generally when you see some kanji related to body parts such as: 手,口,声, etc. or when a kanji is repeated just like in 人々,近々, etc. you should definitely look out for rendaku, because in these cases you mostly use the kun’yomi readings. Some of them do rendaku usually (口 almost in every word), some just really rarely (for example 手 almost never rendaku, there is only one vocab here in WaniKani where 手 does rendaku).

There are some exceptions of course, if you aren’t scared of some linguistics, then you should look up things like Lyman’s law, which makes 次々つぎつぎ and not つぎづぎ, as つぎ has a dakuten. So when the word already has a dakuten, there is already a voiced consonant, and rendaku does not apply.

To sum up, there are some rules out there, and it is actually useful to look these up and just spend an hour or so to learn about it, but in the end, all you can just do is make and educated guess on whether a word does rendaku or not. Personally saying, it actually helped me a lot, whenever I learn a new vocab, I try to guess the reading, and I’d say 2 out of 3 times, I am actually able to predict rendaku, which is fun!

I hope this helped and wishing you tons of luck to get through all those hard vocab!


One small thing that’s helped me before: Japanese speakers generally find successive voiced consonants uncomfortable. So if you see a junction between kanji next to a voiced syllable, it’s less likely to have rendaku. There are a ton of exceptions but when it helps, it helps.

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