Kanji reading "exceptions" in native japanese words

Hi, I think all of us are frustrated by reading “exceptions”…
When a new word is available, I always try to guess its reading, and while I am correct most of the times, there are a lot of cases where “exceptions” arise. For example it is a kun-yomi compound instead of on-yomi one, or one of the two kanji is read kun-yomi instead of on-yomi.
But ok, I accepted this long time ago…

I opened this topic to focus on the “native” japanese words, so no on-yomi involved, only kun-yomi read kanji and okurigana…there are a lot of “stupid” arbitrary “exceptions”.
For example 話 is read はなし (tale).
Why it is not written 話し, since the correspondent verb is 話す (はなす) ???
Most of the “native” japanese words behave like this, with the noun derived from the verb sharing the same “root”, with the same kanji and the same reading, while the kana adds the “flavour” to make it a verb or a noun. This is simply logical, japanese government decides which kanji are “standard” and which are not, so why it cannot say:
“Ok, from now 話 is written 話し”.

Another good example is 受付, it “should” be written 受け付け…

Jokes aside, is there a reason for this?
Maybe a hystorical reason?

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With はなし, I believe the idea is to keep the different meanings separate.

話 is typically a story.

話し can also be used as a noun, but it is typically the act of talking generally.


You can write 受け付け by the way (no idea if it’s common though). I’d guess that at least some of the time it comes from squeezing things onto signs.


In the BCCWJ, 受付 gets 4126 results. 受け付け gets 1960.

That means both are common, but 受付 is more so.


Thank you, I didn’t know that…

Sometimes I get frustrated with words that are difficult to remember, but honestly I don’t think there’s much value in viewing things so negatively and calling them “arbitrary exceptions”. When it comes down to it, words are words. You just have to remember them, and if they’re weird, then use that weirdness to help you remember them. All languages have exceptions to patterns and weird words that seem strange to speakers of other languages. I mean, just look at English spelling and phonetics… Japanese isn’t going to change because we dislike how certain words are spelled, so I think it’s a lot more fun to enjoy the quirks of the language and try to view things positively.

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Japanese is just very lenient with what goes “inside the kanji” and what ends up as okurigana. That’s very visible too in names (like 覚 being read さとる). I just see it as another example of kanji being characters that don’t have one fixed single reading.

Also, in a lot of cases (as pointed out) you can write both ways (with one obviously being more common than the other). Just don’t worry too much about it and read a lot. You’ll pick up the common spellings of things.


Yes, of course I understand what you are saying, still I was wondering why not to make some stable standards in kanji+okurigana readings.
Maybe someone tried or proposed in the past, or maybe not…

I guess when you said “joking aside” you were partially including the comment about the government.

The jouyou list just standardizes what people are taught in school. Lots of things on WK are non-jouyou readings or kanji, and they still exist. I suppose it would have a direct impact on the way news organizations write and what appears in government documents, but that’s about it.

Manga, books, and everything else would carry on as before.

Afaik Kanji was adapted as a writing system to Japanese which was only a spoken language long long time ago. Kanjis were adapted as a written representation of native Japanese words that Japanese people already had.

As it has already been said in this thread, 話 and 話し mean two different things and the okurigana is also needed for conjugations. Its a necessary part of the language.

This is one of the core difficulties of Japanese: differently from most other languages where you can at least guess how a word sounds by just seeing it written (more strictly in languages like Italian, and with a few more options to choose from in English), in Japanese you essentially have to know the word beforehand (or in the best case you have then choice between several different sounds). That’s why even Japanese people can’t comfortably read names on a map they don’t know, some rare items on a food menu, some people’s names, etc.

It’s all unecesserarily complicated if you ask me, but we love Japanese so we just stick with it.

This seems worth a reading, when I’ll have some time.
I am italian by the way, Italian is considered one of the most easy language to read :slight_smile:

That’s interesting, but also pretty confusing/overwhelming.


I have to say I find that even with British place names (and people’s names) too!

Examples: Norwich (pronounced Norritch), Slough (noone actually knows how to pronounce it), Featherstone-Leigh (pronounced Fanshaw). OK, the last one is uncommon, but in English we have both place and people names from at least four different languages, five or six if you count archaic ones: Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, several kinds of Gaelic, Celtic, then “English” which is mostly a blend of Anglo-Saxon with French, but also we have words and names that came both directly from Latin and via Middle French … so in some ways not dissimilar to the Kan/To/Yo readings(!).

Not to mention Welsh assimilated Norman language in different places, e.g. the Welsh word for church looks like the French one, and ours doesn’t :o)

Still, only “ough” has ten different readings. Most di/triphthongs only have one or two.

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Linguistically, place names are the oldest and most conservative part of any language! That’s how researchers were able to follow the Gaelic migration from around Germany to the British Isles, and the Germanic migration from eastern Europe to those same British Isles. :smiley:

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What the heck!! Those crazy Brits!



I can actually (mis)pronounce that, and I’ve been there!

The actual station has a much shorter sign (“Llanfair PG”), alas. However outside the station, is a full-length version. Used to have a photo but I think it was on my deceased SD card.

If you live in the UK (or holiday here) and haven’t visited Snowdonia, I strongly recommend it. Also Bodnant Garden for a stroll around.