Native Mispronunciation

There are more than a few words with multiple readings, where the correct reading for the word isn’t necessary obvious until several words later or several sentences later. Additionally there are times when the following word starts with a kanji that could fit in as a compound with the previous word and until after that word, fit in with the sentence so far.

How do natives handle and process that, especially when reading aloud? Obviously there are subtle ques a majority of the time that would hint at the direction the word should be in, but definitely not all the time.

Is there a word for this, like how we have “spoonerisms” in English?

I don’t want to give any good examples, so I’ll give a bad one. 今日 could be きょう、こんじつ、こんにち

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They just adjust and move on. Or they don’t even notice and move on.

Yesterday I saw a guy read 備え as 構え in a stream and he didn’t correct himself, mostly because the ability name still made sense and meant roughly the same thing either way.

And that’s an even more extreme example than you gave.

When words can be read multiple ways, I’d say most natives are aware of those cases and if they’re being careful they might slow down to glance ahead, but it’s not a huge deal to just go back and adjust it.


Do you have any examples where the reading of a word would be different based on another word several words later? I think it’s usually pretty soon after, like 目の当たり. If you didn’t look ahead at all (or were unlucky and の当たり was on a page break) you’d likely read 目 wrong. But if it’s on the same page and especially same line I think the whole phrase would come into your vision 99% of the time and you’d read it correctly if you know the phrase. That’s why I’m curious for some more severe examples with a larger gap in between the words.


If you had a verb like 避ける, where it could be さける or よける, and the difference is pretty stark in terms of how they’re used, you could have a sentence like with someone speaking off the cuff 避けられなかった and then continuing to describe what they couldn’t avoid. Without furigana and without reading the continuation, you wouldn’t be able to know which it should be.

Sure, it’s a contrived example, but people do talk like that (putting an object later than the verb).


Yeah, I guess with a sentence inversion (I forget what that’s called) it can happen with that word. That’s fair.


We use our peripheral vision to read a few words ahead of the one we’re at:
“I read to my kids.” Could be past or present tense.
“I read to my kids last night.” By the time you saw “read” you were probably reading far enough ahead to see the “last night” which would tell you how to pronounce it. But, even if you mistakenly read it in the present tense, correcting yourself would take practically zero brainpower. Your brain will autocorrect, so you wouldn’t even have to re-read anything.

I’d imagine Japanese people do the same thing.


Persons for whom Japanese is their native language are not processing (reading) the same as we learners are. When we see something like 大学院生 as we are reading we see 4 things (4 Kanji). They see one thing - the word, and are processing it as a single thing without noticing/caring that it is 4 Kanji. The same as how when reading in English I just see and process “English” as one thing. I am not seeing “E” “n” “g” “l” “i” “s” “h”. Granted, the inclusion of a space between words helps with this in English. You will find, should you pick up any Japanese books written for very young children, that many do include a space between words.

As you read more and more you will find that you will do the same thing. At some point vocab/words that you are very familiar with will just become a single thing you automatically process. You will no longer see the parts, just the whole.

From what I recall having looked into this a bit in the past, when it comes to reading silently, we make adjustments without even really being aware of it to the understanding of what we read if something a word or two later changes that.

When it comes to reading something out loud, we are reading faster than we speak and most are seeing a few words ahead of what they are actively speaking.


I imagine it’s just like in other languages. It makes for a good laugh, you correct yourself and all is good. Things like that happen occasionally in German and people joke about it. A classic is Häschen - when you initially read the “sch” as “sch” (pronounce sh) as you’d usually do, but in this case it’s Häs-chen (little bunny).

I just imagine it’s a bigger issue in Japanese. In English there are only a small handful of words with multiple pronunciations, and most of the time the next word is the cue for how it’s pronounced. On top of that, English words are parsed with spaces, so that eliminates that issue.

I can’t imagine making false jukugo happens too often, but whenever I see “usually expressed in kana” words written in kanji, it gets a little screwy.

I know it’s a “well I got tongue tied for a second let’s move on”, but I figured it would have been common enough that it would have its own concept or name in Japanese, like we have spoonerisms and dyslexia.

I read japanese every day and I can’t say I’ve felt this way. Maybe it is but it’s still such a miniscule problem in both languages that I just don’t notice. Usually you’re like looking ahead and grouping stuff in chunks. There also should definitely not be any words that aren’t apparent how they’re read until several sentences later.

I think more than any particular language, just being less experienced in general will cause you to get tripped up more.

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