Same kunyomi, different kanji. (同訓異字)

Well… it was kinda suggested in a different thread that this might be an interesting topic to discuss…

As I’m sure a lot of you have noticed, there are a bunch of words that have the same kunyomi, sort of similar meaning, but different kanji.

As a few examples , , and their buddies all are related to looking, いた, いた, いた all have to do with damage or hurt and , , all have to do with listening or hearing.

I remember discussing this with a Japanese chat buddy and she dug up a link to this page (in Japanese). The section related to this particular phenomenon is (b)倭訓にて誦すれば字義混同す.

Basically. It explains that:


i.e. ancient Japan had a pretty small vocabulary and for that reason there were a lot of words that had the same kunyomi (or wakun as they call it here) but many different kanji. And as a result we wound up with these 同訓異字 (lit. same kun, different character).


also here with examples :


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