Same reading with different spelling?!

Hey guys,
I was wondering why is Wanikani doing this:
とおす: many words are written like this, the long vowels are somewhat arbitrarily written this way, instead of like this: とうす. An お instead of an う. Why?

Because for example this one いもうと is written with an う, as I would expect.
And the pronunciation is the same as いもおと, but it’s not written like that.

I don’t’ really know when which word constitutes which. Help! :slight_smile:


It’s not arbitrary.

Just like 大きい is おおきい not おうきい. Some words are certain exceptions that have historical origins. Though I will say ~う is a lot more common, so just remember the words that are ~お by themselves. There’s not much.


It’s not up to WaniKani. Japanese has spellings that are considered correct or incorrect, just like any language. As noted by lopicake, the history of the word is what determines how it’s spelled today, regardless of how you could write it differently and end up with an identical pronunciation.


Indeed. A quick rule of thumb is:

On’yomi: Always(?) ぉう
[Provided it is actually a long お and not two separate お sounds separated bya a hiatus, as when syllable ending in ぉ is followed by another syllable beginning with お, as in
じょおう, おん, おう, etc.]

Kun’yomi: Usually ぉお, but you may also see おう.

The long ō was spelled in a large variety of ways up until the early/mid 1900’s, I believe, when a new spelling reform was put in place. Will see if I can find a link.


The variable spellings are rooted in history of the Japanese language and spelling reforms. It’s nothing to do with Wanikani.

It’s not all that different from how K, C or Q can have the same pronunciation in English, but it’s still King/Queen and not Qing/Kueen.


Thanks a lot for this rule of thumb!
I’ll test it. :slight_smile:

The interesting thing is that I don’t see it matters that much how it is spelled because it’s
almost always spelled in Kanji anyways… in real life.
But here it does matter, otherwise you won’t get the reviews right!

Thanks a lot guys! This has helped me a lot!

If you don’t know how to spell it properly in kana, you won’t be able to produce the kanji with your IME. :slight_smile:


Additionally, the words are indeed written in kana quite often in real life for various reasons. Well, depending on the word. If it’s a very difficult word that only university students need to know, then it probably only will get written in kanji in practice.

But if it’s a word that younger students need to know, they will write it in kana all the way up until they learn the kanji for it (And their teachers will write it in kana on the blackboard as well). Even for some common words that can be a long time.

That’s without getting into writing things in kana for just style reasons.


Ah ok, I understand now. That closes the loop! LOL
Thanks a lot you guys!!

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