Thank you for providing numerous examples to illustrate your point. I believe that OP will find them useful. However, I’d like to implore you to read my entire post and pay attention to my choice of words before jumping to conclusions on my position.
I said it was ‘typical’. In other words, it’s something that works for most kanji, or at least many kanji. I then said
And offered further elaboration, such as
Which are exactly the sort of examples you raised in your post. I did not dismiss them outright, and in fact made sure to mention them so OP wouldn’t have the wrong impression. Now then, in order to respond to some of your specific claims, I’ll need to see your definition of ‘jukugo’, which is this:
With that, I’ll respond to this:
It is true that compound words can be created without stringing kanji together. I do not, however, see why this makes my rule of thumb dangerous. It has served me extremely well when watching anime, and it’s even more useful when reading newspapers, where technical terms that have their roots in Sino-Japanese vocabulary are exceedingly common. It works very well, but it is not – I emphasise this again – universal, and that is not what I claimed. Also…
The reason you’re talking about ‘actual jukugo’ and seeing all these contradictions is because you haven’t accounted for the fact that there are in fact two definitions of the word ‘jukugo’, which is frequently translated by the word ‘idiom’. In particular, 大辞林 says this:
In other words, jukugo are
- Words that are made up of two or more words i.e. ‘compound words’
- Words that are made up of two or more kanji i.e. ‘kanji compounds’.
Jukugo are both of these. For that matter, that’s exactly what thegooseking’s post was getting at. You’re talking about ‘compound-word jukugo’ in your examples. My general rule applies to ‘kanji-compound jukugo’. In fact, I specifically said this:
Which is in the very section you quoted me on. In other words, the examples you raised do not contradict what I intuitively proposed based on experience, since I at least subconsciously limited myself to ‘kanji compounds’ from the very beginning. However, if my very commonly useable general rule is to be applied to all compounds that contain nothing but kanji (i.e. compounds like 人々 and 途中, but not phrases like 世の中), then they’re exceptions which will have to be learnt, well… as exceptions.
Speaking of 世の中,
I didn’t say that anything of this sort would involve an on’yomi. For that matter, the way my general rule was written suggests that kun’yomi should be used for this phrase. Also, I’m not entirely certain that this should be considered a compound word, because 世 read as よ can be used as a standalone word. Some examples from the Wisdom English-Japanese Dictionary:
the rough dealings of the world 【人生のさまざまな困難】the hardships of life.
benefit the world [the society].
That’s the way of the world. 【人生とはそういうものだ】That [Such] is life.
What would parents in general say?
…and it’s pretty clear that 世の中’s meaning is easily deduced from its constituents. In other words, this matches what I said:
Obviously, there are exceptions, like 宅 and 雑, which are almost always read with their on’yomi even when they’re alone, but I never claimed my rule was universal.
As a Chinese speaker, perhaps I have an easier time telling which jukugo are kanji compounds, because I’ll often have already encountered them in Mandarin. I’ve also encountered jukugo that don’t exist in Mandarin, but which are meant to be read with on’yomi and clearly function as kanji compounds, like 投与, which means ‘the act of giving a patient medicine’ or ‘the act of giving by throwing i.e. throwing something to someone’. The second definition can be deduced from the kanji meanings, but neither kanji functions as a word on its own, particularly with its on’yomi, and the first definition is clearly a special use case that cannot be deduced from the kanji alone. This is thus, as I said, an example of a case in which
and ends up being read with an on’yomi. Could it have been read with a kun’yomi? Sure. なげあたえ, for example, since okurigana (which are the ‘additional hiragana’ you mentioned) and their usage are not subject to strict rules (e.g. both 現われる and 現れる are acceptable ways of writing あらわれる using the kanji 現). However, the reason that reading doesn’t exist, at least to my knowledge, is undoubtedly the fact that Japanese usage just never swung that way. For that matter, a possible reason for which 投与 exists as a word for ‘giving medicine’ is the fact that 投薬 exists in both Japanese and Chinese, meaning that there was another established word with a similar morphology and sound. That might have encouraged the development of such a meaning. In any case, I’m not suggesting we invent a general rule that ignores Japanese usage – usage is king, after all – and my background doesn’t change the fact that this ‘kanji compound => on’yomi’ pattern exists – it just makes me more sensitive to it, and perhaps slightly more likely to subscribe to the idea that it’s prevalent due to confirmation bias. That doesn’t mean I think it’s true in all cases, and I hope I’ve convinced you that I’m well aware of the exceptions.
In summary, once again, please take a look at exactly what was said and implied by another person’s words before assuming what he really meant.
Anyhow, the one thing I do agree with
Yes, one has to make the effort to remember readings for individual words. Also,
It’s true that relying ‘too much’ on a general rule is potentially harmful. However, having a ‘general’ rule, while being fully aware of the fact that it has exceptions, like almost every rule in the universe, allows one to structure one’s learning and more rapidly acquire knowledge by using patterns to facilitate memorisation. That way, provided one has already acquired common readings of a given kanji, one can simply retain what sort of pattern a new phrase fits instead of desperately straining to memorise the word individually, adding yet another word to an impossibly long mental vocabulary list. In other words, one can simply remember that something is an ‘on’yomi compound’, a ‘kun’yomi compound’, or, if necessary, as a ‘jukugo reading compound’, which would be the case in which a phrase or compound word has a reading that cannot be deduced from any of its constituent parts. (I think reading 流石 as さすが is an example of this.) With such knowledge, one would be able to reduce the effort required for learning since memories of known readings would suffice for learning most new words, allowing one to build on past knowledge instead of treating each and every word as an individual piece of information. As such, I’d like to register the fact that I vehemently disagree with the idea that general rules create ‘bad habits’. OP wanted to know if there was a general rule. I proposed one that works in a large number of cases, which should allow OP to learn faster and with greater ease. I made it clear that this rule is not universal, and never will be. If anyone who read my post chooses to refuse to look out for exceptions – which I clearly stated exist – and to ignore my advice and language use (e.g. ‘typical’, ‘not universal’), and ultimately goes on to form bad habits, that’s entirely on them. I will not take responsibility for the harm caused by someone else’s comprehension mistakes, especially when I feel I’ve been clear enough. The good habit that having a general rule allows one to build is twofold: one learns to look for patterns, which facilitates learning, and to look out for exceptions, heightening one’s attention – and thus one’s retention – when learning new readings. This, however, presupposes an understanding of the word ‘general’, and of the nature of a ‘rule’, which is that it is rarely without exceptions.
A final point: it seems you’re fairly advanced in Japanese despite being at level 9 of 60. Perhaps you’re only on WK to learn kanji in particular, and you already have a solid grammatical foundation, or you’re one of those people who has reset from level 60 (hats off if that’s the case, honestly). As such, I think you’d be able to appreciate this: my WK level does not reflect, in any way, my actual Japanese proficiency, and the pseudo-‘golden rule’ I proposed is based on my experience so far. I’m only here for the forums and discussions. I don’t use the SRS, and never will, both because I speak Chinese and because I have a longstanding dislike of flashcards and anything that resembles them. My country’s Chinese syllabus means I probably learnt anything between 2500 and 3000 kanji, not counting what I’ve learnt since leaving high school at the age of 18, and not counting the fact that I know multiple character sets because of calligraphy knowledge and the fact that China’s simplification and Japan’s simplification of traditional kanji took place independently. I can frequently guess kanji on’yomi correctly because I’ve noticed patterns linking Mandarin and standard Japanese pronunciation, just as I’m able to convert traditional/Japanese Shinjitai characters into Simplified Chinese because of calligraphy simplification knowledge. For every single language I’ve learnt (I’ve studied 6 of them seriously, and I’m fully fluent (i.e. capable of conversing, writing essays with proverbs and idioms, reading newspapers and literature, and listening to TV programmes) in 3. Japanese will be the next one in which I reach fluency), all I’ve ever done is create expansive general rules that work across the entire language, all the while looking out for exceptions. I even create general rules for individual words that have numerous nuances by looking for commonalities between those nuances (cf. かける, which has anything between 15 and 25 definitions, all of which express an idea of attachment or contact). If general rules were so dangerous, then my unfortunate habit of creating these monsters that spawn even more bad habits should have killed my proficiency in every language I’ve learnt so far, and yet here I am. I don’t see why anyone should be deprived of a tool that has done nothing but make my life easier and my language learning faster, particularly when OP personally and specifically asked for a ‘golden rule’. Just as the application of a mathematical theorem requires knowledge of all its application conditions and hypotheses, so too does applying a ‘rule of thumb’ require knowledge of its limits, particularly when they were highlighted by the one who proposed it.