So which is it damn it

Been learning for a month, trying to reading sentences, but could not progress because of kanji in them.

しごとのと中で、小まめに小休止をとってエクササイズをするようにしています。

I’m trying to take little breaks and exercise frequently during work.

As with many sentences that I have read, the word 中 has a reading チュウ、なが、うち、あたる、ちゅう、じゅう。They are all listed as common in the dictionary and worse, they seem to have the same meaning.

So what is the golden rule to adhere or practice or spot to recognize which is the one that is used for the sentence?

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No simple golden rule I’m afraid, basically you need more grammar and vocabulary knowledge… :sweat_smile:

In this case it’s even harder because of WK questionable way of putting in hiragana kanji not learned yet, even in the same word. It’s supposed to be 仕事の途中で. Now it’s fairly easy to lookup the word 途中 in a dictionary. (It’s also in WK vocab, level 27)

The third example sentence is always the hardest btw. As a beginner I wouldn’t recommend to get too stuck on them.

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I don’t have all the rules but I’ll start it off.
Here’s some to memorize:

Names are usually Naka, 中村ら-なかむら
I know a few good Nakamura-sans out there

In the middle of something is your ちゅう
(I’m still chewing lol)
Still studying Japanese 、
まだ日本語を勉強中です
まだにほんごをべんきょうちゅうです

途中 is probably made as you said, but I think most people think of it as its own word than the grammar point noun中, like 勉強中.

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To make it clear: How a kanji is pronounced depends solely on what word it is in. E. g.

生きる - いきる
生 - なま
生える - はえる
生物 - せいぶつ
生む - うむ

There is no rule here, you just have to know what reading is correct for which word (with some general rules about when to use on’yomi and when to use kun’yomi - but those don’t help you if there’s more than one reading of either kind). Admittedly, 生 is kind of the “worst offender”.

In the case of 中, there is only one on reading (chuu) and in most jukugo words (words that consist of multiple kanji without additional hiragana) that one is used, e. g. in chuuou, nenjuu (same reading actually, just with the leading consonant being softened for easier pronounciation - it’s called rendaku), chuugakkou or chuunibyou. When a kanji stands alone as its own word, you usually need a kun reading - which one depends on the word. Same goes for all verbs (aside from -suru verbs) and -i adjectives, they pretty much exclusively use kun readings as far as I am aware. But for knowing which reading to use, you just have to know the word (or look it up in a dictionary with multiradical search, like jisho.org).

Oh, and “uchi” meaning “inside” can be written as 中 but is more commonly written as 内 so when you need a kun reading for it, it’ll usually be “naka”.

(Can you tell at which point I got sick of switching my IME on and off? And can you tell that my bloody h key is broken?)

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Wouldn’t the easiest “rule” to follow be the one that if it’s next to another kanji it’s probably ちゅう and if it’s next to a kana or exists as the stand alone word it’s なか?

Edit: and if it happens to be じゅう just consider it as an exception where it “was” ちゅう but じゅう is easier to say for that word

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Yeah, pretty much - the “uchi” and “ata . ru” readings given on jisho.org are both used exclusively in words that are more commonly written with different kanji, anyway.

The biggest exception is names, as @Nemuitanuki has pointed out. Those use kun readings fairly often even when they look like a jukugo word.

(And there is of course some fuzziness of what even counts as a word - is 3月から one word or two?)

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Totally, and I think that readings of names is something that one shouldn’t be too worried about since it’s basically just something you will learn through time by encountering more and more of them

Yes, I just think that it’s important to be aware of the limits of your rule of thumbs.

(Also, reading names is guesswork anyway.)

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The most typical ‘golden rule’ is that if a kanji represents a single concept in conjunction with other kanji (i.e. in a kanji compound), then it should be read with an on’yomi. If it’s able to stand on its own, you use a kun’yomi. This rule isn’t universal though, and the main way you’ll be able to differentiate readings is through experience, especially since there are often multiple kun’yomi and on’yomi for a single kanji. Also, there are pure kun’yomi kanji compounds as well. More importantly though, you can’t really apply this ‘golden rule’ to sentences like the one you cited, because…

of things like this^. I couldn’t understand 「のと中」until I realised it might be a compound, especially after reading the translation. What you normally see in written Japanese is compounds that are written purely in kanji, or purely in kana. This sort of mix is fairly rare, particularly since kanji-kana boundaries tend to serve as word separation markers that facilitate reading. You shouldn’t worry about it too much, especially when reading WK example sentences, which don’t follow the natural rules. It’ll get easier with experience, especially because you’ll start to realise that certain structures don’t make sense with particular readings and eliminate those readings. E.g. here, のと中 couldn’t have worked with なか because that would normally be used after a verb or a の.

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Heh, I was gonna bring that up when you mentioned 生 - to give an example that threw me during my travels in Japan, 羽生 is はにゅう. :slightly_smiling_face:

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While this sentence is obviously a headache for a beginner (and it isn’t intended to be aimed at beginners, since it’s the third sentence), Japanese people would not have any issue correctly reading and interpreting しごとのと中. They likely wrote and read sentences that looked very similar all throughout the years they were learning kanji. So it does feel weird to us, and you don’t encounter it in published works often, but it doesn’t feel particularly alien to a Japanese person. Still, that’s not necessarily a reason to leave these kinds of sentences like this, though, in and of itself.

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That’s actually a somewhat dangerous rule-of-thumb because it is entirely possible to create compound words by just stringing non-jukugo words together, usually with something like の in between but it’s not always necessary.

It’s important to distinguish between jukugo words, which consist of two or more kanji and no kana and are for the most part Chinese loanwords, and phrases like “世の中” which is a compound (albeit not a closed compound), does consist of multiple kanji, but is not a jukugo word and does not use any on readings.

And even with actual jukugo words, it is not nearly guaranteed that they will use on readings. Some low-level exceptions are 人々, 早口 or 月見.

This is not the first time we’ve gone through this whole mess, see also: How to tell if a Jukugo word uses kun'yomi instead of on'yomi? - #8 by thegooseking

It’s important to keep in mind that any rule of thumb on when to use which reading is only a rule of thumb, it cannot replace actual effort to memorize individual words and if you rely too much on your rule of thumb, it’ll only mean you’re building up a bad habit which you’ll need to unlearn.

That said, Wanikani does teach you what reading(s) to use for any given word which makes the whole thing easier than it sounds (even if it still is really annoying at times).

On WaniKani they’ll teach you the kanji, but once you Guru the kanji it’ll give you some vocab words that contain it. In most cases one of those vocab words will be the kanji by itself. (For instance, the main reading of the kanji 中 is ちゅう. The reading of the vocab term 中 is なか. They’re different items in SRS.) It teaches you ちゅう for the kanji because that’s the reading you’ll use the most in compound/jukugo words, like 水中、中央、or 中止. But yeah, the way that kanji work in sentences and are read/compounded with others is completely foreign and we have no English equivalent. It’ll definitely take time to get used to how that works. Kanji are not words, words are made up of kanji. When you see a kanji by itself in the wild, it’s referring to the vocab version of it.

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Or it is any of those 59 other readings: 羽生 #name - Jisho.org

If you need me, I’ll be crying behind my sofa.

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this is my very first post in the community and i want to thank all of you who replied.

どもありがとう

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Well, now they’re just making them up.

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A good rule of thumb for whether it’s read as ちゅう or じゅう in Jukugo is also to determine whether the main thing is meant as something happening once in a given timeframe/location or throughout the whole thing.

For example, in 年中 (ねんじゅう, throughout the year) or in 世界中 (せかいじゅう, throughout the world) it’s read as じゅう and the thing you’re talking about isn’t just a single occurrence. On the other hand, a word like 地中 (ちちゅう, underground) might only refer to a single thing that’s underground somewhere, and not necessarily to something that can be found whenever you dig a hole in the ground

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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:

① 二つ以上の単語が結合してできた語。合成語。複合語。「山鳩」「酒樽」「草分け」の類。
② 二つ以上の漢字の結合してできた語。「登山」「思想」の類。熟字。成語。

In other words, jukugo are

  1. Words that are made up of two or more words i.e. ‘compound words’
  2. 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:

世の
▸ 世の荒波
the rough dealings of the world 【人生のさまざまな困難】the hardships of life.
▸ 世のためになる
benefit the world [the society].
▸ それが世の常というものだ
That’s the way of the world. 【人生とはそういうものだ】That [Such] is life.
▸ 世の⦅世間一般の⦆親たちは何と言うだろう
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.

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Hey, no need to get angry.

It’s true that you did say the “golden rule” is limited but I personally still found your phrasing somewhat ambiguous and wanted to clarify. Not to disagree entirely, just to clarify. We seem to be by and large in the same boat, but personally I feel like the usefulness of this “golden rule” is often vastly overstated and I personally have had something of a rude awakening with it.

Thank you for elaborating on the meaning of “jukugo”, I was not aware of its ambiguity and have never really seen it used to refer to just any kind of compound. I am here to learn and I learnt something today.

I wouldn’t say my Japanese is “fairly advanced” but I have an interest in linguistics and the language’s history, so I have a bit of a different perspective from people who “only” want to be able to be fluent.

So please don’t take my posts as a personal attack, and there is no need to write a book-length reply. It is bloody obvious that you are not just some rando who started to learn Japanese a week ago and I never wanted to imply you were.

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