The quick or short Language Questions Thread (not grammar)

In general I’d say it comes with practice. Family names are, from what I understand, fairly regular in the way they’re pronounced and you’ll either be able to tell what they are from the readings you know (usually kun’yomi, but not always) or learn them as you encounter them. For instance, since you know 田中 and 山田, you also know how to pronounce 中山. And even when a given family name is a mix of kun’yomi and on’yomi, if you encounter it somewhere else it’s probably going to have the exact same reading.

Given names are a slightly different beast, however, but that’s a challenge for Japanese people as well since there’s just not necessarily a way to be sure how someone’s name would be pronounced from the kanji it’s written with, and vice versa. For instance, the name かんじ has 8 different spellings I know of, and to take one of those as an example, 幹二 has three possible readings.

There are probably also more common readings for given names, but from what I understand there’s a lot more variation in them. Though given that introduces uncertainty no matter how fluent your Japanese is, whenever any particular name doesn’t have a reading it has 99% of the time or something, you’ll probably be given furigana - or the name might be introduced without kanji at all.


I’d kind of describe it as like - in the same way you’ll come across new words and have to figure out (or be told by furigana) the reading, and you might have a good guess because you know the kanji and know the kinds of reading it’s likely to have in a word like that, but you could always be wrong because the word might turn out to be an obscure exception…

Names are like that, the patterns are just different so good guesses might be a bit different than for words (e.g. for 山 in a name やま would very likely come to mind first, while for 山 in a compound word you might guess さん first). And every individual’s name is a new word in that sense, because even if most people don’t have unusual readings in their name, surely some out there do.

But the patterns do fill in over time, mostly via names you get to know well in your daily life. I don’t think it’s something to try to study overall, but I do like to put names of characters or celebrities I want to remember in my anki deck to help build some of those connections.

It does take a while to build up though… but it’s certainly useful. A lot of sources aren’t as generous with furigana as you might like. And most books for adults I’ve read either give you the reading once at the beginning of the book and then never again or don’t bother at all and trust you know how the name would probably be read already.


Dunno that Senjogahara is particularly outlandish, though in the real world it’s a place name rather than a family name.

Family names with 藤 as their second character, and only those names, use pure on’yomi. But otherwise, it’s kun’yomi about 90% of the time, and mixed on’, kun’ and sometimes nanori for the rest.


Of course the 〇藤 series is the main culprit of on’yomi surnames. But I’m pretty sure 久保、菊池、阿部 are also pure on-yomi and very common names.
Not saying Kun-yomi names aren’t more common. They definitely are. But there is no such a thing as “only 〇藤 names are pure on’yomi”. Search for it and you’ll find many more.

Pretty sure he means it’s a rule with that one. Other kanji could be pure onyomi in some situations, but not as a rule you can always predict.

EDIT: Or not

I did. :stuck_out_tongue: Well, the first hundred most common, at least.

Aaaand I just realised I got the reading type for 菊地 wrong. Bah, you ruined one of the few shining rules with no exceptions…

阿部あべ is mixed on/kun, though.


Oh. ベ is listed as kun for 部. Now that is unexpected, lol.
(Good to know, because I was gonna list the フクベ variations and that would be wrong, lol)

Just remembered 加護、喜久、福地、久米、also we used to have a 古賀 at work, too. I mean, they definitely are out there.

It also might be worth mentioning 丸藤まるふじ 正道なおみち who helpfully illustrates it’s not exception-free from the “〇藤 → pure onyomi” angle either :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

1 Like

Well, possibly “a bit out there”. :stuck_out_tongue: Found a list of the top thousand most common names, and of those three names, only 古賀 makes an appearence.

Maybe I’ll find the time to sit down with those names and work out the reading types of all of them.

Edit: Wait, just noticed you added 久米. That’s on+nanori.

No, it really might not. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ok, look, I think what we’ve established here is that “All Rules Have Exceptions” still holds force, but most of the exceptions are uncommon enough that they’re hardly worth mentioning.

Stupid 菊地 is gonna remain a thorn in my side, though…

That’s what’s cool about names though! All it takes is one important person to make the name important to you too. :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like

Professional wrestlers aren’t important. Or people. :stuck_out_tongue:

I gave a look at the list (because I have nothing better to do with my time, I’m not even trying to hide) and these are the ones I was able to spot:

菊地 (infamous, but not the first place in the end)
加納 (ashamed I forgot it, one of my best colleagues at work)
那須 (sorta famous travel destination in 関東, could be worth remembering if living in Tokyo)
国分, whose main reading is surprisingly こくぶん

I was not sure about 本多 and 曽我, though. Somewhere in the middle I got lost in the definition of 音読み and 名乗り, lol.

I was also surprised to see 河西 in the list, though. There is one at my company and people always read his name wrong. They read it as かにし、かわにし or such. I guess 900ths is already way uncommon.

Lastly, I also remembered people I’ve met at work or college that had one-kanji-on’yomi reading names, 高さん and 清さん. 高 is not that uncommon, it seems.
(I would have bet money 清さん was キヨさん, but it was セイさん)



I can tell the left is definitely Natsume Soseki. Anyone happen to recognize the author on the right?

(from 猫のまにまに in September’s issue of ハルタ)
I guess not really a language question but it’s definitely not grammar at least and I feel like deleting the post to move it would be more distracting than just leaving it


Was just a bit of a wild guess, but it looks like Tanizaki Junichiro. It definitely looks modeled after this:




I agree ! Wow you must know Japanese authors well.

I’m a bit confused because I read


in response to a question along the lines of “Why did you do that?” Isn’t that ungrammatical though? For reference, it is in a doujin and there’s no indication of any editors. The artist’s twitter page says they’re Japanese too.

I often encounter 好き with を in songs.

You can use を because it’s a fragment and it’s likely that the full sentence is implied to be:


The を is for 思う

imabi has a pretty in depth analysis of が vs を (unfortunately it mostly sticks to potential verbs):

I think the TL:DR in this case is something like:

  1. it’s just something (younger) people do with 好き
  2. for whatever reason they’ve chosen to use が with 僕 so を is the natural choice to avoid repeating particles

there’s also some deeper stuff such as nominative-object constructions as discussed here

seems like a lot of hoops to jump explain something people do without thinking about…I think this is just a case of it’s grammatical if enough people use it


That’s a pretty good definition of what grammar actually is. :wink: