Why does the Japanese language have so many words with the same On'yomi reading?

The more I study the more I notice that many words of the Kanji dictionary have the same Onyomi readings. Some words like “Hou” “Hi” “To” are pronounced the same but have a different meaning entirely depending on the Kanji. Why is that? And when in Japanese conversation how would I be able to tell meaning they are referring to? I know Japanese is a very context-based language unlink English so it makes things more difficult to figure things out when speaking Japanese.


Well, firstly most words are more than one kanji, if they use the onyomi. So you’re getting more than just that one reading.

Second, some words with identical readings have different pitch accents, so even though the spelling is the same, the pronunciation isn’t. (未来, future, and 味蕾, taste bud, are both みらい, but they have different pitch accents)

Third, context takes care of most homophones, just like in English.

As for why there are so many kanji with the same reading, it’s because in Chinese there were tones, but in Japanese they stripped the tones out. So all the ones with different tones kind of got jammed into the same identical reading.


Well-done Japanese ppl.

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Well, I mean… they don’t really have a choice. It’s like how in Japanese bus and bath are both バス… they are limited by the sounds of Japanese.


Yes and i like it this way :slight_smile:

Blame China. It’s all China’s fault. Them and their tonal language.


I find this comment extremely tone-deaf.


Or you could blame the Japanese for not learning more tones? Not blaming anyone also being Chinese myself.

I blame words for requiring sound waves at all.
Edit: *is waiting for telepathy to be invented.


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