8 Replies ・ Started by dvdagreat at 2018-12-13 10:15:43 UTC ・ Last reply by jarmanso7 at 2018-12-28 01:32:15 UTC

Proper Usage Of Kanji To form Words

I am so much confused by the way kanji is used to form nouns, verbs etc. Let me make it clear.

For example the word for ocean is 洋. But when i search for ocean anywhere it shows me 海洋. Here the extra kanji 海 is added, which means sea. literally meaning ( at least i think so ) sea ocean.

Another Example, The kanji for room is 屋. But i get the kanji 部屋 for room in dictionaries and online translators. The kanji 部 stands for department, part or category.

Why an extra Kanji ??
why use another kanji or use other kanji with combination that kanji when you have one kanji specially made for it.
Is there a special meaning added to a kanji when another kanji is added to it??
教えってください !!!

Leebo at 2018-12-13 12:45:08 UTC

Are you aware that kanji are imported from Chinese long ago? When they imported them, they also imported the pronunciations used in Chinese at the time (well, their best effort at mimicking them). But since Chinese typically has tones, and Japanese doesn't, the pronunciations imported with the kanji ended up being much more homophonous than they were originally in Chinese.

So most of the time, there are many, many kanji that all have the same readings as each other. The one you mentioned, 洋, is read よう. Even if you only limit it to kanji that appear in the "common use" kanji list, there are more than 20 with an identical pronunciation. Having 20+ identical words would be a bit much.

But there are only 3 words listed in Jisho that have the combo かいよう.

However, the above is only dealing with words derived from kanji and their Chinese pronunciations. There are also words that originally came from Japanese, and many of those also got assigned to kanji as well.

海 is a single kanji word that is ready うみ, a pronunciation which does not come from Chinese. It's the native Japanese word for sea or ocean.

部屋 (へや) is also based on the Japanese word, not the Chinese pronunciations. You cherry-picked the meanings to not make sense, when you said it's department and room. Here, the appropriate English meanings that it expresses are part and house. Makes more sense, right?

I think you should just learn more about how kanji work in Japanese, and some things that seem illogical to you might become clearer.

dvdagreat at 2018-12-13 17:16:07 UTC

Leebo... I know about the history and different reading stuff. What i am trying to say here is can i skip the 部 in 部屋 and just write the 屋 and get same results.

Leebo at 2018-12-13 23:33:32 UTC

屋 (や) doesn't mean "room" so, no, you can't.

Leebo at 2018-12-13 23:35:51 UTC

And to be fair, I don't really see any resources suggesting that 屋 means room anyway, so that one doesn't seem confusing to me.

jakobd2 at 2018-12-14 20:47:18 UTC

"I know about the history and different reading stuff." I would suggest being a bit more humble at least when you're still at the stage where you can't discern kanji from words. If you'd know about all the history then everything you asked about should be more than obvious to you. But it's also completely fine to not know something, I also don't know but a couple things.

One thing I wanted to point out is that without really researching the etymology of a specific word very thoroughly, it's not an easy call to make that "us[ing] another kanji or [...] other kanji with combination [sic] that kanji when you have one kanji specially made for it" was actually the case here with 部屋. Words in the Japanese language aren't generally made up by combining kanji to mean certain things. In most cases they evolve just like words in other languages do and just sometimes are influenced by the writing system (which in case of Japanese probably didn't really exist before around 5-6th century AD).

Try to view it from the opposite angle: There is a word that is pronounced へや and that has a certain meaning. And at some point some people wanted to write this down using a script. And not the other way around. (I'm simplifying here for the sake of the argument. Of course changes in pronunciation etc. have happened and will happen.) So if your dictionary tells you that a certain kanji has these meanings, that's nice to know. But that doesn't mean that this kanji on itself is actually a word. Even though there are many words written with a single kanji, not every single kanji is used on its own for its meaning. So you should think about 屋 (おく) the kanji in of itself, and separately about the words 屋 (や) and 屋 (おく). Three (3) different things. And none of them have the meaning of "room".

Let me touch on another thing: "the word for ocean is 洋. But when i search for ocean anywhere it shows me 海洋. Here the extra kanji 海 is added, which means sea. literally meaning ( at least i think so ) sea ocean."
To clarify: The word for ocean is not 洋. There is a word that is written like this and it is pronounced よう, and its meaning is roughly "the West" or "the Occident". You can find it used in phrases like 洋の東西を問わず. But 洋 as a kanji indeed is often used for meaning ocean. Examples are as you pointed out 海洋, or 遠洋, or 大洋 etc. It is also used in some words for other meanings. In 茫洋 it stands for general bigness or greatness, and in words like 洋画 it represents "the West" as in Europe and North America. It's nice to know what meaning a kanji can represent in different words, but actually knowing about the words themselves is also pretty important if you want to use them. Just knowing that a certain kanji exists and that it is used to mean several things isn't necessarily enough to understand the meaning of a word.

To close up, I hope this made things clearer for you. Keep on using a dictionary everyday and look up all the stuff you come across. Surely you will soon figure out things for yourself and everything will become second nature to you.

Btw if you're interested in the history of writing Japanese in a bit more detail and looking for something in English, I really enjoyed this book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/082482217X/ Great to get a basic understanding, and maybe inspiring to do further research.

And lastly, 教えて is not conjugated to 教えって. It is ア行下一段 conjugation, and sticking て on it requires 連用形, which is just -え. The small つ is only encountered with 五段活用 words.

dvdagreat at 2018-12-15 04:31:47 UTC

Sorry @Leebo and @jacobd2 for being a complete idiot in my last comment, Thanks to both of you for your answers.

Let me see if i got this clearly or not.

@jacobd2, Before the arrival of kanji to japan they had a different writing system there. They had a word (for eg.) "HEYA" in their language which meant room. Now After the arrival of kanji they had to search for all the kanji which had the readings "HE" & "YA" or vice-versa. Then, they choose the most appropriate kanji which had the basic meaning of "ROOM" and substituted it with the original word, forming the word "部屋".

Did i get it correct?

Leebo at 2018-12-15 05:43:21 UTC

Just a note, they didn't have a different writing system before kanji. Kanji was their first exposure to writing and because of that forced it to work with Japanese even though it's not really what you would choose as a design if you were starting from scratch.

jarmanso7 at 2018-12-28 01:32:15 UTC

If you are the pragmatic type, I would suggest learning Kanji directly inside words and not bothering with the meaning of each single isolated kanji.

As your corpus of japanese vocab grows and you start to have several words using a particular Kanji, you would acquire a sense of the general meaning of the Kanji (or at least a feeling that it fits well inside a word) clear enough to relate it to all of the words it is used in and help your brain to remember the word writing, reading and meaning. I have had this experience several times myself and so far I get by learning new Kanji and Vocab simultaneously without any problem.

Of course, this is not advisable if you have a particular interest in Kanji itself beyond their actual usage in the language.

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