Japanese is one of my active [[language studies]].
On'yomi and Kun'yomi Kanji Readings
The Kanji characters came to Japan via Chinese through the sharing of religious texts (Bhuddhism, etc.) and where adapted to the Japanese language. This is why there is both an on'yomi (Chinese) pronunciation and Kun'yomi (Japanese) pronunciation of the Kanji1.
Exceptions exist. Some Kanji have only an on'yomi reading, others have only a kun'yomi reading. Some vocabulary words will have multiple on'yomi readings due to the kanji arriving multiple times -- there are pronunciations from the Wu Dynasty (Go-on, 4-6th centure), Han Dynasty (Kan-on, 7-9th century) and To-on (1185-1574). Most come from Kan-on1.
Which To Use?
- Compounds of two or more kanji (called jukugo), take the on'yomi reading. e.g. 東京/とうきょう/Tokyo
- Words consisting of a single kanji alone use the kun'yomi reading. These tend to be nouns. e.g. 人/ひと/Person
- Less common, single kanji take the on'yomi reading. This tends to occur with numbers. e.g. 一/いち/One
- Kanji with hiragana attached (okurigana) take the kun'yomi reading. e.g. 大きい/おおきい/Big
Similarly to my mnemonics list for [[Hiragana]], I am constructing a list for Kanji. I imagine this list will get very long in time.
- 川 / かわ / Kawa / River
- The ninja turtles surf on the River while shouting Kawa bunga.
- 一 / Ichi / One
- I am the one who fell over and hit my chin
- 工 / Kou / Construction
- Kou in Construction
- 人 / Jin / Person
- A jin is not a person with legs
- 女 / Jo / Woman
- Jo is a woman with a fancy hat
- 十 / Jyuu / Ten
- Judas was paid ten coins
- 大 / Tai / Big
- Look at the Big tie
- 山 / San / Mountain
- Address Mountains with -san
- 七 / Shichi / Seven
- 口 / Kou / Mouth
- The mother's mouth cooed
- 九 / Kyuu / Nine
- Dexter, Kristen. On'yomi and Kun'yomi in Kanji: What's the Difference, Tofugu. Retrieved 2020-10-17.