Reading and Writing

, Volume 23, Issue 8, pp 957-968

First online:

The sensitivity of native Japanese speakers to On and Kun kanji readings

  • Katsuo TamaokaAffiliated withGraduate School of Languages and Cultures, Nagoya University Email author 
  • , Marcus TaftAffiliated withUniversity of New South Wales

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Japanese kanji reading can be divided into two types: On-readings, derived from the original Chinese pronunciation and Kun-readings, originating from the Japanese pronunciation. Kanji that are normally given an On-reading around 50% of the time were presented in a context of other kanji that had either a highly dominant On-reading or a highly dominant Kun-reading. The reading that was given in this experiment was very much biased toward the type of phonological environment in which it was embedded. So native Japanese speakers easily shifted between On and Kun readings, depending on phonological context, suggesting that separate On and Kun sub-lexica exist within the phonological lexicon.


Japanese lexicon Kanji phonological lexicon On- and Kun-reading Phonological shift