Reading and Writing

, Volume 23, Issue 8, pp 957–968

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



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 


  1. Fukazawa, H., & Kitahara, M. (2004). Nihongo no goisoo to tangorashisa no kankei ni tsuite [Wordlikeness for lexical strata in Japanese]. Speech and Grammar, 4, 145–160.Google Scholar
  2. Hirose, H. (1998). Identifying the On- and Kun-readings of Chinese characters: Identification of On versus Kun as a strategy-based judgment. In C. K. Leong & K. Tamaoka (Eds.), Cognitive processing of the Chinese and the Japanese languages (pp. 375–394). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Ito, J., & Mester, A. (1995). Japanese phonology. In J. Goldsmith (Ed.), The handbook of phonological theory (pp. 817–838). Cambridge, MA: Backwell.Google Scholar
  4. Ito, J., & Mester, A. (2003). Japanese morphophonemics: Markedness and word structure (Linguistics inquiry monograph forty-one). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Kaiho, H., & Nomura, Y. (1983). Kanji joho shori no shinrigaku [The psychology of kanji information processing]. Tokyo: Kyoiku Shuppan.Google Scholar
  6. Kawakami, M. (1997). JIS 1-shu kanji 2,965-ji o mochiite sakusei sareru kanji niji jyukugosuu hyoo [Tables of two-kanji compound words constructed with 2,965 JIS 1-st kanji characters]. School of Education Bulletin (Nagoya University), 44, 243–299.Google Scholar
  7. Kess, J. F., & Miyamoto, T. (1999). The Japanese mental lexicon: Psycholinguistic studies of kana and kanji processing. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  8. Leong, C. K., Cheng, P.-W., & Mulcahy, R. (1987). Automatic processing of morphemic orthography. Language and Speech, 30, 181–196.Google Scholar
  9. Leong, C. K., & Tamaoka, K. (1995). Use of phonological information in processing kanji and katakana by skilled and less skilled Japanese readers. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 7, 377–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Nomura, Y. (1978). Kanji no joho shori: On-doku kun-doku no imi no fuka [The information processing of Chinese characters (kanji): Chinese reading, Japanese reading and the attachment of meaning]. Japanese Journal of Psychology, 49, 190–197.Google Scholar
  11. Nomura, Y. (1979). Kanji no joho shori: On-doku kun-doku no kensaku katei [Information processing of Chinese characters (Kanji): Retrieval processes in Chinese-style reading (On) and Japanese-style reading (Kun)]. Japanese Journal of Psychology, 50, 101–105.Google Scholar
  12. Nomura, M. (1989). Kanji no zoogo ryoku [Productivity of kanji]. In K. Sato (Ed.), Kanji kooza Vol. 1—Kanji towa [Kanji lecture series Vol. 1—What is kanji?] (pp. 193–217). Tokyo: Meiji Shoin.Google Scholar
  13. Taft, M., Huang, J., & Zhu, X. P. (1994). The influence of character frequency on word recognition responses in Chinese. In H.-W. Chang, J.-T. Huang, C.-W. Hue, & O. J. L. Tzeng (Eds.), Advances in the study of Chinese language processing (Vol. 1, pp. 59–73). Taipei, Taiwan: Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University.Google Scholar
  14. Taft, M., & Zhu, X. P. (1995). The representation of bound morphemes in the lexicon: A Chinese study. In L. B. Feldman (Ed.), Morphological aspects of language processing (pp. 293–316). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  15. Takayama, T. (1999). Shakuyoogo no rendaku/koo’onka ni tsuite [Sequential voicing and fortis in loan vocabulary]. Report of the special research project for the typological investigation of languages and cultures of the East and West #1 (pp. 375–385). Tsukuba: Tsukuba University.Google Scholar
  16. Tamaoka, K. (2003). Where do statistically-derived indicators and human strategies meet when identifying On- and Kun-readings of Japanese kanji? Cognitive Studies, 10, 441–468.Google Scholar
  17. Tamaoka, K., & Hatsuzuka, M. (1995). Kanji niji jukugo no shori ni okeru kanji shiyoo hindo no eikyoo [The effects of Kanji printed-frequency on processing Japanese two-morpheme compound words]. The Science of Reading, 39, 121–137.Google Scholar
  18. Tamaoka, K., Kirsner, K., Yanase, Y., Miyaoka, Y., & Kawakami, M. (2002). A web-accessible database of characteristics of the 1,945 Japanese basic kanji. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 34, 260–275.Google Scholar
  19. Tamaoka, K., & Makioka, S. (2004). New figures for a Web-accessible database of the 1,945 basic Japanese kanji, fourth edition. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 36, 548–558.Google Scholar
  20. Vance, T. J. (1987). An introduction to Japanese phonology. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  21. Wu, J. -T., Chou, T. -L., & Liu, I. -M. (1994). The locus of the character/word frequency effect. In H.-W. Chang, J.-T. Huang, C.-W. Hue, & O. J. L. Tzeng (Eds.), Advances in the study of Chinese language processing (Vol. 1, pp. 31–58). Taipei, Taiwan: Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University.Google Scholar
  22. Yokoyama, S., Sasahara, H., Nozaki, H., & Long, E. (1998). Shinbun denshi media no kanji–Asahi shinbun CD-ROM niyoru kanji hindo hyoo [Japanese kanji in the newspaper media–Kanji frequency index from the Asahi newspaper on CD-ROM]. Tokyo: Sanseido.Google Scholar
  23. Zhang, B., & Peng, D. (1992). Decomposed storage in the Chinese lexicon. In H.-C. Chen & O. J. L. Tzeng (Eds.), Language processing in Chinese (pp. 131–149). Amsterdam: North-Holland.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Zhou, X., & Marslen-Wilson, W. (1994). Words, morphemes and syllables in the Chinese mental lexicon. Language and Cognitive Processes, 9, 393–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Languages and CulturesNagoya UniversityChikusa-ku, NagoyaJapan
  2. 2.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations