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I'm currently doing a study on Japanese homophones and came across 柔らかい and 軟らかい. Most other homophones seem to have noticeable differences in usage (or have explanations online), but I can't seem to find any English explanation for this pair.

Jisho gives the same definition for each:

soft; tender; limp

so I'm not completely sure what's going on.

Examples would be appreciated, too!

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Related: How did やわらかい gain its い? –  istrasci Nov 22 '13 at 18:19
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柔らかい and 軟らかい are NOT homophones but are the same word. –  Tokyo Nagoya Nov 22 '13 at 20:03
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My 学研 character dictionary says: 柔らかい…しなやかで、弾力性がある。「柔らかい毛布・柔らかい日差し・人当たりが柔らかい」 軟らかい…力が加わると形がかわり、手ごたえがない。「地盤が軟らかい・‌​軟らかいパン・軟らかい話」 But it's easy to find the 軟らかい examples written instead with 柔らかい, it seems. –  snailboat Nov 22 '13 at 21:20
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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I think there is no difference between them. Actually, I couldn't come up with it.

But, strictly speaking, it seems that there's a little difference.

I googled it and found its explanation. Here(Japanese)

In the above page, a japanese asked its difference. haha

To sum up its best answer, using 「柔らかい」 or 「やわらかい」 is better. In some cases, 「軟らかい」might be inappropriate, but its reason is very difficult to explain.

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