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I would like to know if there is a word (in either Japanese or English) that describes pairs of words that are spelled the same in kana. For example, 橋 and 箸 would be "homo-kana" words, because they are both spelled はし.

I'm not looking for the word homograph / 同綴異義語【どうてついぎご】. The term homograph would apply to pairs like 一日【いちにち】 and 一日【ついたち】, which are written identically, but have different meanings (I know this isn't a great example, since 一日【いちにち】 and 一日【ついたち】 are obviously related, but I haven't come up with anything better). The example I gave above (橋・箸) is an example of a pair of heterographs that are "homo-kana" words.

I'm also not looking for the word homophone / 同音異義語【どうおんいぎご】: words that are written the same in kana need not be pronounced the same, because of pitch accent. Again, 橋 and 箸 are not homophones (in 標準語 anyway) but are still "homo-kana" words.

I suppose I could just say something to the effect of 「『橋』と『箸』のカナ表記が同じ」, but I feel like this is the sort of thing for which a technical term would have been developed.

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Why must the terms homograph/homoglyph necessarily exclude kana? –  ssb May 13 at 7:06
@ssb Well, at minimum, those terms are ambiguous, so I figured that they wouldn't be used to talk about kana spellings (esp. for words that are more commonly written in kanji). If it is actually the case that one of "homograph"/"homoglyph"/同綴異義語/etc is the accepted term for "words that share the same kana spelling", that'd basically answer my question. –  senshin May 13 at 7:10
I'm not sure if they actually would. Just intuition tells me that based on their kanji alone they would be inclusive. –  ssb May 13 at 7:11
There's 同訓異字 for 訓読み. –  helix May 13 at 7:33
You're looking for the word homonym, which is less rigidly defined than either homograph or homophone so works for all the jobs the more specific terms don't fit. Then again some people surely rant and pretend even homonym has only one fixed precise sense too. –  hippietrail May 14 at 5:05

1 Answer 1

The Japanese Wikipedia article at 同訓異字, specifically the 動詞の例 section, leads me to think that pitch accent isn't important for this term.

  • The examples listed for the うむ (umu) reading, for instance, include 生む (ùmú, "to bear, to produce") with the flat heiban pitch pattern and 膿む (úmù, "to swell, to become swollen") with the high-initial atamadaka pitch pattern.

  • Similarly, the list for the きる (kiru) reading includes both the heiban 着る (kìrú, "to wear [clothing]") and the atamadaka 切る (kírù, "to cut something").

Looking further down in the 形容詞の例 section reinforces this.

  • For あつい (atsui), the examples include both the heiban 厚い (àtsúí, "thick") and the nakadaka 暑い (àtsúì, "hot [weather]"), 熱い (àtsúì, "hot [to the touch]").

In light of this variation in pitch accent, I think 同訓異字 is the term you're looking for, at least for kun'yomi terms.

Along the same lines, I just had a poke around the JA WP page at 同音異字 for on'yomi terms. There is much less apparent pitch accent variation in these lists, but there are some examples, such as:

  • 孝行 (kóòkòò, atamadaka, "filial piety") and 高校 (kòókóó, heiban, "high school")
  • 次官 (jíkàǹ, atamadaka, "undersecretary, vice minister") and 時間 (jìkáń, heiban, "time, hour")

So for on'yomi terms, 同音異字 looks like the term you want.

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You can typeset pitch patterns as follows: ありがとう​【LHLLL】 gives ありがとう【LHLLL】 –  Earthliŋ May 13 at 18:20
Those accent marks are hard to read. I like the syntax Earthling suggests better. Another alternative is indicating accent location (as e.g. Martin does): kòokoo and kookoo. –  snailboat May 13 at 18:59
As for accent marks, I believe the best way is ありがとう(2) because the first mora is not necessarily lowered, depending on phrasing. –  user4092 May 14 at 3:40
Sorry folks, I'm used to the approach used in some IPA where the acute accent indicates high pitch and the grave accent indicates low pitch. This has the advantage of being legible by readers who might not know kana or be familiar with the redline pitch accent formatting. It also had the advantage of being something I knew how to input here, as I hadn't seen the redline formatting before. –  Eiríkr Útlendi May 14 at 6:56

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