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I use The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary, which describes pronunciation in romaji instead of kana. I never learned romaji in a classroom, and generally only use it when reading this dictionary.

When "ō" is not proceeded by a consonant (like "tō" is), how does one know how transcribe it into kana?

I first used "おう" (such as "tō": "とう"); however, through trial and error, I came to realize that "おお" is more accurate. Then, I came across the kanji in my dictionary as "ōgi", and realized that, if I typed "おおぎ" or "おうぎ", both displayed the option of .

It's quite possible this is a "spellcheck" type safeguard (the Japanese equivalent of "the" being typed out when "teh" is entered) because I have checked around various online dictionaries (Wiktionary, Yahoo!dict) and it turns out that in this case, 「おうぎ」 is indeed the correct transcription. Is there a definitive way of knowing in other cases, solely by reading the romaji?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It depends. In most cases it is おう. But is some words, the "おお" form is retained, such as "大【おお】きい", "多【おお】い", "遠【とお】い", etc.

For 扇, I'd believe if the dictionary doesn't have おおぎ, it should be incorrect.

(btw, from the transcription of おうぎ in classic Japanese (あふぎ) which is shown in the dictionary, the transcription now can only be おうぎ.)

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If it's a kanji, and it's an ON reading of the kanji, it's almost certainly オウ.

Ex. Tōkyō = とうきょう

With kun readings, you just have to know which one. I don't think it's an especially common occurrence, so knowing the common cases (おおきい, おおい、とおる)should be pretty sufficient.

Even if you get it wrong, you'll be understood.

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