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Why is the name 五右衛門 read as ごえもん?
How can the three kanji 五右衛 be read with only two syllables?

10

Originally, these kanji were thought to be pronounced as:

右衛門: u we mon

But since Japanese u and consonant w have little difference, the actual pronunciation was like:

右衛門: wwe~we mon

Later, undergone the phonological change that merged wi, we, wo into i, e, o:

右衛門: e mon

So the truth is 右 and 衛 share a single syllable, but the fact has been obscured by the sound change.

15

Some people say that goemon (五右衛門) and iemon (伊右衛門) are pronounced like that since it's hard to pronounce 2 or 3 continuous vowel sounds, as are supposed to be read as gouemon (ごうゑもん) / iuemon (いうゑもん) per syllable.

  • Was the original pronunciation goue or gōe? I guess actually goue, same as iue? That's indeed something of a tongue twister... :) Makes sense. – deceze Jun 25 '11 at 13:14
  • @deceze, I also think goue too, but I couldn't find it in dictionaries for reference, since those are names of people. – YOU Jun 25 '11 at 13:29

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