Recently, I was talking with a friend regarding the 常用漢字表 as specified here I noticed that the 送り仮名 property of kanjis is not specified. She was a little puzzled, but concluded that the 文部省{もんぶしょう} does not standardize 送り仮名。Is this true?

This might be similar to the stroke count issue. Only the 教育漢字{きょういくかんじ} have official stroke counts as explained here

Please consider these examples:

So, for example, in theory could I write "表れる" or "表われる" or "表る"? I think the convention is "表れる". Even though the conventions are very well-known and pretty much implicitly standardized, there really is no "correct 送り仮名" for any kanji, right?


Firstly, the official list of kanji is there to specify kanji themselves and that doesn't really include all the words where a specific kanji can be used. That would make it a dictionary which it isn't.

Let me address some issues in more details:

  1. The list from the link you included does include examples where you can check okurigana. For example, the entry for 表 includes two verbs: 表す and 表れる which in this case are transitive and intransitive versions of a verb. Those are only examples though and are not meant to show all possible words. To see other words, you should just consult a dictionary.

  2. In case of the verbs and adjectives, proper usage of okurigana is important as two words using the same kanji can have different meanings. Compare:

細{こま}かい small, fine
細{ほそ}い thin

You cannot write "small" as × 細{こまか}い as only the presence of okurigana かい or い lets you read and get the meaning properly.

Similarly, for verbs

降{お}りる to get off
降{ふ}る to fall

Again, only the presence of りる or る okurigana gives you proper reading and meaning.

3.In case of some compound nouns, e.g. 飲み物 / 飲物, difference in spelling doesn't really change the meaning. I'm not exactly sure if there are any rules which one is preferred though.

I would like to address kinyo's comment here as it might be useful for future readers to have it in the body of the question:

Dictionaries, government lists of kanji, etc. document and standardize the language but they don't create it. The language develops first and then comes an effort to catalogue it and make it standard. Japanese has an especially complicated history as there was a whole body of words (漢語), grammarical elements and the writing system that came from Chinese which is a language which works in a very different way. That caused the need to adopt that borrowed writing system to the native Japanese words (大和言葉) and grammar.

The long evolution of Japanese language and its writing system means that the system is not always logical, clear and doesn't follow a few straight rules. There are now 大和言葉 words which can be written just in hiragana (e.g. most particles), kanji and okurigana (e.g. 降る), just kanji used by meaning (e.g. 犬) or by 当て字 (e.g. 風呂). All that coexists together and it's the nature of a living language.

Coming back to your comment about dictionaries: all good dictionaries should give you okurigana. Just remember that okurigana belongs to a word, not specifically to a kanji. You use kanji and okurigana together to for a word. You can learn kanji without okurigana. You cannot learn many 大和言葉 words without okurigana.

  • @kinyo My answer to your comments turned out pretty long, so I responded in my answer as I think everyone may find this clarification useful.
    – Szymon
    Apr 6 '14 at 21:03

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