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埋める has two possible readings 埋{う}める and 埋{うず}める.

Of course kanjis have tons of inconsistencies. While (same furigana / same okurigana / different kanji / different meaning), such as 熱{あつ}い and 厚{あつ}い, is standard fare, what about (different furigana / same okurigana / same kanji / ??? meaning), such as 埋{う}める and 埋{うず}める?

  1. the writer writes the furigana?
  2. the reader gets to choose the difference in nuance by reading it as うずめる or うめる?
  3. I'm sure that there are a few more cases such 埋める in the 常用漢字. Are the differences in meaning for each such pair always so great that only one of the readings is appropriate? Therefore, context always dictates which reading to use?

I totally don't understand this. thanks.

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    This one is generally easier to tell than say, 私{わたくし} and 私{わたし}. 埋める is read depending upon the situation of its usage, sometimes being interchangeable and sometimes not. See detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1047676615 for reference (jpn) – sqrtbottle Nov 26 '15 at 18:18
  • @ShenKuo Your assertion that 埋める has readings that are sometimes interchangable is exactly my question... Is your answer that the reader / translator has the right to choose the reading (and thus the nuance)? – david Nov 27 '15 at 0:11
  • I'm not the best person to answer this given that I didn't know the difference before reading the link I sent >_> I could always translate it into the answer box if you want. According to the link, in a sentence うずめる is for filling physical holes, while うめる is often for covering things up metaphorically (their answer's a bit more detailed than that). If you want me to translate, I can do that. Otherwise I feel like I'm cheating given that I technically didn't know the difference without looking it up (but just ask and I'll give a full answer in the answer box) – sqrtbottle Nov 27 '15 at 7:32
  • @ShenKuo I'm not really thinking only about 埋める. Rather, I am just not sure what to make of the writer having the ability to control the reading (furigana) but the convention is to leave it up to the reader to guess what the writer wants by using context. I'd expect that professional translators would always write furigana where the reading is ambiguous, but I'd also never expect to see furigana in legal documents or instruction manuals for nuclear power plants. I guess its just one of those things. – david Nov 27 '15 at 8:05
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If the average native reader cannot be expected to pick the correct reading based on context clues or set phrases, and the difference is important to the writer, the onus is on the writer to prevent this problem.

Furigana is of course an option, but for something like 埋める, a good way is to just write the whole word in hiragana if you mean to convey the less common reading. That is, I write the word うめる as 埋める, and the word うずめる as うずめる.

The readings are pretty easy to distinguish with words like:

  • 柄 → がら/え
  • 盛り → もり/さかり
  • 角 → つの/かど
  • 値 → あたい/ね

Some other words can be a little harder to tell:

  • 音 → おと/ね
  • 歪み → ゆがみ/ひずみ

And then for compounds, there is a whole pile of these multiple reading words. You may have to rely on collocational clues, because the meanings are sometimes pretty similar (e.g. 大事{おおごと}になる vs. 大事{だいじ}に至る).

In any case, your confusion is justified. Even a professional newscaster has been tripped up by this word! (See ことばの話448「骨をうめる」 on this page.)

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  • For filling a lack うめる is preferable, e.g. 空白をうめる (fill in the blank), 欠員をうめる (fill a vacant post)
  • For "bury one's face into something" only うずめる can be used (顔をうずめる)

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