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Shouldn't there be の to signify that 悪 modifies 魔? It seems to be a one word and not a phrase, how do we know if a double kanji is such a single word and not two separate ones when reading a text?

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    You might as well be asking, "why is it horsepower?" instead of "power of a horse"?
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 19, 2016 at 0:01
  • @A.Ellett You wouldn't happen to know the answer to that question, would you? Feb 19, 2016 at 0:16
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    @AmaniKilumanga This is one of those situations where I just learn 悪魔 as a vocabulary item. I don't think of it as two words.
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 19, 2016 at 1:15
  • Regarding these sorts of situations, as you learn more vocabulary, you will be able to parse such things much easily.
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 19, 2016 at 1:28
  • Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/27485/7810 Feb 19, 2016 at 7:52

1 Answer 1

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Shouldn't there be の to signify that 悪 modifies 魔?

No. This term was borrowed in its entirety from Chinese, as a single term.

Borrowing aside, two-character compounds are generally parsed as single terms -- even those coined in Japan.

It seems to be a one word and not a phrase, how do we know if a double kanji is such a single word and not two separate ones when reading a text?

Fundamentally, one learns to recognize such things over the course of time in studying the language.

To better answer your question, as above, it's a good bet that many (most?) kanji pairs that don't have kana in between are probably compounds. Many (most?) such compounds are also read using the on'yomi, which is useful information when trying to either pronounce these terms or look them up in a dictionary.

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