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I am new to Japanese and I want to know how to find the differences between words that are pronounced the exact same way. So let's say there was a word in Hiragana and a word in Katakana, both pronounced the same way. And I was have a general conversation with a Japanese person, how would we know the difference between them?

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    How would you answer this question if someone asked you about two English words that are pronounced the same way but have different meanings? – snailplane Dec 27 '16 at 20:20
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Context.

For example, きかい can mean either "machine" (機械) or "opportunity" (機会). You can come up with some sort of sentence that includes one of them, and it may be ambiguous:

自己紹介{じこしょうかい}するきかいがなかった。

When spoken (or written in kana), this sentence can mean one of two things:

  • I didn't have a chance to introduce myself.
  • There was no machine that introduces itself.

Hopefully it should be obvious which one it is, especially when given a context.

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If basing the assumption that identical kana means "pronounced the exact the same way", hauska tavata!

For people of less monotone languages than Finnish, in addition to context, they apparently have the tone/intonation. Maybe the most classic example is hashi/hashi (the chopsticks vs bridge) which others than Finns I think understand even without hearing the context.

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  • あらなんかお久しぶり? 橋と箸は「[はし]{LH}」「[はし]{HL}」とかあるけど、機械・機会は「[きかい]{HLL}」やしなあ・・ ところで hauska tavata って何?😄 – Chocolate Jul 3 at 15:56
  • ソダネー。Hauska tavata = nice to meet you. (Except for Finnish, I guess there are not so many motone languages in the world). – Tuomo Jul 3 at 21:22

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