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The way I understand it, when two kanji are together without an okurigana in middle the onyomi reading is used for them. So why is 前 in 駅前 not read as ぜん? Is 前 an exception case?

I'm sorry if this question seems rather simplistic, I'm just a beginner in Japanese.

  • You're referring to a rule of thumb, not something that officially determines how words are read. There are plenty of exceptions. – Leebo Nov 4 '18 at 11:54
  • I understand that - its a language, and there being exceptions is the norm. I just wanted to know the why behind this exception, if there was one – Bumble Bee Nov 4 '18 at 14:37
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    The important thing is that えきぜん is a theoretically plausible reading of 駅前, it's "not even wrong" if you will. But usage, for whatever reason, dictates えきまえ. 明日 may be read as あす, あした or みょうにち depending on circumstances. 来年 is らいねん (音読み), but 今年 is ことし (訓読み) etc. It's probably impossible to cast these into hard-and-fast rules. – John Frazer Nov 4 '18 at 16:41
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駅前 is an abbreviation of 駅の前. So the said rule doesn’t apply to 駅前’s 前.

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    Not wrong but doesn't work as a rule. 田紳 is でんしん (gentleman from the countryside) but it is an abbreviation of 田舎紳士 which is read いなかしんし. – John Frazer Nov 4 '18 at 16:52
  • Either way of reading happens. Refer to 重箱読み and 湯桶読み. – Hidechan Nov 5 '18 at 6:17
  • In this case, 駅前 is true to 重箱読み. – Hidechan Nov 5 '18 at 6:26
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    yeah well so, to quote "So why is 前 in 駅前 not read as ぜん?" – John Frazer Nov 5 '18 at 8:50
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    That's a lot of reasoning but the OP specifically asked for "two kanji w/out okurigana in the middle, should be onyomi, but 前 is kunyomi, is that an exception"; I tried to make clear that no, you can't be sure about that. "駅の前 is shortened into 駅前, which is easy to read based on the expression 駅地下"—I don't understand. "it is especially rare to read 駅前 as えきぜん"—right, that's the whole point. – John Frazer Nov 5 '18 at 12:33
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Actually, 駅前 is structurally not as "monolithic" a word as similar-looking 門前 or 敵前. It's a compound made of two elements: a word 駅 "station" and a very productive "suffix" 前【まえ】.

This 前, even though dictionaries only give its noun definition "front", is very widely used in the real world to roughly mean "at, but not inside of" / "right outside the entrance of" a location or landmark. You'll see it very often as typical bus and tram stop names.

  • 第一小学校前
  • 新宿駅前の道路 a street in front of Shinjuku Station
  • ハチ公前で待ち合わせよう
    Let's meet up at Hachikо̄ (a famous dog statue beside Shibuya Station)!

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