I noticed the rare reading of メン contained in the word 雌鳥{めんどり} and I wondered how this unusual reading could have come about. I am not aware of any other words which use this reading for 雌. Is it simply that めんどり is easier to say than めすとり or めすどり ? If that is the case, shouldn't 雌トラ be めんどら? Or is there a different reason such as the reading being a relic from an archaic pronunciation?

  • This dictionary has an entry for めん, so perhaps it is used for other words: dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/218072/meaning/m1u/めん .I don't know of any though. Also there is the parallel おん which means 雄(おす). I agree it's probably because it's easier to say (there are some other words like 甘えん坊 which I am guessing came from 甘える坊, though not certain of it)
    – Locksleyu
    Dec 7 '18 at 17:00

According to デジタル大辞泉...



And 大辞林 says...



So it seems...

めどり → (撥音添加) → めんどり  
おとり → (撥音添加 + 連濁) → おんどり

Some examples of 撥音添加 include...

みな(皆) → みんな
なにも(何も) → なんにも
おなじ(同じ) → おんなじ
こぶ(昆布) → こんぶ
とび(鳶) → とんび

(But you don't call female tiger as めんどら...) 


As pointed out by @Eiríkr in the comments below, it might be more reasonable to think of it as...

め(す)のとり → contraction(の→ん)+連濁(と→ど) → めんどり

... Now I'm not totally sure... Let's wait for others to post better answers! ^^

  • Although the dictionaries do not mention it, I have to wonder if this wasn't so much of an unexplained 変化【へんか】, but instead a simple contraction of の to ん, with associated 連濁【れんだく】 for the following word. Dec 7 '18 at 17:47
  • あ~・・ 「め(す) + の + とり」→「め + ん + どり」ってことね・・・
    – Chocolate
    Dec 7 '18 at 17:51
  • その通りです。「みな」→「みんな」や「とび」→「とんび」等の場合では、撥音が単に伸びることですが、「おとり」→「おんどり」では、撥音はそもそもないですから、「撥音がどうやって生じるか」は不思議に思われます。 Dec 7 '18 at 17:56
  • I can see how みな would become みんな but I don't understand why とび becomes とんび. There's no contraction and there's not very much overlap phonetically between と and び. Is it a known case of a particular phenomenon? Or was it originally とんび and the ん became elided?
    – kandyman
    Dec 7 '18 at 18:20
  • @kandyman: The び is already nasalized as a voiced obstruent. The addition of ん before voiced obstruents is a common shift in various flavors of Japanese, such as たび→たんび in Tōhoku speech. Dec 7 '18 at 18:28

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