There's only one onyomi reading for kanji 学 and its "gaku", where did "gatsu" come from?


1 Answer 1


Historically, 学校 was spelled in kana -- and pronounced as something like -- がくかう. Regular sound changes resulted in modern がっこう:

  • In the ~くか~ in the middle, the //u// sound was unstressed, leading to it gradually being omitted.
  • The //au// vowel combination on the end shifted from //au// (like English ow!) to //ɔː// (like English awe) by the early 1600s, as demonstrated by the 1603 Nippo Jisho (Japanese-Portuguese dictionary). This then merged with //oː// (the long "O" sound) between then and the early modern period.
  • So, is it the same as ateji?
    – Kanpie
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 19:33
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    @Kanpie No. It's not ateji. This is a regular and nearly predictable sound change.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 19:36
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    @Kanpie It seems it's almost a rule that in a two-mora on-reading that ends in either き or く followed by another on-reading beginning with k, there will be gemmation. I believe there are exceptions, but I think the exceptions are fairly rare.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 19:48
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    @Kanpie, as A.Ellett notes, this is a regular sound change. If you think about it, two //k// sounds in quick succession aren't always easy to clearly pronounce, so this kind of phonological contraction is unsurprising. Separately, ateji refers only to spelling. The word is literally ate (from 当てる【あてる】, "to apply something against something else") + 字【じ】 ("character"): most specifically, when a kanji character is applied to a spelling solely for its sound value, ignoring its meaning. Things like using 四六四九 to spell よろしく, or using 39 to spell サンキュー. Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 22:24

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