80 votes
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If Kanji are necessary to disambiguate homophones, how come it's still used, being that Japanese people seem to know the difference when speaking?

Kanji aren't necessary to write Japanese Your rationale is correct; Japanese is a living, spoken language; people are able to understand each other by sound only, therefore a writing system based on ...
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42 votes
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Is [mathematical] 'analysis' in Japanese the same word as 'fine cuisine' in Japanese?

No. Japanese "haute cuisine" is called 懐石(料理). Mathematical analysis is 解析(学). What is true is that 懐石 and 解析 are homophones, both pronounced かいせき and, in context, both may be referred to as かいせき. ...
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24 votes
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Why are there many kanji that are read and mean the same?

The very answer to your question is why I like Japanese so much. As you noticed a same word can be written with different kanji: that is not limited to verbs. If kanji changes meaning changes too (...
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  • 6,933
23 votes

Is [mathematical] 'analysis' in Japanese the same word as 'fine cuisine' in Japanese?

While the pronunciation is the same, the words' etymologies are unrelated. Mathematical analysis is 解析(kaiseki かいせき) while (Japanese) fine cuisine is 懐石(kaiseki かいせき). Both 解 and 析 roughly ...
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  • 14.7k
23 votes

If Kanji are necessary to disambiguate homophones, how come it's still used, being that Japanese people seem to know the difference when speaking?

This is definitely a bit harder for native English speakers to pick up on at first, but sometimes homophones in Japanese are distinguishable by the pitch accent. So some of them aren't an issue at all....
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  • 2,329
17 votes
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What's the difference between 図る、測る、計る、量る、諮る、謀る?

From http://dict.hjenglish.com/jp/jc/はかる 計る - to measure (quantities and in general) “計る”指计数物品的数量。转义为计划。如“计划时间”、“量体温”、“计算数量”、“筹划组织的将来”等。 (「計る」は、物の数を数えること。転じて、計画すること。「時間を計る」「体温を計る」「数量を計る」「...
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  • 4,192
16 votes
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Difference between 見る and 観る?

The verb 「みる」("look"/"see"/"watch") is one case of a word which can be written with one commonly-used general-purpose kanji, and sometimes with other rarer, more specific kanji. The general-purpose ...
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12 votes
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Differences between the various readings of 描く and 画く

I think this is actually a place where the Chinese-imported kanji obscure the usage of native Japanese words. Etymology The etymology of all these words (and 書く) is the same 和語 of かく, which has the ...
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11 votes

Most egregious examples of the reading of a kanji changing due to (textually) distant characters

My favorite example is この先生きのこるには. It was originally posted in a net forum, and was intended to be read as このさき、いきのこるには (how to survive longer). But many native speakers have misread this as このせんせい、...
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  • 270k
11 votes

Why are there many kanji that are read and mean the same?

Japanese didn't have any original letters in ancient times. Kanji was brought into Japan from China in the 3rd or 4th century. When old Japanese people adopted kanji, they called each letter as ...
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  • 2,045
11 votes
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How to properly use とまる/とめる/やむ/やめる/とどまる/とどめる/よす/さす

Broadly speaking, the words can be broken up as follows: 止まる{とまる} and 止める{とめる} 止む{やむ} and 止める{やめる} 止まる{とどまる} and 止める{とどめる} Exceptions: 止す{よす} and 止す{さす} The first three groups are made up of pairs ...
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  • 1,314
9 votes
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Confused in choosing 早い versus 速い

Your understanding is correct. 速い refers to one's speed and 早い refers to time. However, 早い has more uses than just meaning early. Check: How to distinguish between the meanings of "quickly", ...
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  • 698
9 votes
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When to use 云う vs 言う?

Broadly speaking, 云う seems to be somewhat more old-fashioned in use. It appears with some frequency in Natsume Soseki's works, but not so much in recent publications, which use 言う instead. The ...
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8 votes
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Multiple common kanji for a word: which to use?

Better use kana instead of some weird or wrong kanji if you're not certain In natural languages, the meaning of words are often extended, changed and modified to fit the speakers needs. Just look up ...
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  • 4,421
8 votes
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What's with all the possible kanji for とる?

You already know the dictionary meanings. All of these とる variants listed here are understood by most Japanese adults. In general, using certain uncommon 同訓異字 verbs, such as 啼く (vs 鳴く), 護る (vs 守る), ...
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8 votes
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What is the difference between 飲む and 呑む?

Maybe you know that to say "to take a pill" in Japanese you would say 丸薬をのむ. (I did not put the kanji of のむ intentionally). 飲む is used to say to drink. I mean, to absorb a liquid through your mouth ...
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  • 6,933
7 votes
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Kanji for におい - when do you use 匂い and when do you use 臭い?

Yes you are right, 匂い and 香り is always for good smells like from flowers, food, etc, whereas 臭い is mostly for undesirable smells. But sometimes 臭い is neutral, which case I think your example falls ...
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  • 2,378
7 votes
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What is the difference between the pronunciation of 「休校【きゅうこう】」and「急行【きゅうこう】」?

Both words have the same reading and pitch accent, so there wouldn't be a difference in pronunciation.
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  • 2,751
7 votes
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Does “Tekken” sound like “iron sword” to someone unfamiliar with the franchise?

There is no difference in pitch accent between 鉄拳 and 鉄剣, so it purely depends on which word is more familiar to laypeople. Neither is particularly common in daily life, but IMO 鉄拳 is a little bit ...
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  • 270k
6 votes

Same kanji compound, with different readings, and meanings depend on the reading? (heteronyms)

Indeed there are very many words like this, but here is my favourite example. Consider the following statement about a choir: 女声は下手、男声は上手! It might mean that the men are more skilled than the ...
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6 votes
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Same kanji compound, with different readings, and meanings depend on the reading? (heteronyms)

There are a number of words like this. The most obvious one that comes to mind is 方, which can be read かた (polite "person") or ほう ("alternative", perhaps). Another example is 青山, which can be read ...
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  • 5,575
6 votes

Specific examples of tonal Chinese words rendered into Japanese

Keywords: MC, Middle Chinese; OC, Old Chinese: MJ: Middle Japanese; OJ, Old Japanese; 呉, Go'on; 漢, Kan'on; 唐, Tō-on; /(absence of superscript)/ or 平, level tone; /X/ or 上, rising tone; /H/ or 去, ...
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  • 8,867
5 votes
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What kanji is used to write かん in 会話かん?

かん should be 勘 meaning "sense" or "intuition", so 会話勘 meaning "sense for conversation". (Cf. 勘が戻る, a common expression meaning something like "to get back into the swing of things".)
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  • 47.4k
5 votes

Why are there many kanji that are read and mean the same?

The other answers address the differences between the kanji choices. I would like to point out that this information for disambiguation is contained in any good monolingual dictionary, e.g. 大辞林 which ...
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  • 47.4k
5 votes
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Which of these means affection 愛情, 愛 or 情?

愛 is the "concept" of love. 愛情 is the physical emotion that humans feel. 「情」 be can added to other things in a similar way: [感情]{かんじょう} Emotion(s) [友情]{ゆうじょう} Friendship [情熱]{じょうねつ} Passion ...
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5 votes
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Why write「もの」instead of 「物」 or 「者」?

According to Alexander Wurdow (a kind of notable author in Russia), "者/物 usually plays an auxiliary role (nominalization), and therefore most of the time it is written in kana". Does that make any ...
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  • 2,685
5 votes

If Kanji are necessary to disambiguate homophones, how come it's still used, being that Japanese people seem to know the difference when speaking?

Thinking briefly, I think that there is no problem even if we have no kanji in Japanese to disambiguate homophones or homonyms as OP thinks , but in fact we need kanji. In conversation, not in ...
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  • 15.1k
4 votes

What's the difference between 図る、測る、計る、量る、諮る、謀る?

Information comes from the disambiguation notes in 大辞林 for はかる. はかる General meaning: To plan out; to measure 計る measure, take; weigh; sound; time; gauge Use 計る when examining the time or extent ...
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  • 5,070
4 votes

What's the difference between "家" (ya), "屋" (ya), and "や" (ya) as used in the names of shops/stores/restaurants?

-屋{や} is also used in some words describing character traits, e.g. 恥{は}ずかしがり屋{や} (bashful person) 寂{さび}しがり屋{や} (lonely person) 寒{さむ}がり屋{や} (someone who gets cold easily, cold-blooded) くすぐったがり屋{や} (...
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