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82 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 ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
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. ...
Earthliŋ's user avatar
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24 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....
Kurausukun's user avatar
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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 ...
Enno Shioji's user avatar
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13 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 ...
MegaZeroX's user avatar
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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 ...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
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.
Leebo's user avatar
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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 ...
naruto's user avatar
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7 votes

Can 混む and 込む be used interchangeably to mean "to be crowded?"

Here's an excerpt from 明鏡国語辞典 第三版: こ・む【込む・混む】[動五] ❶【混】ある場所に人や物などが集まって、いっぱいになる。混雑する。「通勤通学で電車が混む」「車で道が混む」「客で行楽地が混む」 ❷【込】行動の予定などがぎっしり詰まっている。「日程[予定]が込んでいる」 ❸【込】勝負事などで負けが重なる。「負けが込む」 ❹【込】仕組みや細工が複雑に入り組む。「...
naruto's user avatar
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6 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 ...
kuchitsu's user avatar
  • 2,715
6 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 ...
user20624's user avatar
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6 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?

Most everyone's answers are correct, but I wanted to bring up one useful aspect of kanji which I don't think has been brought up. It may be limited to learners like me, but many times when I encounter ...
AberrantWolf's user avatar
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, ...
dROOOze's user avatar
  • 9,110
6 votes
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Is there a fundamental difference between homonyms with close meaning and words with multiple possible kanji?

The short answer is no. The semantic "distance" between two homophones is determined at the discretion of the authors of each dictionary, and it is impossible to draw an official line. Some ...
naruto's user avatar
  • 318k
6 votes

Can 混む and 込む be used interchangeably to mean "to be crowded?"

Practically, if you mean crowded, the two are totally interchangeable. Note 込む as in 手が込んでいる (intricate often in a positive sense) cannot be replaced by 混む. That said, several web q&a (1, 2) ...
sundowner's user avatar
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5 votes

Specific examples of tonal Chinese words rendered into Japanese

The most homophones that I know of are the various words pronounced きかん (ordered by frequency in Japanese) 機関 jīguān 機關・机关 engine/institution 期間 qī​jiān 期间 time interval/period 器官 qì​guān organ ...
Earthliŋ's user avatar
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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 ...
Earthliŋ's user avatar
  • 48.2k
5 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} (...
Igor Skochinsky's user avatar
4 votes
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Academic/historic attempts to create an alternative writing system similar to Hangul?

You said "hiragana and katakana do not exactly match the phonetic structure of the language," but that's not true. The Japanese language is mora-based, and only trained people who study foreign ...
naruto's user avatar
  • 318k
4 votes

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

[大人気]{おとなげ}ない。 [大人気]{だいにんき}である。
Alejandro Cremades Rocamora's user avatar
4 votes
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Is the couple 解ける / 溶ける related to the English solve/ dissolve?

I think the pair 解ける 溶ける was probably not influenced by the English language. Rather, it is more likely a standard example of the very common phenomenon of a (native Japanese) verb being written with ...
Earthliŋ's user avatar
  • 48.2k
4 votes

Does “Tekken” sound like “iron sword” to someone unfamiliar with the franchise?

It's related to rather contexts than phonology. Other than the lecture of Japanese history, one normally associates "Tekken" with 鉄拳{てっけん}. I do not think one can associate "Tekken"...
kimi Tanaka's user avatar
  • 5,618
4 votes
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Why do authors choose to use obscure/old ways to write words?

There is a nuance between them which only experienced readers can feel. 莫迦 looks more literary, elevated, fancy or poetic than 馬鹿, and readers will eventually develop such a sense after reading many ...
naruto's user avatar
  • 318k
4 votes

How should I read 購売部?

It is こうばいぶ. Apparently 購買部 is the correct one, literally meaning "buying department". According to this chiebukuro answer, since 購 means "to buy", 購買 is the only possibility and ...
sundowner's user avatar
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4 votes
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How should I read 購売部?

It should be 購買部, and 購売部 is plain wrong. And you are right, in a lot of words 買 and 売 do share the same pronunciation バイ. 買 means to buy and 売 means to sell. There is even a word 売買{ばいばい} meaning ...
Eddie Kal's user avatar
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4 votes
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What is the difference between 楽しい, 愉しい, and 娯しい?

The short answer is "愉しい and 娯しい are alternative spellings only for novelists, copywriters and lyricists. You probably should not use them." While there are many word pairs whose difference ...
naruto's user avatar
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3 votes
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[苛々 ]{いらいら} versus [刺々 ]{いらいら}

Almost nothing but the latter possibly reminds readers of the real 刺【とげ】 "thorn", or another reading of the kanji: 刺々【とげとげ】 "barbed". Although いらいら came from an old word いら that means "thorn", it's ...
broccoli forest's user avatar
3 votes
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What is the Japanese Homophonic Group?

Hiragana is a phonogram, meaning each letter has a distinct sound. There are a few notable exceptions like は pronounced as わ in certain contexts, but mostly I expect the size of homophonic groups to ...
Kohsuke Kawaguchi's user avatar
3 votes

Where can I find the nuance/meaning differences between words with different kanji options?

While ssb’s answer is absolutely sufficient, I want to point out—in addition—an English resource that some may not think of in these circumstances. Of the three current, major kanji–English ...
Kess Vargavind's user avatar

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