Hannah and Je together

Thursday, 31 August 2006

Pronunciation of 何人 of Japanese

Filed under: Lang:English,Subj:Languages — Jemyoung Leigh @ 9:00

Japanese language has mainly two ways of reading chinese characters – read by meaning and by sound.

Let see a egyptian letter of eagle in ancient hieroglyphs. If you read it “A”, it is reading by sound. And if you read it as “Eagle”, you are reading by meaning.

In Korean language, there is no reading by meaning for chinese character. All chinese characters are read by sound. And most letters have only one sound while they in Japanese have several readings and sounds.

人 is a letter standing for “man”. Its pronunciation in Japanese is “nin” or “jin” when it is read by sound while that in Korea is “in“. And its meaning in Japanese sounds like “Hito” or “bito”.

何 is “how” or “what”. So the compound of the two letters may stand for “how-man” or “what-man” whose sound is “nan” or “nani”. How can we know the meaning?

If you read 何人 as “Nan-nin“, its meaning is “How-man”, asking how many people there are.

If you read 何人 as “Nani-jin“, its meaning is “what-man”, asking the nationality of the man.

Guess the pronunciation of 軍人 whose meaning is soldier. 軍’s sound is “gun”. Gun-nin or gun-jin?

The answer is gun-jin.

One of the most difficult parts of Japanese language is the reading of chinese characters.

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