On Sat, Sep 22, 2001 at 10:04:53PM -0400, Herman Miller wrote: > I'm not fluent in any language besides English, but I've tried to learn a > number of languages, and written Japanese has got to be one of the hardest. > On top of all the difficulties of spoken Japanese, you have to deal with > what's probably the most complicated writing system in current use. Even > though the number of characters in general use is limited compared to > Chinese, each character may have a number of different pronunciations > depending on context (typically two or three, but sometimes even more). Well, there is *some* rhyme or reason to it. There are typically two readings, an on-yomi (A reading that reflects the Japanese interpretation of how it sounds in the Chinese language from which they got the character) and a kun-yomi (A native word which reflects the same concept as the character illustrates). As many Chinese words are two-character compounds, especially the ones in Japanese, it can be safely assumed that characters in compounds should be read using their on-yomi, and characters standing alone should use the kun-yomi. Interestingly, even compound words that did not come directly from China, but were created in Japan, also use the on-yomi. It's kind of like how English forms a lot of its compound words from Latin and Greek roots, I think.