Discovering the reading of kanji by the phonetic component

Did you know that several ideograms can have the same pronunciation because of a phonetic component within it? This component is called keiseimoji (形声文字) and is present in about 67% of Japanese ideograms. Having knowledge of this phonetic component will help us to understand and discover the reading of most Japanese ideograms.

They can be radicals with sound and other kanji that work like radicals. This phonetic component is usually located on the right of an ideogram and sometimes in low. The phonetic component indicates just how Chinese reading ON YOMI. As the Chinese language is a tonal language, while Japanese has few phonemes, this results in thousands of ideograms with an equal reading. Knowing how to read a phonetic component will help us to identify most of the readings on yomi present in a kanji.


What is a kanji with phonetic component

You may have even been confused in understanding what components or phonetic compounds are that make up a kanji. The best way to understand what I’m talking about is to see it in practice. Pay close attention to the image below: Phonetic component kanji

Here we find the ideogram which means Buddhist temple. His Japanese reading (KUN YOMI) is [will have] while Chinese reading (ON YOMI) is [ji]. All other kanji in the image have the on the right side. This makes all the ideograms in the image have the same Chinese reading or on yomi like [ji].

It is worth making it clear that this rule is not absolute. Many Japanese ideograms have more than one Chinese reading. Some kanji also gain Chinese reading with dakuten. As an example, an ideogram with the reading か can sometimes also have the reading が. It is impossible to determine this without knowing the ideogram or at least the words it forms. This reading of the dakuten exists to make the pronunciation of the words formed by the most beautiful ideogram.


Therefore, you should keep in mind that there are thousands of kanji, some are composed of one or more components (radicals or kanji). Others have zero or more than one Chinese reading (on yomi). With that in mind you can start to assimilate some ideograms through their components and discover their reading. It is not an easy process, you need to have a good knowledge of Japanese to be able to read ideograms and words formed by radicals / kanji with your Chinese readings.

Kanji with the same readings ON YOMI

The table below shows examples of ideograms that have a phonetic component (or a radical / kanji with reading) see below:

Radical, Component Reading Kanji, Ideograms
ki 机, 肌, 飢
bou 忙, 忘, 盲, 荒, 望, 妄
kan 汗, 肝, 奸, 刊, 岸
go 伍, 吾, 唔, 圄, 寤, 悟, 晤, 梧, 牾, 珸, 衙, 語, 齬
ki 起, 記, 紀, 忌
gaku 咢, 愕, 萼, 蕚, 諤, 鄂, 鍔, 顎, 鰐, 鶚, 齶
kou 紅, 空, 虹, 江, 攻, 功, 肛
kyuu 吸, 級, 扱
shi 仕, 志, 誌
hou, bou 肪, 坊, 紡, 防, 妨, 房, 謗, 傍, 芳, 訪, 放
saku 作, 搾, 昨, 酢, 酢
chuu 忠, 沖, 仲, 虫, 狆
ka 花, 貸, 靴
han 版, 板, 坂, 飯, 販, 叛
fun 粉, 紛, 雰
han 伴, 絆, 拌, 判
haku 伯, 拍, 泊, 迫, 舶, 狛, 柏, 箔, 珀
hi 彼, 被, 疲, 被, 披
fu 府, 符, 附, 俯
hou 抱, 泡, 胞, 砲, 飽, 咆
ka 河, 何, 荷, 苛, 呵, 歌
ko 居, 固, 故, 枯, 個, 湖, 箇, 沽, 姑, 苦
know 姓, 性, 星, 牲, 惺
know 征, 政, 症, 整, 性, 牲
kan 悍, 捍, 旱, 桿, 稈, 駻
seki 晰, 析, 淅, 皙, 蜥
shi 伺, 詞, 嗣, 飼
only 粗, 祖, 狙, 阻, 組
tan 但, 胆, 疸, 担
King 冷, 鈴, 零, 齢, 鈴
ryuu 竜, 滝, 粒, 笠, 龍
shin 神, 伸, 呻, 押, 紳
shou 招, 沼, 昭, 紹, 詔, 照
an 案, 按, 鞍, 鮟
I give 洞, 胴, 桐, 恫, 銅, 洞, 筒
ji 侍, 持, 時, 塒, 峙
jun 洵, 殉, 恂
kaku 格, 喀, 閣, 額
kei 掛, 桂, 畦, 珪, 罫, 鮭, 硅
kei 系, 係, 繋
kou 校, 絞, 狡, 較, 郊, 効, 咬
kyou, kou 供, 恭, 洪, 哄
shi 姿, 諮, 資
know 盛, 誠, 筬, 城
shu 株, 珠, 殊, 蛛
ga 峨, 蛾, 餓, 俄, 鵞
ho 浦, 捕, 哺, 匍, 補, 蒲, 輔, 舗
ken 硯, 蜆, 現
shin 唇, 振, 賑, 震, 娠
shou 宵, 消, 硝
tei 第, 剃. 涕
tei 庭, 挺, 艇
ryou 郎, 浪, 朗, 狼, 廊
choku, shoku 植, 埴, 殖, 稙
chou 張, 帳, 脹
hi 悲, 緋, 誹, 鯡, 琲, 扉
hou 崩, 棚, 硼
ka 課, 菓, 踝, 顆
kan 棺, 管, 館
matsu 抹, 末, 沫, 秣, 茉, 靺
ki 崎, 埼, 椅
ki 期, 欺, 棋, 基, 旗
kin 欽, 錦, 銀
leaves 彩, 菜, 採
know 清, 靖, 精, 晴, 請, 情, 鯖, 静
shaku 借, 惜, 錯
shou 常, 裳, 掌
shou 娼, 唱, 菖, 晶
guu 遇, 寓, 隅, 偶
hen 編, 偏, 篇, 蝙
soku 側, 測, 惻
I am 想, 箱, 霜
baku 摸, 膜, 漠, 博, 縛, 幕
kou 縞, 稿, 藁
I am 遭, 槽, 糟
I am 贈, 僧, 憎, 増
I give 撞, 憧, 瞳
gi 儀, 議, 犠, 蟻, 艤