Rendaku - Sequential Vocalization in Japanese

Have you noticed when a kanji ends up having a reading as if it were with dakuten? For example, in the word goddess, why does me [女] + kami [神] become megami [女神] and gami isn't it a kami reading [神]? This phenomenon in Japanese is called rendaku and we'll talk about it in this article.

The word rendaku [連濁] means sequential vocalization, euphonic change or sequential pronunciation. Rendaku is a morphophonological phenomenon in the Japanese language that regulates the pronunciation of the initial consonant of non-official portions of compound or prefixed words.


Simply put, Rendaku is a phenomenon that changes the reading of a hiragana to its version dakuten on certain occasions for pronunciation to become easier and less confusing. As there is no dakuten in ideograms, it is difficult to identify when this phenomenon occurs.

Rendaku - sequential vocalization in the Japanese language

For those who don't remember, dakuten are those 2 little dots that look like accents that stay in some hiraganas and katakana to transform their sounds like for example KA [か] turns GA [が] or OK [た] life GIVES [だ] and so on.


The word Rendaku [連濁] is composed of the ideograms [連] which means to unite, connect, join, connect, take and [濁] which means sonorous, impure or wrong.


I cited some examples and tried to explain in detail how this phenomenon works. Some may not have understood it yet, but it is easy with some examples below:

Responsive Table: Roll the table sideways with your finger >>
Without laceWith Rendaku
Person - hito - 人People - hitobito - 人 々 (this equals another 人)
Flower - hana - 花Flower arrangement - ikebana - 生け花
Temple - toki - 時Às vezes – tokidoki – 時々(são 2x 時)
Paper - Kami - 紙Origami - 折り紙
Japanese character - Kana - かな - 仮名Japanese alphabet - hiragana - ひらがな
Sushi - 寿司Type of sushi - makizushi - 巻き寿司
Temple - tera - 寺Mountain Temple - yamadera - 山寺
Blood - chi - 血Nasal bleeding - hanaji - 鼻血
Fire - hi - 火Fireworks - hanabi - 花火
Use - tsukai - 使いAnxiety - kokorodzukai - 心使い
Deep - fukai - 深いDeep - okubukai - 奥深い
Discount - hiku - 引くTax excluded - zeibiku - 税引き
Tooth - ha - 歯 Crooked tooth - deppa - 出っ歯 
Hate - kirai - 嫌いCat hater - nekogirai - 猫嫌い
Picture - shashin - 写真Blueprint - aojyashin - 青写真
Country - koku - 國China - Chuugoku - 中国

The examples above are the most popular when it comes to Rendaku. Unfortunately there is no rule for when lace is applied to the word, it is often random, but there are sets of rules that can make it easier for you to understand how this phenomenon works.


The first thing you need to know is that if you write a word on the keyboard and forget about this phenomenon, the ideograms or kanji will still appear to be selected on the keyboard. This phenomenon is something more phonetic and happens most of the time only with kanji.

Most words that use the same kanji twice often use the rendaku.

There is a list of ideograms that most of the time its composition generates a Rendaku. These words are called Rendaku-Lovers and some of them are: 花, 風呂, 寿司, 骨, 笛, and 箱;

When does a word use Rendaku?

It is worth remembering that these rules that I am going to quote do not affect your learning of the Japanese language, they serve only to cure curiosity. When you learn for example the word goddess [[] you already learn it as megami and not mekami, so knowing or not the rules of Rendaku will not change anything in your life.


Fortunately knowing the rules may or may not help you to predict the income in some unknown word. We recommend knowing at least the basics of dakuten and handakuten to understand the rules created in this article.

Rendaku is most often present in a compound word. That is, when two words come together to form another word. There are exceptions, but virtually all words that use this phenomenon:

  • They are of Japanese origin;
  • There is no dakuten or handakuten in the compound word;
  • It is not an onomatopoeia;
  • The second word starts with K, S, T or H;

Words of foreign origin can have a Rendaku as in the case of the word karuta [かるた] which comes from a letter and refers to a game of cards or playing cards. This exception occurs in the word irohagaruta [いろはがるた]. It only happened because the word karuta was 100% absorbed in Japanese.

Lyman's law and lexical properties

THE Lyman’s Law states that the rendaku it does not occur if the second consonant of the second element is vocalized obstructively. Or to put it simply, it does not happen when the second consonant of the second already contains a dakuten.

Japanese words do not usually have two consonants with dakuten. These syllables with the accents can also be called cloudy sound or dakuon [濁音].

The compound word yama [山] + kaji [火事] cannot be pronounced yamagaji because ji [じ] is a dakuon. Other similar words are hitoritabi, tsunotokage and harukaze.

There are rare cases where the second word is composed of 3 syllables. In some of these cases the word may have a phenomenon where the dakuten from the second syllable is exchanged for the first syllable. Some examples are: [した + つづみ = したづつみ] - [あと + しざり = あとじさり];


Despite many exceptions, words with lexical properties do not usually manifest the Rendaku. Simply put, if you see any syllable with dakuten in the first word, it is likely that the consonant of the second kanji does not manifest the Rendaku. Japanese does not usually have two dakuten syllables followed by one another.

The compound word mizutama [水玉] remains mizutama because of zu [ず], unlike akadama [赤玉] that transformed the tama in lady.

Dvandva semantics and suffixes

There is a phenomenon in some languages called Dvandva which are compound words but convey the idea of ​​two words as if there were “and” in the middle of them. In English we have the word bittersweet which is bitter and sweet or words like space-time that also fall into the category of Dvandva.

When two words come together to assemble a word composed of the dvandva category, laceku is not used. There are some exceptions for words that use Rendaku, but they are two different words, for example:

  • 山川 - yamakawa - Mountains and Rivers;
  • 山川 - yamagawa - Mountain river;

A word that would fit perfectly in Rendaku is shiro + kuro [白黒] that could be written shiroguro [白黒], but that doesn't happen because shirokuro [白黒] means black and white. The word iro + kuro will come unrighteous [色黒];

In addition to onomatopoeia, words that are composed of a suffix or prefix also do not transform into an Rendaku. See a list of suffixes below that completely kills this phenomenon:

  • 一 [hito];
  • 下 [shita]
  • 二 [futa];
  • 先 [saki];
  • 唐 [kara];
  • 土 [tsuchi];
  • 姫 [hime];
  • 御 [o, mi];
  • 毎 [mai];
  • 浜 [hama];
  • 潮 [shiyo];
  • 煙 [kemuri];
  • 片 [kata];
  • 白 [shiro];
  • 紐 [himo];
  • 血 [ketsu]
  • 黒 [kuro];

Usually the compound words that contain these ideograms with these readings functioning with a suffix or prefix blocks the possibility of the word being an Rendaku.

These were some of the rules and tips related to Rendaku. We recommend not to be bound by these rules, because there are many exceptions in the middle of them. It is best to learn word for word without worrying about it.

I hope you enjoyed this article, I tried to simplify it as much as possible. If you want to go deeper into the subject, we recommend reading the English article tofugo. If you liked the article don't forget to share and leave your comments.