A Study of the Mutual Phonetic Resemblance Between Japanese Kyoiku Kanji and Chinese


This study investigated the mutual phonetic resemblance of Chinese ideograms between Japanese and Chinese using the official list (expanded in 2020) of Kyôiku kanji (Chinese ideograms in Japanese, taught at elementary school). The aim of this analysis was to determine ways to help learners from non-kanji backgrounds to quantify the phonetic gap between these two languages. First, since most kanji symbols can be read in multiple ways (on'yomi [Chinese reading in Japan] and kun'yomi [Japanese reading]), the rate of the use of on'yomi in each of the 1,026 kanji was calculated as 66.1% by accounting for the factor of the frequency of all 9,292 words that contain these kanji and are classified in the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test word list. Second, twelve Chinese native speakers were surveyed using questionnaires (with a rating score of 0–100%) about the phonetic approximation between on'yomi in each of these 1,026 kanji and Chinese reading in China. In this survey, no noticeable trends were identified between each rating score and the four Chinese tones. However, the statistical analysis of Pinyin decomposed into vowels and consonants revealed the following findings: (a) the rating score was high for characters beginning with a vowel; (b) the score was high for characters that contain apical consonants (a mean value of 32.6) or labial consonants (25.8); and (c) almost all characters that contain retroflex consonants (in particular, "zh" [mean 7.5], "r" [7.5], and "ch" [10.6]) were identified as having no phonetic similarity with their Japanese counterparts.

Author Information
Yuji Obataya, Geneva University, Switzerland

Paper Information
Conference: IICEHawaii2021
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)

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