is a phenomenon in
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

morphophonology Morphophonology (also morphophonemics or morphonology) is the branch of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and ...
that governs the
voicing Voicing may refer to: * Voicing (music), the distribution of a chord's notes, either in composition or orchestration *The regulation of tone and loudness of an instrument's notes: **Piano_maintenance#Voicing **Voicing (pipe organ) **Plectrum#Voicin ...
of the initial
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...
of a non-initial portion of a compound or
prefix A prefix is an which is placed before the of a word. Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. For example, when the prefix ''un-'' is added to the word ''happy'', it creates the word ''unhappy''. Particularly in t ...
ed word. In modern Japanese, ''rendaku'' is common but at times unpredictable, with certain words unaffected by it. While
kanji are a set of from which forms a major part of the alongside with syllabic scripts ' and '. The Japanese term ''kanji'' for the Chinese characters literally means " characters". It is written with the same characters as in to refer to the ...

do not indicate ''rendaku'', they are marked in
kana The term may refer to a number of syllabaries In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...

with ''
dakuten The , colloquially , is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) ...
'' (voicing mark).


Rendaku was initially an automatic and predictable process in Japanese. One theory states that rendaku was originally a way to distinguish compound words from saying a word twice when comparing two words or listing things (compare ひとびと ''hitobito'' "people" - with rendaku - versus ひと、ひと ''hito hito'' "one person, another person" - without rendaku). Native Japanese words never begin with a voiced obstruent or sibilant (b, d, g, z, etc.) so rendaku was merely an allophonic detail that never caused any misunderstanding. However, after the 4th century, Japan started borrowing words and characters from China, which caused the once regular process of rendaku to become less predictable. Since many Chinese words begin with voiced consonants, applying rendaku to those words would cause ambiguity (compare 試験 ''shiken'' "examination" with 事件 ''jiken'' "incident"). Therefore, compound words consisting of purely Chinese words tend not to exhibit rendaku while compounds consisting of native Japanese words do exhibit rendaku, with many exceptions.


''Rendaku'' can be seen in the following words: : (
iteration Iteration is the repetition of a process in order to generate a (possibly unbounded) sequence of outcomes. Each repetition of the process is a single iteration, and the outcome of each iteration is then the starting point of the next iteration. ...
) :: ''hito'' + ''hito'' → ''hitobito'' ("person" + "person" → "people") : :: ''ike'' + ''hana'' → '' ikebana'' ("keep alive" + "flower" → "flower arrangement") : (iteration,
reduplication In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

) :: ''toki'' + ''toki'' → ''tokidoki'' ("time" + "time" → "sometimes") : :: ''te'' + ''kami'' → ''tegami'' ("hand" + "paper" → "letter") : :: ''ori'' + ''kami'' → ''origami, origami'' ("fold" + "paper" → "paperfolding") : ::''hana'' + ''hi →'' ''hanabi'' ("flower" + "fire" → "firework") : :: ''hana'' + ''chi'' → ''hanaji'' ("nose" + "blood" → "nosebleed") : :: ''maki'' + ''sushi'' → ''makizushi, makizushi'' ("roll" + "sushi" → "nori-wrapped sushi") (''Rendaku'' is prevalent with words that end in ''sushi''.) : :: ''yama'' + ''tera'' → ''Yama-dera, Yama-dera'' ("mountain" + "temple") : :: ''kokoro'' + ''tsukai'' → ''wikt:心遣い, kokorozukai'' ("heart" + "using" → "consideration" or "thoughtfulness") : :: ''oboro'' + ''tsuki'' → ''oborozuki'' ("haze" + "moon" → "hazy moon") In some cases, ''rendaku'' varies depending on syntax. For instance, the suffix , from , is pronounced as following the Japanese verb conjugation#Perfective, perfective verb, as in , but is pronounced as when following a noun, as in or, semantically differently – more concretely – . Rendaku occurs not only on single-root elements, but also "multi-root" elements, those that are themselves composed of smaller elements. These morphemes may also be of Chinese origin (see ''Sino-Japanese vocabulary, kango'') or even of non-Literary Chinese, Literary-Chinese origin (see ''gairaigo'') rather than strictly native. : :: ''ken'' + ''-sha'' → ''kenja'' ("wise" + "-er" (agent suffix) → "wiseman; philosopher") :::Here, ''kenja'' is a ''kango''. : :: ''chū'' + ''koku'' → ''Chūgoku'' ("center" + "country; -land" → "China; Chūgoku region, Chūgoku") :::Here, ''Chūgoku'' is also a ''kango''. : :: ''hira'' + ''kana'' → ''hiragana, hiragana'' ("plain" + "character", compare ''katakana, katakana'', which does not undergo ''rendaku'') : :: ''kyaku'' + ''futon'' → ''kyakubuton'' ("guest" + "bedding" → "bedding for guests") :::Here, ''futon'' is a kango and compound of fu + ton : :: ''roten'' + ''furo'' → ''rotenburo'' ("outdoor" + "bath" → "outdoor bath") : :: ''yumemi'' + ''kokochi'' → ''yumemigokochi'' ("dreaming" + "state of mind" → "dream state") : :: ''oboro'' + ''tsukiyo'' → ''oborozukiyo'' ("haze" + "moonlit night" → "hazy moonlit night") :::Here, ''tsukiyo'' is a compound word, composed of ''tsuki'' ("moon") and ''yo'' ("night") : :: ''iro'' + ''chaya'' → ''irojaya'' ("lust" + "teahouse" → "brothel teahouse") :::Here, ''chaya'' is a compound word, composed of ''cha'' ("tea") and ''ya'' ("shop"); ''cha'' by itself generally doesn't undergo rendaku, but ''chaya'' frequently does : :: ''Bon'' + ''chōchin'' → ''Bonjōchin'' ("Bon Festival, Bon" + "lantern" → "Bon lantern") :::Here, ''chōchin'' is a Chinese borrowing, composed of ''chō'' ("portable") and ''chin'' ("lamp") : :: ''oya'' + ''kaisha'' → ''oyagaisha'' ("parent" + "company" → "parent company") :::Here, ''kaisha'' is a ''kango'', composed of ''kai'' ("gathering") and ''sha'' ("company") : :: ''kabushiki'' + ''kaisha'' → ''Kabushiki gaisha, kabushikigaisha'' ("stock-type" + "company" → "joint-stock company") : :: ''ame'' + ''kappa'' → ''amagappa'' ("rain" + "raincoat" → "raincoat") :::Here, ''kappa'' is a ''gairaigo'', from the Portuguese word ''capa'' ("cloak; cape") : :: ''ame'' + ''kōto'' → ''amagōto'' ("rain" + "coat" → "raincoat") :::Here, ''kōto'' is a ''gairaigo'', from the English word ''coat'' : :: ''iroha'' + ''karuta'' → ''irohagaruta'' :::Here, ''karuta'' is a ''gairaigo'', from the Portuguese word ''carta'' ("card") : :: ''mizu'' + ''kiseru'' → ''mizugiseru'' ("water" + "pipe" → "hooka") :::Here, ''kiseru'' is a ''gairaigo'', from the Khmer word ''khsiə'' ("pipe") Notice that for certain morphemes that begin with the morae ''chi'' () and ''tsu'' (), their rendaku forms begin with the morae ''ji'' and ''zu'', spelled ''precisely'' in hiragana as and , which explains the use of these kana in contrast to the identically pronounced and (see ''yotsugana''). This isn't a hard and fast rule, however, because it's relaxed in certain older compounds or names, especially those that are so consolidated that they could hardly be recognized as compounds anymore, but rather, as single words themselves. Rendaku occurs not only in compound nouns, but also in compounds with adjectives, verbs or continuative/nominal forms of verbs. : :: ''me'' + ''fu-ku'' → ''mebu-ku'' ("sprout" + "to blow" → "to bud") : :: ''otoko'' + ''kira-i'' → ''otokogira-i'' ("male person" + "dislike; hatred" → "dislike for men; misandry") : :: ''onna'' + ''su-ki'' → ''onnazu-ki'' ("female person" + "liking; fondness" → "fondness for women; woman lover") : :: ''o-ki'' + ''sa-ri'' → ''o-ki-za-ri'' ("putting" + "leaving" → "deserting") : :: ''kuru-i'' + ''sa-ki'' → ''kuru-i-za-ki'' ("being in disarray" + "blooming" → "unseasonable blooming") : :: ''usu-'' + ''kitana-i'' → ''usugitana-i'' ("faint-; light-" + "dirty" → "dirty") : :: ''kuchi'' + ''kitana-i'' → ''kuchigitana-i'' ("mouth" + "dirty" → "foulmouthed; scurrilous") : :: ''ta-chi'' + ''toma-ru'' → ''ta-chi-doma-ru'' ("standing; starting; igniting" + "to stop" → "to stop")

Properties blocking ''rendaku''

Research into defining the range of situations affected by ''rendaku'' has largely been limited to finding circumstances (outlined below) which cause the phenomenon not to manifest.

Lyman's Law

Lyman's Law states that there can be no more than one voiced obstruent (a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow) within a morpheme. Therefore, no ''rendaku'' can occur if the second element contains a voiced obstruent. This is considered to be one of the most fundamental of the rules governing ''rendaku''. :''yama'' + ''kado'' > ''Yamakado'' , not *''Yamagado'' やまがど ("mountain" + "gate" > place name) (* indicates a non-existent form) :''hitori'' + ''tabi'' > ''hitoritabi'', not *''hitoridabi'' ("one person" + "travel" > "traveling alone") :''yama'' + ''kaji'' > ''yamakaji'', not *''yamagaji'' ("mountain" + "fire" > "mountain fire") :''tsuno'' + ''tokage'' > ''tsunotokage'', not *''tsunodokage'' ("horn" + "lizard" > "horned lizard") There are, however, exceptions to Lyman's Law. For example, nawa + hashigo is nawabashigo, not nawahashigo. Although this law is named after Benjamin Smith Lyman, who independently propounded it in 1894, it is really a re-discovery. The Edo period linguists Kamo no MabuchiItō, 1928.Suzuki, 2004. (1765) and Motoori NorinagaEndō, 1981.Yamaguchi, 1988. (1767–1798) separately and independently identified the law during the 18th century.

Lexical properties

Similar to Lyman's Law, it has been found that for some lexicon, lexical items, ''rendaku'' does not manifest if there is a voiced obstruent near the morpheme, morphemic boundary, including preceding the boundary. Some lexical items tend to resist ''rendaku'' voicing regardless of other conditions, while some tend to accept it. ''Rendaku'' usually only applies to wago, native Japanese words, but it also occurs infrequently in Sino-Japanese words (Japanese words of Chinese language, Chinese origin) especially where the element undergoing ''rendaku'' is well integrated ("vulgarized"). :''kabushiki'' + ''kaisha'' > ''kabushiki-gaisha'' ("stock" + "company" > "corporation") :''ao'' + ''shashin'' > ''wikt:青写真, aojashin'' ("blue" + "photo" > "blueprint") It is even rarer to find ''rendaku'' among words of foreign origin, unless the loanword has become completely absorbed into Japanese: :''ama-'' + ''wikt:カッパ, kappa'' カッパ > ''amagappa'' 雨-ガッパ ("rain" + "coat" [a Portuguese loan, ''capa''] > "raincoat"). :''aisu'' アイス + ''kōhī'' コーヒー > ''aisukōhī'' アイスコーヒー, not *''aisugōhī'' ("ice" + "coffee" > "iced coffee")


''Rendaku'' also tends not to manifest in compounds which have the Semantics, semantic value of "X and Y" (so-called dvandva or copulative compounds): :''yama'' + ''kawa'' > ''yamakawa'' "mountains and rivers" Compare this to ''yama'' + ''kawa'' > ''yamagawa'' "mountain river".

Branching constraint

''Rendaku'' is also blocked by what is called a "branching constraint". In a right-branching compound, the process is blocked in the left-branching elements: :''mon'' + (''shiro'' + ''chō'') > ''monshirochō'', not *''monjirochō'' ("Mon (emblem), family crest" + > "cabbage butterfly") but :(''o'' + ''shiro'') + ''washi'' > ''ojirowashi'' ( + "eagle" > "white-tailed eagle")

Further considerations

Despite a number of rules which have been formulated to help explain the distribution of the effect of ''rendaku'', there still remain many examples of words in which ''rendaku'' manifests in ways currently unpredictable. Some instances are linked with a lexical property as noted above but others may obey laws yet to be discovered. ''Rendaku'' thus remains partially unpredictable, sometimes presenting a problem even to native speakers, particularly in Japanese names, where ''rendaku'' occurs or fails to occur often without obvious cause. In many cases, an identically written name may either have or not have ''rendaku'', depending on the person. For example, may be read in a number of ways, including both and .

Voicing of preceding consonant

In some cases, voicing of preceding consonants also occurs, as in , which was formerly ''sasa-nami.'' This is rare and irregular, however.

See also

*Consonant mutation *Lenition *Sandhi



* (Japanese citation: ) * * * * * * Japanese citation: * * * (Japanese citation: )

Further reading

* . In Jeroen van de Weijer, K. Nanjo and T. Nishihara (eds.) (2005). Voicing in Japanese. Studies in Generative Grammar 84. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. 5-24. * *

External links

The Japanese Lexicon: A Rendaku Encyclopedia
– National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics {{Japanese language Japanese phonology Japanese writing system terms