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Kan-on (漢音, Japanese pronunciation: [kaꜜɰ̃.oɴ] or [kaɰ̃.oɴ], "Han sound") is one of the sources of pronunciation of Japanese kanji. They were borrowed during the Tang dynasty (7th to 9th century), introduced by, among others, envoys from Japanese missions to Tang China. This period corresponds with the Japanese Nara period. Not to be confused with Tō-on "Tang sound", which actually refers to later phonetic loans.

Kan-on is based on the central Chang'an pronunciation.[1] The name Kan could refer to the Han dynasty, which also had Chang'an as its capital city.[1] Furthermore, Kan has also become a description for all things Chinese, e.g., Kanji ('Chinese characters').

Kan'on partly displaced the earlier go'on, which were "just imitations of Korean imitations, but Kan-on were imitations of the real things."[1]

A minority of characters never had their Kan-on transmitted to Japan; their Kan-on are sometimes reconstructed in Japanese dictionaries although not specifically marked as such. A few dictionaries go as far as to discard attested Kan-on in favour of more systematic pronunciations.[1]

Characteristics as compared to Go-on[edit]

In consonants[edit]

type unvoiced / voiced voiced / nasal zi- / ni- or zy- / ny-
example 二児 人刃
Kan-on ɕin tai to tɕi fun futsu dan dʑo ban bi bu dʑi dʑin dʑitsu dʑo dʑaku
Go-on dʑin dai do dʑi bun butsu nan njo man mi mu ni nin nitɕi njo njaku
notes d- / n- b- / m- Mandarin r-, er

In vowels[edit]

type * / -e -ei / -ai * / -u
examples 会絵 快怪 仮家 下夏 西斉 体帝 公工口 豆頭 右有 九久
Kan-on i ki gi ai kai くゎい kwai ぐゎいgwai ka くゎkwa so to do iu kiu riu
Go-on e ke ge e ge ue/we ke ge ke ge ke ge sai tai mai rai su zu nu ku zu u ku ru
Notes Mandarin -i
Type -i- / -o- -e- / -o- -a- / -o- -a- / -ya- -yoku / -iki
Examples 音隠 今金 遠園 言厳 色拭
Kan-on in kin hin itsu kitsu uen/wen ken gen uetsu/wetsu han hatsu kau kaku haku ɕoku tɕoku rjoku
Go-on on kon hon otsu kotsu won/on kon gon otɕi/wotɕi hon hotsu gjō gjaku bjaku ɕiki dʑiki dʑiki riki
Type -e- / -ya- others
Examples 京経 正生性声省精 成静 丁挺 平病 名命明 石赤 文聞
Kan-on eki seki reki giu getsu satsu bun
Go-on kjō gjō ɕō dʑō tɕō dʑō hjō bjō mjō rjō jaku ɕaku dʑaku rjaku go gwatsu setsu mon
Notes Mandarin -ing zheng, cheng, sheng
Japanese vowels

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Miyake, Marc Hideo (2003). Old Japanese: A Phonetic Reconstruction. Routledge. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-134-40373-8.