Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Remembering the Kanji 2, Third Edition

Remembering the Kanji 2, Third Edition: A Systemic Guide to Reading Japanese Characters

James W. Heisig
Copyright Date: 2008
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Remembering the Kanji 2, Third Edition
    Book Description:

    Following the first volume of Remembering the Kanji, the present work takes up the pronunciation of characters and provides students with helpful tools for memorizing them. Behind the notorious inconsistencies in the way the Japanese language has come to pronounce the characters it received from China lie several coherent patterns. Identifying these patterns and arranging them in logical order can reduce dramatically the amount of time spent in the brute memorization of sounds unrelated to written forms. Many of the "primitive elements," or building blocks, used in the drawing of the characters also serve to indicate the "Chinese reading" that particular kanji use, chiefly in compound terms. By learning one of the kanji that uses such a "signal primitive," one can learn the entire group at the same time. In this way, Remembering the Kanji 2 lays out the varieties of phonetic patterns and offers helpful hints for learning readings, which might otherwise appear completely random, in an efficient and rational way. A parallel system of pronouncing the kanji, their "Japanese readings," uses native Japanese words assigned to particular Chinese characters. Although these are more easily learned because of the association of the meaning to a single word, Heisig creates a kind of phonetic alphabet of single-syllable words, each connected to a simple Japanese word, and shows how they can be combined to help memorize particularly troublesome vocabulary. Unlike Volume 1, which proceeds step-by-step in a series of lessons, Volume 2 is organized in such as way that one can study individual chapters or use it as a reference for pronunciation problems as they arise. Individual frames cross-reference the kanji to alternate readings and to the frame in Volume 1 in which the meaning and writing of the kanji was first introduced.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6414-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    As the title suggests, the present book has been prepared as a companion volume toRemembering the Kanji: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters. It presumes that the material covered in the first book has already been mastered and concentrates exclusively on the pronunciation of the Japanese characters. Those who approached the study of the kanji in a different manner may find what is in these pages of some use, but it has not been designed with them in mind.

    As I explained in the Introduction to the former volume, if...

  4. Note to the 2nd Edition
    (pp. 7-8)
  5. PART ONE: Chinese Readings

    • CHAPTER 1 The Kana and Their Kanji
      (pp. 11-19)

      The two japanese syllabaries known as thehiraganaand thekatakana(or collectively, thekana) originated as stylized versions of Chinese characters used to represent the sounds of Japanese without any reference to the original meaning of those characters. In modern Japanese not all of thekanaretain the sound of their parent-kanji, but there are a number that do, whether askun-yomioron-yomi. This means that if you can recognize these kanji, learning at least one of their readings is almost automatic.

      Many of the calligraphic transformations will be immediately apparent; others require some knowledge of calligraphy. In...

    • CHAPTER 2 Pure Groups
      (pp. 20-75)

      The easiest groups of character-readings to learn are those that share commononreadings by virtue of the presence of a common primitive element, called here a signal primitive because it “signals” a particular sound for each character in which it appears. Let us begin with a concrete example.

      As you learned in vol. 1, the character in the above frame serves as a primitive element in a number of other characters with themeaningof “in.”

      Conveniently, the character itself also provides those characters with a commonon-yomi,namely チュウ. In other words, each time you see this primitive...

    • CHAPTER 3 One-Time Chinese Readings
      (pp. 76-81)

      The characters brought together in this chapter should be learned well before passing on to the rest of the book. Knowing them will remove another obstacle from the long road that lies ahead.

      This collection of “one-time” readings sifts out all theon-yomi(Chinese readings) that arenothomonyms, at least not in the confines of the standard readings on which this book is based. We have already learned of these readings in Chapter 1:

      世 = セ 部 = へ 祢 = ネ 寸 = スン 奴 = ヌ

      This means that the sounds セ, へ, ネ, スン, and ヌ will not appear...

    • CHAPTER 4 Characters with No Chinese Readings
      (pp. 82-85)

      The kanji that make up this chapter are presented more for recognition than for memorization. As the title indicates, their common point is that they are assigned no Chinese reading in this book.

      In the case of those that belong to the general-use kanji, this means that no reading has been assigned them in the official list, though many of them do have traditional readings. In the case of those that fall outside the general-use list, this means that no Chinese reading they may have is useful enough to bear learning at this stage.

      Look over this list carefully before...

    • CHAPTER 5 Semi-Pure Groups
      (pp. 86-116)

      The kanji treated in this chapter differ from those of Chapter 2 only in one significant detail: the signal primitive bears a uniform reading for all butoneof the characters in which it appears. Here again, secondary or tertiary readings for the kanji do not necessarily follow the rule. The point is only that one of the assigned readings of the character is not affected at all by the semi-pure group to which it belongs by virtue of its signal primitive.

      Let us take a group of 5 kanji, the first 4 of which show a common reading based...

    • CHAPTER 6 Readings from Everyday Words
      (pp. 117-145)

      By the time you pick up this book you will have already learned at least the rudiments of Japanese grammar and in the process have learned some of the most useful words of everyday spoken Japanese. Taking advantage of this fact, as well as the fact that you already know the meanings of all the characters treated here, you can enlarge your knowledge of theon-yomiby seeing how those everyday words, in fact, look when set to kanji.

      Take, for example, the ordinary Japanese word for a medical “doctor,” which is いしゃ. The two kanji with which it is...

    • CHAPTER 7 Mixed Groups
      (pp. 146-191)

      After the relaxing detour into everyday words, we must return to the work that remains with signal primitives. From here on, the work will be more complicated than it was in Chapters 2 and 5 because of the increasing number of exceptions. In spite of that, I am sure you will find that it does provide considerable help with what would otherwise be a hodgepodge of disconnected readings.

      Unlike the “semi-pure” groups, which had only 1 exception, these “mixed” groups are composed of at least 4 kanji sharing a common signal primitive that assigns the same reading to at least...

    • CHAPTER 8 Readings from Useful Compounds
      (pp. 192-218)

      We have done everything we can with the signal primitives but are still left with 701 frames to complete our study of the Chinese readings. Now we return to the procedure followed in Chapter 6, focusing on the exemplary compounds. Many of the words that appear in the following 237 frames are not common to everyday conversation, but they are all words that you will meet frequently in everyday reading materials such as newspapers, magazines, billboards, street signs, and menus. If you have studied the language formally for a half a year or more, you will probably know at least...

    • CHAPTER 9 A Potpourri of Readings
      (pp. 219-250)

      The main thing the kanji of this chapter have in common is that they do not fit the previous categories and are a bit too common to leave for the final chapter. It is arguable that a few of the compounds might have been included in the last chapter, and some left for the next. But there is no getting around the fact that we have come to the point where we must enlist the full assistance of brute memory.

      To make the leftovers a little less formidable, I have cooked up a potpourri of exemplary compounds that I hope...

    • CHAPTER 10 Supplementary Readings
      (pp. 251-286)

      The final chapter dealing with the Chinese readings falls into two parts of roughly equal length. In the first part I have included what seem to me the most useful of the remaining readings to know—or at least, those least unusual. The second half of the chapter picks up all the left overs, uncommon and close to obsolescence as some of them may be. Without wishing to slight the reasons which the Ministry of Education and Science has for deciding that all of these readings belong to the “general-use” kanji, the fact remains: if there is one part of...

  6. PART TWO: Japanese Readings

    • CHAPTER 11 A Mnemonics for the Japanese Readings
      (pp. 289-304)

      As explained in the Introduction, thekun-yomior Japanese readings of the kanji differ considerably from theon-yomitreated in the last ten chapters.Kun-yomigenerally stand on their own as phonetic units and not as components of compounds, are often inflected with ahiraganaending, contain far fewer homonyms than the Chinese readings, and admit of no “signal primitives” or any comparable device for associating form with pronunciation.

      If anything, the Japanese readings of the characters present us with a problem much like that we faced in learning to write them, at least in these two respects: (1) they...

  7. Indexes