Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gikun 義訓

In Japanese, a gikun 義訓 is a special type of kun'yomi kanji reading, literally an "artificial kun [reading]."

It happens when a word is written with a given kanji because of the kanji's meaning, that is, originally the word would be written with other kanji, or without kanji, but it was written with those kanji instead because of their meanings, effectively giving the kanji an unusual (artificial) reading.

Example of gikun reading from manga Made in Abyss メイドインアビス. The word oobaado オーバード, "aubade," being used as furigana for naraku no shihou 奈落の至宝, "precious treasure of the abyss."

Standard Gikun

For example: tabako タバコ, "tobacco," "cigarette," is a gairaigo so it wouldn't have kanji, but it's sometimes written with the kanji for "smoke," kemuri 煙, and "grass," kusa 草. Smoke grass #420, tabako 煙草.

Since it's a gikun you can't divide the kanji in the word and get separate morphemes. For example, you can't divide it into tabako 草 or tabako 草, because those kanji can't be read that way, those readings aren't official, standard, they aren't in the dictionary.

It's only when both kanji are used at once, tabako 煙草, that the gikun applies, because then it refers to the word associated with the "smoke grass" meaning, the "tobacco." This is also called a jukujikun, and there are jukujikun like this that aren't gikun. For example, kyou 今日, "today," the kanji are only read as kyou when they're together..

Words like tabako are sorta official gikun, because people would recognize it if it were written with the kanji for "smoke grass." But normally gikun are made up by authors, specially of manga and light novels, so nobody would recognize normally, only, perhaps, readers of that given work.

Made-up Gikun

In manga, anime, light novels, games, songs, etc. it's possible to create any gikun by simply writing whatever in the furigana reading aid.

This normally happens because authors like to use chuunibyou-approved names for skills, techniques, organizations, places, items, and stuff. That is, mostly katakanized English words. But then maybe because katakana words can be a pain in the ass to read if they're long, or maybe because kanji is just more Japanese-looking, the authors use those foreign words as gikun of kanji of similar meaning.

For example, hiiro ヒーロー comes from the English "hero." But yuusha 勇者 also means "hero," literally "brave person." So a made-up gikun would be reading the word yuusha as if it were hiiro, or writing hiiro as if it were yuusha, whichever makes more sense to you: hiiroo 勇者.

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