Demystifying よる

Hey guys, this may or may not be helpful for some people. But there was a bit of interest a while back on a post I made about かく all having roughly the same meaning regardless of which kanji it was in, so I thought I’d occasionally post other ‘logical groups’ every now and then.

The logical group I want to show today is よる、mainly because it is used in so many grammar points. よる can be confusing sometimes, but it doesn’t need to be. Below are the main kanji that are read as よる、

依る -reliance on ‘A’-
拠る -basis in/on ‘A’-
因る -causality of ‘A’-
由る -reasoning of ‘A’-
寄る -upon reaching ‘A’-

‘A’ being the clause preceding よる in each case.

Note - that my descriptions for these kanji are a little different to heisig, namely 寄 (which I don’t think means ‘approaching’, but more ‘upon reaching’)

While you can already see that these meanings are somewhat similar, it might help to break it down further. よる acts as a foothold (in all cases). Basically, imagine a rock climbing wall. よる is one of the grips jutting out of the wall, it’s the little something that makes progression possible. It is saying that whatever ‘B’ is, it’s only come about because of ‘A’ (in the same way that a foothold is only one tiny piece of a rock climbing wall, but impossible to scale without it).

Note 2 - while we are only looking at verbs here, this applies for nouns too. 夜 of course also being read as よる、and showing the transition period for days. Transition between one day and the next being the foothold.

I understand that this kind of conceptual explanation doesn’t help some people, but hopefully others get use out of it. I’ll tackle きく next time.


Thank you. Grouping verb homophones together based on an underlying common idea really helps (although for this one I only knew one verb… :grinning:). I was wondering whether it is just a useful interesting mnemonics or based on an actual linguistic fact (for this group I would lean toward the latter since takoboto lists the four first verbs in the same entry).


Thanks! Please, could you link the previous post on かく? That makes sense since spoken Japanese precedes the introduction of Kanji. Vaguely related: I was wondering if there is any connection between the Kanji 瑞 and 水 since they share the same on-yomi and kun-yomi.


If it is 訓読み、most of the time the homophones are logically similar. As for 音読み、it is very… Verrrry hit or miss (due to the way in which onyomi was implemented into the language.

Actually, very interestingly, did you know 訓読み literally means (instructonal reading), NOT (Japanese reading) as most books want you to believe? It’s instructional because the kana shows what the word is doing


This is just copied from the original post.

書く、描く、欠く、掻く。 These are all かく、and their meanings are wildly different (write, paint, scratch, crack, sweat, rake) … However… That’s not how the Japanese see them. They all simply mean to ‘run across a surface’. A pen runs across the surface of paper, a crack or scratch runs across the surface of floor etc, sweat runs across the surface of skin, a rake runs across the surface of the ground.

As for your question about the other 2, they both mean ‘purity’ (on a conceptual level).


They are not homophones, more like the same word artificially segmented by the writing system.


100% agree. I guess homophone is a bad choice of word in this case… Embarassingly my Japanese linguistic vocabulary is probably better than English (in regard to word forms/purposes etc) :joy:.

I know this has nothing to do with linguistics, but rather than homophones, I guess they are kinda like species, in the sense of the reading being the underlying thing (cat), and the different kanji used being the representation, (tiger)(domestic)(lynx)(lion)(cheetah)… Yep… Terrible explanation haha


Good stuff


I am not a specialist of linguistics but it seems that even for linguists it is not straightforward to distinguish between cases of polysemic word and homophones. But yes as you pointed at in this case it seems rather to be the same polysemic verb due to takoboto putting the different writings in the same entry.


I’ve found an interesting series of 5 blog posts about homophony in Japanese:


Yeah, homohony in Japanese usually happens with Kango because those tend to have distinct tones removed when imported into Japanese like that article says. Much less likely to be the case with wago though.
The rule of thumb is to see whether there’s a clear semantic overlap between the examples if it’s a polysemic word.


This explanation is excellent.


Just to be unhelpful what about 縒る?


This one is a little bit difficult, but the foothold that this kanji refers to is the ‘ply’, remember how I said ‘B’ requires ‘A’ to proceed? This is in the sense of the threads of a rope twined around eachother, each wrap relies on the previous wrap to be pulled tight. In the same way a pony tail is loose because it’s all loose threads, but a plait is tight and uniform because each wrap reinforces the last.


Is it not possible that it starts out from binding and the other words branch out of the sense of reliance from 縒る? In same way that contract comes from latin meaning “drawn together” and ends up being meant in the physical sense, disease sense and of written deals.


Of course that is possible, keep in mind that we are both trying to explain it in English, which makes it harder because it isn’t English. The absolute simplest explanation is probably the best, as the かな are meant to be the absolute simplest expression of a specific idea.


Thanks for the shoutout, buddy :smiley:

Jesting aside, this is quite useful actually! I didn’t know there were so many ways to write よる. Makes me wonder if this is the equivalent of the spoken complexity of English…

Take for example “the weather is hot”, or “this food is tasty”. There’s only a handful of ways that are commonly used to express this in spoken Japanese, whereas there is a mountain of words one could use in English that wouldn’t be considered odd or niche to express this. 一方で there is only one way to write/spell “hot” and “tasty”.

Made me think, anyway :stuck_out_tongue:


Terribly good — またよろしくお願いいたします。(^o^)/


You are exactly right. Hence why I think this multiplication of ideas is really lacking in Japanese speech. People usually convey things in very simple ways, and you can usually guess the nuances based on the context of the convo. Using my species example again, Let’s pretend someone said ‘The cats are really dangerous in Africa!’, most people would automatically assume that they mean Lions, so there really is no need for vocabulary specifics.

I guess this is also why pretty much every show in Japan has subtitles too. Lots of things would be impossible to understand 100% without them. Especially infomercials. I have never seen a Japanese infomercial without subtitles.

1 Like

I actually loved this aspect of Japanese TV (pretty much the only aspect actually), especially helpful with those comedian/hosts who speak at a million miles an hour (うん、山里亮太、お前に向けて言ってんだろ)