So there was a Dino Comix about English
, in particular about the obsolete English words "overmorrow" and "ereyesterday", which mean "day after tomorrow" and "day before yesterday" respectively.
Now, being myself, I have to point out that Japanese has such words. 明後日 and 一昨日. They're great, and it's a nice feature of the language. Agglutinate kanji for meaning, much like German. But, because this is Japanese, the implementation is incredibly annoying.
今, "now", generally read kon
. 日, "sun" or "day", usually read hi
. Put them together for 今日, and you have kyou
, "today". It's one of the first compounds anyone learns, partly because it's so easy and partly because it introduces the idea of completely unreasonable kanji readings, formed when kanji get substituted into a word for meaning without regard for how they would usually be read.
And if you write it like this 「今日は」 you get konnichiwa
, except when it's not. A common greeting.
"Tomorrow" is 明日, composed of 明, for, I don't know, "bright" or "sunrise" maybe, and the aforementioned 日. Needless to say, it's pronounced ashita
, which are. . . at best tangentially related to the readings already introduced for 日. It gets worse, of course.
"Day after tomorrow" is a single common word, 明後日, which is nice because that 日 kanji just keeps acquiring more readings. In this case it's read asatte
, and you can take the derivation to be something very much like the English phrase, only in reverse (dawn-after-day). At least we keep the "a" phoneme for 明. (Incidentally, the quickest way to enter that by itself in my IME is to spell it myou
, because kanji.)
And there's a word for the day after that -- a perfectly common and everyday word -- 明々後日. The ditto mark 々, means, "repeat previous kanji". The wikipedia tells me it should only be used when the reading is the same, but I see no evidence that this rule exists. In this case the reading is shiasatte
and you can plainly see that there is no repetition of sound whatsoever. I don't know why it's read that way either -- my dictionary doesn't even list shi
as a pronunciation, even under "special cases." Whatever. It's an extra-special case.
There's a word for the day after that, too, but really I give up. I've never heard that one in reality, so I'm going to pretend it doesn't exist. I was planning on also writing about the "yestermorrow" equivalents and so forth, but I've found that just getting this far has seriously taxed my patience. Even the Japanese wikipedia has a certain amount of apologetic "this is totally out of control" explanation on the relevant pages.
In summary: Kanji have only the loosest relation to phonemes, and the only sensible approach as a student is to consider them solely in relation to words. Also, speech first, writing later.