vocabulary multiplication

This is not something that you are likely to be able to do intentionally, but it’s really nice when it does happen; and with the large number of compound words in Japanese it happens quite a bit.

For example, today I learned 「栽培(さいばい)」,  the word for cultivating crops of any kind.  Looking it up, I found that I had, in effect, learned a bunch of other words automatically, because it’s part of quite a lot of compounds.  For example, 「温室栽培(おんしつさいばい)」, greenhouse gardening;「果樹栽培(かじゅさいばい)」, fruit growing; 「栽培所(さいばいしょ)」, plantation; 「栽培種(さいばいしゅ)」, agricultural variety or species; 「テラス栽培(てらすさいばい)」, terrace growing; and several more.

And the fact that an easily recognizable word forms a part of so many compounds makes it more likely that you’ll be able to infer the meaning of a new word in reading or listening.  You read or hear a word, note that 栽培 is a part of it, and immediately you can tell (even without context) that this new word has something to do with raising crops, which narrows the meaning down a great deal.


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