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I know that sh, ch, and j are pronounced differently in Chinese than in English, but what about Japanese? I have read that し, ち, じ are pronounced slightly differently than they would be in English (she, chea[p], gee), however I'm never told how. If they (し, ち, じ) are pronounced differently than they would be generally pronounced in English, how?

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I don't understand the question. If you wrote what sound you wished to describe in Kana, I think the question would be clearer. "sh and ch" are sounds written in the roman alphabet, that do not appear to have a relationship to standard romanization systems such as Hepburn romanization, Kunrei-shiki Rōmaji (ISO 3602), and Nihon-shiki Rōmaji . –  yadokari Feb 3 '13 at 5:04
    
@yadokari I mean the Japanese sh and ch sound in generally, but I see where you're coming from. I suppose I'll edit in an example. –  yasmin-chanel Feb 3 '13 at 5:06
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Until someone posts a more suitable answer to this question, my answer to another question contains links to the descriptions of how the consonant of し in Japanese and the consonant “sh” in English are pronounced. The pronunciations of ち in Japanese and “ch” in English are analogous. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 3 '13 at 5:19
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"How is し, ち, and じ pronounced differently than in English?" し, ち, じ are Japanese kana. Needless to say, they are not used in English. Spelling and pronunciation--even in Japanese--are very different things. If you wish to discuss pronunciation, please read up on IPA. You will need a basic knowledge of phonetics. Some phonology would help as well. Then the question becomes about realization of Japanese /si, ti, zi/. Though I assume that this is surely well documented in Wikipedia. –  Dono Feb 3 '13 at 16:48
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@Koasamitsu Regarding the consonants, /si/ is a voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant, /ti/ is a voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate, and /zi/ is a voiced alveolo-palatal affricate. –  Dono Feb 3 '13 at 17:09
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2 Answers 2

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With the English sounds sh, j and ch, the friction occurs between the alveolar ridge (where the flat part of the mouth located behind the teeth sharply moves up to the palate) and the tip of the tongue. Sometimes, the tongue is a bit further back or curled, and the back part of the tip of the tongue is involved (ie. it is retroflex).

In Japanese, the tip of the tongue is not used for these sounds; instead, a more posterior and wider part of the tongue is used at the point of friction, the tip of the tongue being more or less at the intersection of the bottom teeth and the gum, but without pressing against them.

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Are you talking about xi- and qi-? They would be read shi- and chi- by an English speaker. The corresponding kana in Japanese would be si- and ti-. There is no "see" or "tee" sound in original Japanese. Instead they are prounounced shi and chi

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The question is about the subtle difference between the consonant of し (resp. ち) in Japanese and the consonant “sh” (resp. “ch”) in English. Therefore, I do not think that your explanation that し and ち are pronounced “shi” and “chi” answers the question. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 3 '13 at 14:55
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In theory し and ち should be pronounced the same as pinyin <xi> and <qi>. –  Zhen Lin Feb 3 '13 at 23:44
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