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The small っ (tsu) is usually used before a consonant to indicate gemination, less technically known as doubled consonants, which is how they are transliterated in romaji.

I have seen it at the end of some of what I call "vocal noises" where I interpreted it as possibly a glottal stop. But the other day I saw it used on an advertising poster on public transport at the end of a word. At least so it looked. What does it signify in this case?

The text in the ad is:

お待たせっ!

新しいタフマン

参上!!

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Could you transcribe here the real examples? (or link to pictures, as there may be more material embedded in the font or pictures of the ads.) –  Axioplase Jun 24 '11 at 1:43
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I like to think of it as "slamming on the brakes"; and the more っ you add at the end, the harder you're slamming them. –  istrasci Jun 24 '11 at 14:33
    
@istrasci Btw do people use more than one っ ? –  Pacerier Feb 4 '12 at 15:12

2 Answers 2

It's a glottal stop, similar to the usage you mentioned (あっ,もうっ). It signifies that the last mora is cut off abruptly. This can imply irritation (なんだよっ "What!") or excitement (大変だっ "It's terrible!"). In print, it's a little like adding an exclamation point to the end of the sentence.

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if its like adding a ! at the end of the sentence so does it mean that in terms of pronunciation なんだよっ sounds the same as なんだよ ? –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 5:36
    
No, as I said, the last syllable is cut off abruptly. –  Amanda S Jun 24 '11 at 5:54
    
i mean i don't really get it.. so it's half a mora? –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 6:08
    
@Pacerier, are you asking about the moraic length of the glottal stop or the preceding mora? –  dainichi Feb 4 '12 at 4:59
    
@dainichi for example, if あああ is 3 mora and あもう is 3 mora, is あっもう 3.5 moras or 4 moras? –  Pacerier Feb 4 '12 at 15:15

Your example case is a little strange and without more context, I am not sure about the intent.

In general cases, just like Amanda said: it indicates a word being cut-off (or sometimes a very strong exclamation).

An interesting aspect is that it seems to work a little different from the equivalent in Western languages, in that it does not actually cut-off the word (in the text), but is added at the end. Let me illustrate...

If a comic book character was trying to say something, to be cut off suddenly (by another character, by a sudden event), the English would read something like:

What's happen... [cut to horrible monster devouring the hero]

the end of 'happen[ing]' being removed, is what indicates the abruptness of the cut.

The Japanese version would more likely be:

なんだっ!? or なにこれっ?!

Both of which would be fully-formed words without the っ.

So, っ at the end of a word means something like "imagine the last mora of this word wasn't uttered", rather than "the rest of this word was cut-off", as a Westerner could be inclined to see it.

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This might sometimes be the case, but I don't think っ usually indicates that the entire last mora gets cut off. For instance, a cut-off ちょっと is written ちょっ, not ちょっとっ. –  Amanda S Jun 24 '11 at 6:00
    
@Amanda: I think ちょっ is a bit special, considering it already has a っ... That being said, ちょっ would be slightly ambiguous (I've seen it used many times as a quirky way to write ちょう). I have definitely seen "ちょっとっ" before... To conclude: I am not sure there is an iron rule, but my original point was just to say that when used at the end of a fully formed word, it does retain that meaning of "cut off word"... –  Dave Jun 24 '11 at 9:36

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