Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've chosen the name a bit at random, but for reason I don't understand I have trouble hearing the initial r-sound on several of my male Japanese students' names. Two examples chosen someone at random: 隆介 and 綾

They say りゅうせすけ and りょう but I hear ゆうすけ and よう

I'm a native English speaker of American English but also had experience hearing German as a child in Germany. Is there some linguistic issue going on here or do I just need to get my ears checked?

I saw this question: Utterance initial [ɾ] which explains some of the mouth position for the sound. But, it doesn't answer what I'm asking.

share|improve this question
    
Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/a/12818/1478 –  snailboat May 19 at 16:47
    
@snailboat -- maybe, but I'm not hearing an L sound either. I'm hearing nearly no sound where the ラ行 sound should be. –  virmaior May 19 at 23:12
1  
Well, the link wasn't meant to imply that you'd be hearing an L sound. Rather, that in initial position you're hearing a non-tap allophone whose characteristics differ from the usual intervocalic /r/. –  snailboat May 19 at 23:14
    
@snailboat okay that definitely makes sense of it. –  virmaior May 19 at 23:40
1  
I'm afraid I don't know him well enough to be imaging the inside of his mouth(teehee). But I could try asking for a speech sample. –  Val May 22 at 3:18

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

For the ラ行, you are curling the tip of your tongue touching the alveolar ridge (between 5 and 4 in the picture). There is a large gaping whole in the middle of your mouth and the slightest build-up of pressure will "break the seal", which means that the airflow is very small, whence the initial r is hardly audible.

If you're pronouncing りゅう in the middle of a word, you can use the existing airflow through the mouth to slam your tongue onto the alveolar ridge to produce a more audible r.

(Please excuse the informal explanation, but I'm lacking vocabulary to make this a more concise explanation.)

alveolar ridge

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.