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Is there a rule of thumb for knowing the reading of a number when it is written in western numerals, and is followed by a loaned counter-word?

For example, how would you pronounce the "1" in 1セット? My first thought it to say 「いっセット」, but as far as I know it could just as easily be 「ひとセット」 or 「いちセット」. The Wikipedia article does not cover loan-word counters, and I cannot find anything on this topic.

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There are a few answers about the general issue below, but I thought it might be helpful to note that 1セット in particular is often pronounced ワンセット... –  Matt Dec 19 '11 at 10:34
    
@Matt Seriously? That's...uhh, strange to say the least. I hadn't even considered that they'd actually be trying to speak English...やれやれ –  silvermaple Dec 19 '11 at 15:53
    
@silvermaple Hard to say it's any more strange or any less Japanese than ワンピース. –  Louis Dec 20 '11 at 19:35
    
@Louis Hmmm, I see your point, but I think there's a difference between a comic and a newspaper (where I found 1セット). –  silvermaple Dec 20 '11 at 20:29
    
@silvermaple I used to think it was about the manga too, but I've only ever heard it used as an outfit. –  Louis Dec 20 '11 at 21:27
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm going to extrapolate the rules for Japanese counters onto foreign-counter-words.

Extracted from Nihongoresources:


Rules for 一

  • When followed by a counter starting with a syllable from the か—, さ— or た—column, いち becomes いっ

  • When followed by a counter starting with a は—column syllable, いち becomes いっ and the counter changes to a 'p' sound


Rules for 三:

  • When followed by a counter starting with a は—column syllable, that syllable changes to a 'b' sound

Rules for 六:

  • When followed by a counter starting with a か—column syllable, ろく becomes ろっ

  • When followed by a counter starting with a は—column syllable, ろく becomes ろっ and the counter changes to a 'p' sound


Rules for 八:

  • When followed by a counter starting with a か—, さ— or た—column syllable, はち becomes はっ

  • When followed by a counter starting with a は—column syllable, はち becomes はっ and the counter changes to a 'p' sound


Rules for 十:

  • When followed by a counter starting with a か—, さ— or た—column syllable, じゅう may become じっ or じゅっ

  • When followed by a counter starting with a は—column syllable, じゅう can become either じっ or じゅっ and the counter changes to a 'p' sound


In short I don't think it matters if the counter is of Japanese origin or foreign origin. It depends on the first syllable of the counter.

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Maybe extrapolation does not always work? For instance 2パック is ふたパック and 2泊 is にはく. は might not be the same rule as ぱ though... for 1 both are ぱ and I guess it would be ひとパック and いっぱく (even though 1パック does not make much sense) –  Nicolas Raoul Dec 19 '11 at 3:29
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That's a good point. What happens when it's 2~, 4~, 5~, 7~, 9~? I suppose we have to look at them case by case? Or alternatively is it possible to treat the "foreign-counter-word" as a noun itself to be counted? This way we force the situation to be [Number]+[Japanese Counter]+[Foreign Word]. I.e. ふたつパック. and eliminate the problem of using the foreign word as a counter. –  Flaw Dec 19 '11 at 5:20
    
It is not appropriate to say "voices to a 'p' sound". "p" is an unvoiced counterpart to the voiced "b". Furthermore, "h" does not change to "p". It is the other way around: "p" changes to "h". "p" is the underlying sound. The kana transcription system is misleading in that it adds the 半濁点 for "p", making it look like "p" and "b" are derived from "h". –  sawa Dec 20 '11 at 3:44
    
@sawa I don't understand what it means to say that one sound or the other is 'underlying' here. –  Karl Knechtel Dec 21 '11 at 2:07
    
@KarlKnechtel It has two senses. One, historically, the sounds pronounced today as h were originally p. Two, (depending on the theoretical framework), there is an abstract representation form called underlying representation, and phonological rules apply to that so that the actual output is different from that. –  sawa Dec 21 '11 at 2:41
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Following this advice on Meta, I'm going to throw in an answer I'm pretty sure of, but could be corrected on.

Scanning down the list of example counters in the Wikipedia article you linked to, every one of them starts with 一{いち}, or it's phonetically adjusted equivalents like 一{いっ}. There were a lot, though, so maybe I missed one or two exceptions.

Thus, the rule of thumb I think you're looking for is:

Unless you already know for sure it's an exception, always guess the counter starts with 一{いち}/一{いっ}

I think this could be said for just about all counters, not just foreign words. Since you're asking specifically about "loan-counters," though, the point is that this rule of thumb would encompass them as well.

I can't think of an example exception, along the lines of 一人{ひとり} and 二人{ふたり}, that uses a loan-word in the counter.

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