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(Note: I'm part of the "I know bits and pieces of Japanese from watching anime" group, so I lack an in-depth knowledge of Japanese)

As I'm hearing Japanese occasionally there will be an English word said. Lots of the time there seems to be a suffix on it. Here's a random sampling of words and what the suffixes sound like:

print-o
fight-o
deep-eh
speed-o
rock-uh
type-eh
print-eh
rope-eh
boss-eh

As you can see there seem to be 2 major suffixes: -eh (or -euh, depending on the person saying it) and -o. Are there any rules on which to use? Does it even depend on the person or area the person is from?

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Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/2147/78 –  istrasci Sep 12 '12 at 18:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Written Japanese contains a syllabary (like an alphabet) called Kana. All of the "letters" in this syllabary, with the exception of the "letter" "N" (ん/ン) end in a vowel. Thus anytime a foreign word ends in a consonant (with the exception of "N"), it is natural for a Japanese speaker to pronounce this consonant with a vowel after it. This is not a question of suffix usage but a question of pronunciation. Note that all the words you listed have a pronunciation that ends in a consonant (the e in rope and type are not audible).

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kana

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Hmm, never noticed that everything ends in a vowel. Thanks for the help! –  TheLQ Sep 12 '12 at 18:54
    
@ TheLQ, You're welcome. And now that you know this, you can use this knowledge as an aid in fostering a fake japanese accent. –  yadokari Sep 12 '12 at 21:21

The very rough outline of the pattern is as follows:

-n -> Nothing added.
-t, -d -> Add -o.
-s -> A phonemic -u is added, but is often not pronounced.
-tch(-ch) -ge -> A phonemic -i is added, but is often not pronounced.
-k(-c/-ck), -g, -z, -f, -b, -p, -m, -r, -sh -> Add -u.

What I write as -u is really a close back vowel [ɯ], which is what you transcribe as -eh and -uh.

So the general rule is to add -u. The reason some endings add others, like -o, is that some combinations of sounds, like 'tu' and 'du', don't exist in Japanese traditionally (although they have appeared because of foreign loanwords).

For the ones adding -i, I have less confidence, but I would think it is because -tch and -ge sound palatized, and "chi" and "ji" are palatized in Japanese, contrary "chu" and "ju".

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Building on what the other answers gave, but adding a bit more detail:

Japanese's "syllables" are known as "mora". One mora consists of at least a vowel and possibly preceded by a consonant. (They're not quite syllables, as two mora can combine to make one syllable). This makes Japanese a moraic language.

A consonant following a vowel in a syllable is known as a syllable coda. Japanese lacks any representation for a syllable coda in its set of phenomes, since every consonant is always followed by a vowel (with a notable exception of the "n" sound, which is relatively new in the Japanese syllabary). For this reason, transcribing a syllable coda into Japanese usually requires an -u sound. In normal spoken Japanese, an -u is usually barely pronounced when it comes at the end of a word. In anime, you've probably heard a lot of "desu" and "masu" at the end of sentences, pronounced as "dess" and "mass", respectively. So the following words are transcribed as follows:

wife => waifu
propose => puropozu
rice => raisu
ice => aisu

But "t" is an exception to this. The [タ行]{ta-gyou}'s -u syllable sounds like "tsu", rather than "tu". So the closest thing to a terminal "-t" coda is "to".

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