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I know Wine is written as ワイン. I've also seen Whiskey as ウィスキー. In both english words, the 'w' sound are relatively similar (although slightly different). I'm assuming ウァ would be somewhat like ワ. But then there is 'Valentinus' written as ウァレンティヌス and I don't understand why ウァ is used as VA (instead of ヴァ).

Could anyone please point out what the differences (especially between ウァ and ワ) are, I think I'm confused (maybe because we don't have the english 'w' sound in German).

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I don't know the difference between ウァ and ワ, but "they" seem to think that ウァ is better: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Gradius Dec 19 '12 at 11:25
The reason they use a spelling for the sound /wa/ instead of a spelling for /va/ in the Japanese Wikipedia is that they intend to transcribe the pronunciation in Classical Latin. I do not know why they use the nonstandard spelling ウァ for the sound /wa/ instead of the standard spelling ワ. (Latin scholars in Japan may use this convention as Gradius answered; I just do not know if this is true.) –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 19 '12 at 17:00
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It seems that there is a tradition to describe the sound of Latin /va/ as ウァ(which would be pronounced the same as ワ) in Japanese.

This might spill over into Latin words used in actual Japanese, but the result is mostly a stylistic effect and/or a snobbery effect. There is only one /w/ phoneme in Japanese.

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Your last sentence kind of contradicts what ssb is saying. So ウァ and ワ are actually the same? –  H0efi Dec 20 '12 at 10:53
@H0efi, what do you mean "are the same"? They're obviously not the same. But when used for Japanese, they are pronounced the same, /wa/. When used to describe foreign pronunciation, there are no clear rules. But there seems to be a convention to transcribe Latin /va/ as ウァ. –  dainichi Dec 21 '12 at 5:29
Sorry, I meant to say they are pronounced the same. And regarding the transcription of va as ウァ: I just asked my Latin teacher and (if she remembers correctly) the va sound was pronounced /wa/ in classical Latin and then later shifted to /va/. –  H0efi Dec 21 '12 at 12:06
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Latin scholars in Japan seem to like using ウァ instead of ワ. Wikipedia says "一部の外来語で、発音が同じ/wa/であってもワの代わりにウァと書く場合がある。一般には使われないが、ラテン語のvaを古典式発音で音写する際に用いられる(例:ウァレンティヌス、ミネルウァ)。"

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