The system of abstract sounds (phonemes) used to encode the language, as opposed to the actual technical details of how to produce these sounds.

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31
votes
2answers
3k views

What are the rules regarding “mute vowels” (“u” after “s” and “i” after “sh”)?

When you first begin to learn Japanese you are taught that Japanese has no stress and each syllable should be pronounced equally. You also learn that certain vowels are not pronounced, or only ...
14
votes
2answers
453 views

Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
28
votes
4answers
1k views

How did “little tsu” become a lengthener?

How did it come about historically that っ preceding a sound would geminate it? Is it really a little つ or are they just near homomorphs?
19
votes
6answers
2k views

Why the “H” is pronounced as “Sh” in some cases?

My first question is about the rules of pronunciation of the letter "H". Some people pronounce the "H" as if it were "Sh". For example, "Shijutsu" instead of "Hijutsu", or "Shiyori" instead of ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Actual phonetic realization of “devoiced” vowels

Descriptions of Japanese phonology (such as Wikipedia's) usually describe high vowels between voiceless consonants (or word-finally) as "devoiced". For example, the pronunciation of ⟨圧⟩ 'pressure' and ...
9
votes
1answer
427 views

In which dialects have the sounds “ゐ” (wi) and “ゑ” (we) been preserved, and are their kana still occasionally seen?

In Nate Glenn's answer to bdonlan's qestion "Why were ゐ and ゑ eliminated?" he states: "Wi" and "we" are still in some dialects, but standard Japanese does not have those sounds. My question is ...
7
votes
1answer
267 views

Words with metathesis

What common Japanese words underwent metathesis (transposition of sounds)? Examples. 新{あたら}しい < あらたしい 秋葉原 {あきはばら} < あきばはら
12
votes
2answers
447 views

“y”-sound insertion after intervocalic ん

The pronunciation of intervocalic ん is a topic by itself, with the surrounding vowels tending to become nasalized, and ん itself maybe being pronounced as a nasal vowel. But that's not what I'm asking ...
8
votes
1answer
568 views

What does こまけー mean?

Does anybody have a clue what こまけー might mean? Below are some sentences for context and the phrase as it's used: まじめでおカタい感じの女子大生は、やたらとわたしを目を敵にしてきた。わたしが何をやっても文句をつけてくる。「しょうゆの向きは、こうじゃなくてこう!」って こまけー ...
5
votes
3answers
198 views

What's the relationship between 'e' and 'wa' in some words?

Can someone explain how 'e' and 'wa' are related in some words / 音便? Presumably the 'e' was originally the obsolete ゑ since it's in the ワ行. Some examples: 上(うえ) ←→ 上着(うわ・ぎ) 声(こえ) ←→ ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Pronunciation of す in です and the end of ます verbs

I've always been curious about the pronunciation of the す in です and at the end of 〜ます verbs. Most commonly the "u" sound is inaudible, but sometimes by some people it's more pronounced, and some ...
8
votes
1answer
204 views

Are there any rules governing voicing in words formed via reduplication?

Consider the following words: 燦々 sansan 散々 sanzan Both of them are formed via the reduplication of san, but the latter word has the second instance voiced, while the former doesn't. Was there ...
7
votes
2answers
359 views

Utterance initial [ɾ]

According to The sounds of Japanese (Vance 2008): When /ɾ/ is the first phoneme in an utterance, the tip of the tongue is already resting lightly on the alveolar ridge, and /ɾ/ is produced by ...
1
vote
1answer
119 views

Contraction of や, the variant of は

In an answer to this question, Tsuyoshi Ito correctly points out that you can sometimes change the consonant や, a variant of は, into a glide but sometimes you cannot. 聞きやしない 聞きゃ(ー)しない  ...