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26

I have a book in my university library that has a 100-odd page article dedicated to these mute vowels, and it still doesn't seem to give a complete picture. So unfortunately, this feature of Japanese phonology is quite complex. Still, there's a rather simple rule of thumb that can point you to most of the places where muting may occur (and in most of them ...


20

Short answer: The allowed pronunciations depends somewhat on the word origin. For Sino-Japanese words (漢語), such as 英語<えいご> or 先生<せんせい>, the underlying vowel sequence is always ええ, but can be pronounced as either えい or ええ (despite its native orthography being <えい>). Most Yamato (和語) words are the same as the Sino-Japanese words, but in some cases ...


14

(See the other answers for translate vs. transliterate.) It's due to Japanese's syllable structure. English allows some spectacularly complicated syllables (strengths being a good maximal example*), but Japanese doesn't - its allowed syllable structure is (C)V(N/Q), where C is any consonant, V is any vowel, N is the nasal ん (which can vary in pronunciation ...


7

This is the result of a well known devoicing rule in Japanese. Devoicing means that there is no vibration of the vocal folds. For example, the difference between [s] and [z] is only that [z] is voiced. The IPA diatric for devoiced phones is a circle at the bottom of the glpyh eg [z̥]=[s]. Although there is still much dialectual, idiolectual (the way a ...


5

I guess that it depends on dialects, but when vowels /i/ and /ɯ/ are “devoiced” in the Tokyo dialect, these vowels are actually dropped and the preceding consonant fills the mora. Moreover, if the vowel is /i/, the consonant is palatalized. This blog article (in Japanese) gives a fairly detailed description of “devoiced vowels” in the Tokyo dialect.


5

First off, by 'translate' I assume you mean 'transliterate', to convert text from one script to another. I apologize if this is not what you meant to ask. "猫 = cat" would be a translation; "猫 = neko" would be a transliteration. To answer the question, Japanese is made up of syllables, all but one of which are vowels (a, i, u, e, o) or a combination of a ...


5

The せい of 先生 is a good example of 長音{ちょうおん} (a long vowel). While it is written as せい , in reality it is pronounced as セー with a エー sound (not a エイ sound). Other examples include: Kanji hiragana prononciation ----- -------- ------------- 映画  えいが エーガ 英語  えいご  エーゴ 時計  とけい  トケー 丁寧  ていねい テーネー Another example of a 長音 that is ...


5

There is no semantic difference. The pronunciation varies with local dialects, and with the level of politeness. As for politeness, [sei] is a pronunciation sometimes used by people to emphasise formality (e.g. in conjunction with 敬語), but this is nowhere near a necessity. I would say that [see] is the common pronunciation. Try sticking in an almost silent ...


4

The fact is, 先生 is not regularly written in katakana in the first place, so there is no authentic guideline that tells you which is correct. If you are going to write it in katakana, there must be an unusual purpose for doing it. If that purpose is to indicate that you just don't/can't use kanji, then センセイ would be appropriate. If the purpose is that you ...


3

They are all variations of the same word. The only difference here is the degree of emphasis and where the emphasis is. For example, "っ" in "すっ" just represents a bit of pause between "す" and "げ". "ぇ", "え", and "ー" all represent dragging of the "げ" sound, but "ー" is longer than "え", and "ぇ" is a very short addition. None is more correct than others, and the ...


3

I think that with a few exceptions, おう is /oː/ within a single morpheme, and /ou/ when it crosses morpheme boundaries. おお is always /oː/. The same thing is true of other kana pairs like こう・こお, そう・そお, and so on. For example, look at the following pair of words: 追う  おう  /ou/ 王   おう  /oː/ 追う can be divided into the root ow and the verb ending morpheme ...


3

I've got an old PDF folder full of papers on Japanese, and I managed to pull up two which might be helpful. (I've been on the search for a full detailed phonetic study of Japanese. Add a comment if you know of some other technical resources!). The first, the open paper Processing missing vowels: Allophonic processing in Japanese (Ogasawara and Warner, 2009) ...


3

I usually hear people draw out the long "su" at the end of a sentence when giving some sort of presentation or speech (where it gives emphasis to speaker's sentence... or, perhaps, gives the speaker more time to think about what to say next.) It happens in English, too, like when a voice-over announcer makes something sound more dramatic. In most general ...


2

I've long been puzzled by this. I've been told it was more common in Kansai, but I've definitely heard it in Tokyo, although I have no idea where the people were originally from. People have told me it was a dialectal difference, only to get caught saying it themselves later. Go figure. It's particularly common in short expressive phrases like そう(なん)です~. I ...


2

Yes, you are right. For 拾う and している, I think everybody pronounces them with ou and ei. For 姪, I would pronounce it mei, but I'm not convinced that some people wouldn't pronounce it mee. In the case of 姪御{めいご}, which is sonkeigo for 姪, I think even I would pronounce it meego. I don't know if there are strict rules about when to pronounce it either way, but ...


2

I'm no expert in Japanese, but to me it seems that voicing 'u' and 'i' syllables is more the rule than the exception. You may want just to learn each case, like desu, anyway, most of the languages include some characteristics that don't follow strict rules and are just to be memorized.


2

No, it's not true. Counterexample 剣 translates to "sword", which does not end in a vowel. Even when Japanese is transliterated into English, it's not true. Counterexample [剣]{けん} is transliterated as "ken" or "kenn", which does not end in a vowel. What is true, is that many Japanese words, when transliterated into ローマ字 (Latin alphabet) do end ...


1

I have not particularly noticed this [ɛ] or [ɔ:]. So I cannot comment on them. What is the history of these vowel variants (if any)? Are they by any chance remnants from historical phonemic mergers, or are they just one-off phenomena? In Middle Japanese, there were both [ɔː] and [oː]. The former derive from /au/ or /eu/ (-->Note), while the latter from ...



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