I was wondering, I learnt an う lengthens the sound before it. When I learnt the word みずうみ I thought it is a long u and saw it as a whole new word, but I noticed みずうみ exists of 2 words: みず (water) and うみ (sea), the u does not function as lenghteing the ず but as the first syllable of うみ. I am a bit confused here: Do you say "mizu umi" or "mizuumi" as one word (with a long u)?

Thank you in advance!


  • I think if they are separate words you should pronounce them as separate words ("mizu umi") but I'm fairly beginner still so I could be wrong.
    – syin
    Apr 1 '14 at 20:25

In terms of etymology, みずうみ is indeed derived from two words, but it's now a single word—much like how English housewife is a single word, even though it's clearly derived from house + wife.

This doesn't really matter for how you pronounce two /u/ vowels in a row, though. You just hold the sound for an extra beat ("mora"), like it's a long vowel:


Here, the ː symbol indicates a long vowel and the symbol indicates a noticeable drop in pitch.

The drop in pitch is called a "pitch accent", and in this word it occurs after the second /u/ sound. The red line in the following shows the basic pitch pattern of the word, rising after the first /mi/ and falling after the second /u/:


I've checked four dictionaries, and all four say the pitch accent is in this location. However, several users have commented saying that the accent is often moved one mora to the left:


In any case, you can listen to a recording of this word that someone uploaded on Forvo.

  • As far as I know, Japanese has no such contrast as う↓ー and うー↓. Do you think if people would distinguish みずう↓み and みず↓うみ?
    – Yang Muye
    Apr 1 '14 at 10:33
  • I listened to the link, and heard “みず↓うみ”, which suggests that the ずう must be a long vowel.
    – Yang Muye
    Apr 1 '14 at 10:39
  • @YangMuye: The NHK発音アクセント gives prononciation as per 2nd last line of snailboat's answer (dropping after the 2nd u).
    – Tim
    Apr 1 '14 at 11:10
  • I think I hear みずうみ【LHLL】 more often. (And I agree that the person on Forvo pronounces it this way.) Would that be /mizuꜜːmi/, then?
    – Earthliŋ
    Apr 1 '14 at 11:15
  • 1
    @Kaji ほうむる is pronounced [ホームル]{LHHL}, according to the NHK dictionary.
    – user1478
    Apr 1 '14 at 23:35

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