What's the phonetic difference between toraianguru (トライアングル, the correct word in Japanese) and torayanguru (トラヤングル)? Do they both sound the same and it's purely a matter of orthography, or is there some deeper difference?


In short, they don't sound the same: [ト]{to}[ラ]{ra}[イ]{i}[ア]{a}[ン]{n}[グ]{gu}[ル]{ru} sounds closer to the pronunciation of the English source term. The /aia/ vowel combination (as /a i a/) makes a clear analog of the English /aia/ pronunciation (as /aɪ æ/ for the i and a in the middle of triangle).

Meanwhile, [ト]{to}[ラ]{ra}[ヤ]{ya}[ン]{n}[グ]{gu}[ル]{ru} has no /ai/ combination at all, and doesn't sound as close to the English term.

(Musings: rather than [ト]{to}[ラ]{ra}[ヤ]{ya}[ン]{n}[グ]{gu}[ル]{ru}, a closer phonetic match might be [ト]{to}[ラ]{ra}[イ]{i}[エ]{e}[ン]{n}[グ]{gu}[ル]{ru}.)

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    That phonetic for 'triangle' might be true for America, but certainly not for (most parts of) Britain. – Angelos Feb 2 '16 at 23:48
  • @Nothingatall -- If you mean the /aɪ æ/ for the i and a in the middle of triangle, how would other British accents pronounce this? C.f. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/triangle#Pronunciation. – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 2 '16 at 23:59
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    The a in triangle is generally /a/ in British accents; トライアングル is perfect fit, whereas トライエングル would sound off. – Angelos Feb 3 '16 at 1:36
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    It's actually /æ/ in British accents. See the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. – snailplane Feb 3 '16 at 19:43
  • @snailboat In traditional RP, yes, but most modern British accents have /a/. – Angelos Feb 5 '16 at 17:09

A part of the reason is nontransparent transcriptions are generally not approved in Japanese. The word triangle obviously splits up into tri + angle, thus we favor the spelling トライ{tri} + アングル{angle}, which reminds us of the original breakpoint. If English triangle should sound トラヤングル (while it doesn't to me), I don't think much people write it directly under today's convention.

The rule holds true even if syllable linking occurs, such as: ログ{log}イン{in}, キック{kick}オフ{off}, ポップ{pop}アップ{up} etc. There are indeed some usages in blogosphere that like ホッテントリ "hot entry" or プラギン "plugin", but they're all intended geekish slangs.

In this post @istrasci has suggested, you can see some exceptions like パイナップル{pineapple} and ラインナップ{lineup} (and ランナウェイ{runaway}, ワンナウト{one out} etc.), yet they're only allowed in n + vowel environment.

I don't know if this is trivial enough, but, purely from Japanese standpoint, トライアングル and トラヤングル would not sound the same. The former is seven morae long, the latter six.

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