I apoligize for the dumb question, I just started learning recently.

But I'm using memrise to help me learn Japanese, and what I've learned is that ち = "chi", ょ = "yo", う = "u", し = "shi".

Based on that, wouldn't that translate to "chiyoushi"?

Or does ち mean "chi/ch", and ょ mean "yo/o"?


3 Answers 3


ちょ is what we call a digraph; notice that the よ is small, not full-sized. If you wanted to write "chiyoshi," it would have to be ちようし, not ちょうし. I'm not going to list every digraph and their Romanizations/pronunciations here because there are tons of them, but if you check the Wikipedia articles for Katakana and Hiragana, there should be a chart of all of them.


In modern Japanese orthography, there's a distinction between the following pairs:

 ちゃ ちや
 ちょ ちよ
 ちゅ ちゆ

The characters on the left are called colloquially 小さいよ、小さいや、小さいゆ respectively. The small one signifies a diphthong (i.e., it is pronounced "cha cho chu" vs "chiya chiyo chiyu"). More properly, the characters themselves are called 小書き文字 and in Japanese the process is called [拗音]{ようおん}.

Thus, what you are reading is not ちようし but ちょうし (with the small version) read as "choushi". (If you are reading something pre-War or so, it's possible that this predates the small characters. If so, it is still read choushi -- you just had to know that then).

  • This brings up a question I do have--how were digraphs represented in this pre-war orthography? For example, I know that しょう was せう, but were there others like this?
    – Kurausukun
    Aug 12, 2016 at 4:56
  • @Kurausukun That is a much more complicated question that cannot be answered in the space of a comment.
    – user1478
    Aug 12, 2016 at 11:16


Yōon or Youon (拗音?, contracted word or diphthong) is a feature of the Japanese language in which a mora is formed with an added [j] sound, i.e., palatalized.

ちゃ cha    ちゅ chu    ちょ cho

  --- This is odd.  This row doesn't include 「ちぇ」  as in チェ・ゲバラ 

Ok, it's explained in the Jp Wikipedia page :

開拗音 == 開拗音は「あ行」と「わ行」を除く行のい段の仮名1文字に小文字の「ゃ」「ゅ」「ょ」のうちの1文字を付けて仮名2文字で表記される。 なお「シ」、「チ」または「ジ」に「ェ」を付けて表記される「シェ」「チェ」「ジェ」は対立する直音があるのでこれらを拗音に含めるとの考え方もあるが、外来語のみであることや部分的で音韻体系全般にわたるものでないことから拗音に含めない考え方もある。

  • 1
    Er, yes, what you're writing is true, but the OP probably can't make heads or tails of why you're writing this because you never link it directly to their question (though you use the exact same text in your question this am).
    – virmaior
    Aug 11, 2016 at 22:48
  • >>> (though you use the exact same text in your question this am). – virmaior 1 hour ago <<< --------------- re: "this am" --- is "am" a net-lingo or slang that's new to me? or is it just a typo?
    – HizHa
    Aug 12, 2016 at 0:01
  • this am = this morning. Neither a typo nor net lingo... (colloquialism in AmE? )
    – virmaior
    Aug 12, 2016 at 0:07
  • For the OP who asked [Why does ちょうし translate to “choushi”?] i wanted to give him/her 2 things, the Wikipedia link and the word "palatalization". ________________________________________________ In all my posts i try to do two things. -- 1. i try to write something that would be of interest to people of all levels in Jp proficiency, and 2. (long enough to cover the subject and) short enough to create interest. Brevity (or abridgement) is the ...
    – HizHa
    Aug 12, 2016 at 0:22

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