I sometimes see that English ka and ca are rendered キャ (kya) instead of カ (ka). Why is this?

Do English ka and ca really sound more like kya than ka, at least to Japanese listeners? (I know it doesn't to me.)

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    You should give examples since English ka and ca are also transcribed as カ. – user458 Mar 20 '12 at 13:39
  • I agree with what Sawa said. I, personally, have never come across "ka" and "ca" being transcribed as "キャ", where did you/have you seen this? On a sign? In a Book? Some form of caption on a TV show? – Jamie Taylor Mar 20 '12 at 14:17
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    1.bp.blogspot.com/_v1OpQDchOuA/TURGKyU_SBI/AAAAAAAADsI/… Another very frequent example is Character – Petruza Mar 20 '12 at 14:46
  • Here we go: Just randomly came across キャンドル for "candle"...it's everywhere 0.o – silvermaple Mar 20 '12 at 15:12
  • I don't know about you, but in English I pronounce "character" with what sounds very much like a "kya" sound with a soft "k". So at least in that case, the Japanese transcription of キャ makes sense to me from a phonetic point of view. And some people prounounce candle in a similar way, actually, depending on dialect. So to me at least it seems the Japanese is simply following the pronunciation not the spelling. Maybe that's just me and my strange accent though ;) – Questioner Mar 21 '12 at 7:03

In reference to Sawa's request for an example, キャンディ is a case of キャ being used to transcribe English ca.

I asked my Japanese teacher exactly this question many years ago. The reply was that the vowel in English candy is higher (in phonetic terms) than the low front vowel in RP English cast. The fact that キャ is palatalised raises the vowel and makes it sound more like it does in English.

EDIT: Other examples of this effect, for reference, include キャラクター, キャンペーン, キャベツ and others.

It's also interesting that this only happens to velars (キャ, ギャ), so we don't have, for instance, ミャン for 'man'.

  • Thanks, great answer. It makes sense to me. As you cited, Character is an example I've seen frequently. – Petruza Mar 20 '12 at 14:44
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    It seems that キャ is used before IPA /æ/ sound, as in candy – Petruza Mar 20 '12 at 14:52
  • Amazing. It makes a lot of sense, but I don't think my own Japanese teacher would've been able to give me this answer... – atlantiza Mar 20 '12 at 18:28
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    What's very odd is that "character" is キャラクター, but "care" (which is pronounced almost, if not exactly the same as the "char") is ケア. – istrasci Mar 20 '12 at 22:24
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    @Hyperworm: What istrasci said is true in particular dialects: in Californian English, for example, RP [æ] corresponds to something like [eə]. (However, Californian English is a rhotic dialect, so 'care' would come out like [keɚ].) – jogloran Mar 21 '12 at 1:08

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