I am wondering about the long vowel e, and whether it is -ee or -ei. Let's use as an example, is written as へい or へえ?


Long vowel E is usually written using い, so, へい is correct. There are some exceptions where it is written with え such as ねえさん、but these are exceptions to the rule, and don't change pronunciation.

There are also a few other ways the vowel can be written as extended: sometimes the ー mark will be used just as in katakana, and sometimes a smaller え is used, for example when ending a sentence with ねぇ. However, again, these are exceptions, so it's best to assume that the vowel is extended with い.

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    Your answer might be taken to imply that it's usually pronounced エイ even if it's written エエ or エー, but the reverse is true. For example 先生 is usually pronounced センセー rather than センセイ. – snailplane Sep 18 '17 at 5:57
  • For when you express surprise/amazement it's usually spelt (exceptionally) へー or へえ. You wouldn't see this word in a proper text though (unless it's e.g. a quote). – a20 Dec 18 '17 at 9:58

The proper way to write the extended え-sound (hē, in your question) would usually be written as へい. In casual writings though most people don't make such a distinction.

Read the explanation for long sound here.

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