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It almost seems Japanese pronounce certain syllables ending to "-い" the way Chinese do. To my ear じ, し and some others sound like they are just consonants with the vowel at the end left out.

In Chinese when it comes to saying syllables like shi, ri, zhi, the position of the tongue is of course different than that for the Japanese syllables in question. The question I am asking is about whether the ending "-い" in じ, し differs from the "-い" in say き, に, み (in which you can tell the beginning consonant from the following vowel quite naturally)

Do Japanese tend in real life to pronounce some syllables ending to "-い" radically shorter than the others, by just voicing and dragging out the consonant sound (and not saying the vowel)?

ありがとうございます!

  • (Also not a native speaker) One word that came to mind immediately is よし, which I’ve never heard pronounced anything other than “yohsh”, although this may be less of a word than an onomatopoeic interjection that can’t be accurately transcribed. – mamster Mar 13 '18 at 20:17
  • In my sense, omission of the final vowel can happen among all the consonants while it's a little difficult to tell when it comes to voiced consonants such as じ, に or み, unlike devoiced し or き. – user4092 Mar 14 '18 at 9:42
  • Official pronunciation dictionaries sometimes include notation to show that a given kana is devoiced, where the vowel kind of disappears. Examples are NHK's own pronunciation dictionary for on-air announcers, or Wiktionary. These use a dotted-circle around the devoiced kana. From what I've seen in sources, and heard myself, is that devoiced morae (a mora is the unit of time or rhythm for a given sound in Japanese, vaguely like a syllable in English; 1 mora = 1 kana in writing) are all either i or u, like the し in -ました (sounds like -mashta) or the す in です (sounds like dess). – Eiríkr Útlendi Mar 14 '18 at 16:37
  • Technically, the dotted circles in the NHK dictionary indicate devoicing of the vowel, not of the entire consonant + vowel combination represented by the kana. Also, in some cases the vowel may be entirely deleted rather than devoiced. – snailcar Jun 11 '18 at 9:12
  • This happens with 「す」as well: e.g., 横須賀{よこすか} and ありがとうございます – Tom Kelly Jun 11 '18 at 11:21
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I tried to pronounce various words as much as possible and found that the key is the consonant of the ending letter, not the ending vowel sound. If the consonant of the ending letter is either k, s, and t (か行、さ行、た行), then people tend to omit the vowel. For example, あざやか、ありがとうございます、ありがとうございました.

I also found there's another rule. If the intonation of the ending word is up, we never omit the vowel. For example, the intonation of the word はし(chopsticks) is down, people tend to say like 'hush'. But for the word はし(bridge) which intonation is up, we never say 'hush', but like 'ha-shi'.

I'm not 100% sure but I think it is applicable to the most of cases. I will update here if I find something new.

(Btw this is really an interesting question. I'm a native Japanese speaker but I haven't noticed that until I read this question :)

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