Why is [好]{す}き pronounced with a voiceless/almost silent U, but [隙]{すき} is not?

I've used 2 sound sample sources for both, Jisho and Rikai sama. They both pronounce the first (like) with a voiceless U. However, they both pronounce the second (gap) with a voiced U.

I thought that if you disregard external factors like mood/emphasis/politeness/dialect/whatever for a second, that devoicing occurs when U and I are sandwiched between two voiceless consonants, or if there's a voiceless consonant first and then nothing after.

But here 1 word takes that rule and the other doesn't. Does that mean that some specific words have a voiced U where it normally shouldn't be there?

  • 1
    ja.forvo.com/word/好き/#ja <-- Some people pronounce 好き with a silent U, and others with a voiced U
    – chocolate
    Mar 17, 2018 at 2:41
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    Is it possible Jisho and Rikaisama are both using the same source of incorrect information?
    – user1478
    Mar 17, 2018 at 3:29
  • It's possible. I didn't have time to ask a native speaker as it was nearing bedtime when I asked the question. Mar 17, 2018 at 8:23
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    For what it's worth, the NHK Accent Pronunciation Dictionary (used as the basis for "offficial" pronunciations as used by NHK broadcasters) indicates a devoiced /u/ sound in all the words starting with すき that I looked at -- 好き、隙、スキー, etc. Note that the NHK dictionary is based on Tokyo pronunciation, where the initial す has a low pitch accent, vaguely similar to an unstressed syllable in English. I have a friend from Kōbe who uses the Kansai pitch pattern, where the す in 好き has a high pitch accent, and the /u/ is not devoiced. Is it possible you're hearing a Kansai-Kantō difference? Mar 17, 2018 at 11:24

1 Answer 1


living in Japan, I have heard a variety of words containing "su" spoken by multiple people, in many areas of the country, with mixed usage of voiced or unvoiced "u" sound. This includes most of the common words that contain the pattern "suki". Words such as sukiyaki, sukima, sukiari, sukii, sukiiru, to name some of the most common. Sometimes the same person will say the same word, first one way, and then the other, during the course of a conversation. It's rare to have an opportunity to hear that occur, though. If there is a grammatical/phonetic rule that is meant to be applied to all words using the "suki" syllables, I have not met any Japanese people who apply it strictly.

and as Eiríkr Útlendi mentioned in a comment, there are regional dialects that flip the rules for voiced/devoiced sounds.

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