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I came across the word ケーブルカー, or cable-car.

Based on the pronunciation I have, the ブ and ル are pronounced like one syllable (like 'brr') instead of two like I expected ('bu ru').

Is this an exception or is the second pronunciation correct (or am I wrong all together)?

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    Sometimes not hearing it doesn't mean it isn't pronounced. With ケーブル, both 'u' sounds are usually pronounced. It might be helpful to know which source you are referencing. For example: [youtube.com/watch?v=-HMieOcDza4 10 sec. mark] – user27280 Feb 11 at 21:19
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    たいいくかん、たいくかん、みたいな・・・? But I think ケーブルカー is pronounced as 6 morae long. – Chocolate Feb 12 at 16:04
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(1) ケーブルカー
The specific word you mention is pronounced as written. Perhaps what is making it sound a little different is that the accent in the word occurs on the 4th mora, on the ル. That naturally gives the 'ru' sound a slight emphasis as the pitch of the word goes from high to low on that sound. So while it is not the case that the ブル is pronounced as 'br', there is an accent on the 'ru'.


(2) Kana are not always pronounced as spelled but in the majority of cases they are. There are exceptions, of course. Here are some common ones:

'Long Vowels': So-called 'long vowels' occur in sounds such as とう where it is pronounced as とー (e.g. おとうさん is pronounced おとーさん rather than おと'u'さん with a full う sound).

Polyphonic characters: Another obvious example is the Hiragana characters は and へ. When は is a topic marker it is pronounced 'wa' and when へ is a particle indicating motion it is pronounced as 'e'.

Devoicing: Sometimes words contain devoiced sounds such as the す in the ます verb ending or the す in すき.

I'm sure there are more examples, but my point is that while these exceptions do exist, the majority of Japanese words are pronounced as they are written.

  • Diphthongs are single vowel sounds which begin at one articulatory target and move smoothly to another articulatory target. For example, the vowel in English eye is a single sound, but moves smoothly between two targets; it cannot be separated into two sounds, like the Japanese word 愛. English has a number of diphthongs, but Japanese doesn't have any diphthongs. – snailboat Feb 13 at 14:01
  • @snailboat fair point, I will reword my answer – kandyman Feb 13 at 14:02
  • @snailboat So how would とう be characterized technically? Also, when you say that 'eye' is a single sound, what do you mean? Isn't it pronounced the same as あい? – kandyman Feb 13 at 14:06
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    @Ringil It's interesting, but I'm not sure why the former answer cites Labrune without mentioning the author's conclusion in favor of the "they're not actually diphthongs" analysis, with solid arguments behind it. Prominent phoneticians and phonologists like Vance and Labrune do not consider Japanese to have diphthongs. For the V/i/ and V/u/ sequences mentioned in the latter answer (though it contains errors) the term quasi-diphthong is probably more appropriate. – snailboat Feb 13 at 20:21
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    @Ringil As long as we're clear that in Japanese, they are all V₁V₂ sequences and not true diphthongs, which are single phonemes that begin with one place of articulation and move toward another. There is no debate that they are V₁V₂ sequences, and the reason to avoid the term is simply that diphthong usually implies monophonemicity, which is why Rei Fukui proposed quasi-diphthong for the case of Japanese. (Kubozono, cited in your second linked answer, uses the term diphthongal vowel sequence specifically to avoid implying monophonemicity, but quasi-diphthong is more succinct.) – snailboat Feb 13 at 23:15
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It can't be said clearly which. It doesn't have 2 syllables like it has in English, but also doesn't ignore both of 2 "u"s.

I think close one for ケーブルカー is [ke-burka-]. Even though, this "r" should be pronounced with "u" mouth. So even a vowel is actually silent, you need to shape your mouth for that vowel like whispering. (of course sounding it is also okay)

Examples

規定 [kite-](rule): first "i" isn't a syllable but mouth has to be shaped い.
心 [kokoro](heart): first "o" isn't a syllable but mouth has to be shaped お.

In phrases

よろしくお願いします: first し and last す doesn't have vowel sound
はじめまして: last し doesn't have vowel sound

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    はじめまして: last して doesn't have vowel sound -- ? Does the て at the end also get devoiced? – Chocolate Feb 12 at 16:35
  • I'm doing but after I looked around some videos and re-think about it, probably not. sorry. I corrected now. Thank you for pointing it out – Lyonish Feb 13 at 16:04

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