Is there a sound difference between イオ and イヨ (I can't hear a difference)?

When asked to spell baiorin in katakana I tend to mistake バイオリン with バイヨリン.

2 Answers 2


As for the case of バイオリン, I don't think many Japanese speakers find it similar to バイヨリン.

Japanese i + V and i + yV are indeed an easily confusable pair, especially in faster speech. For example, I couldn't say with confidence whether a girl's name is みお or みよ only by listening to a casual chat referring to her. But it's just like inpatient and impatient, or dog years and dog ears in English, that is, although the distinction might be blurred in some circumstances, speech that is a little bit clearer would immediately disambiguate them (for native speakers) because they are inherently different.

Now, バイオリン is harder to be heard like イヨ because of a V + i succession in バイ. In Standard Japanese, this sequence is so prominent and commonplace that it almost becomes a kind of diphthong (some scholars think of the //i// following a vowel as another 特殊拍). It often results in a looser sound on the //i// part*, especially in faster speech, and we are less likely to mistake it for an utterance that intends バイヨリン, which would have a tighter //i// because of the next //j//.

* Be reminded that Romans spelled the diphthong [[aɪ]] ae.


In slow speech there's a difference, in fast speech there isn't (although some native speakers will insist otherwise).

One example would be 対応(たいおう)and 太陽(たいよう). In fast speech they are the same. Just make sure you don't say たよう. And also remember that in Japanese たい is not a diphthong.

(As for バイオリン, in fast speech it basically becomes バヨリン. )

  • So then you cannot necessarily derive the spelling from the pronunciation in these cases. I would just need to remember the spelling separately.
    – NS0
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 21:33
  • You can if someone is speaking slowly, but yes in general you'll just have to remember the spelling. There are a few situations like this, but not as many as in Western languages.
    – Marc Adler
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 21:43
  • 7
    In fast speech they are the same. ← They are not the same because their pitch accent patterns are different to begin with.
    – user4032
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 0:53
  • Read the question again.
    – Marc Adler
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 16:26
  • 3
    @MarcAdler I read the question again, and I think the criticism is valid. You make claims which seem to be false and even preemptively state in your answer that "some native speakers" will not agree, but you give no argument why your answer should be considered correct and the view of these "native speakers" dismissed.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 8:56

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