In Japan for three years, and I've noticed that the locals often sound like they're combining the two words "arigatō" and "gozaimasu" into a single word, "arigatōzaimasu".

Am I hearing things (possible, as they speak very quickly), or is this a common practice?

  • You mean "arigatōzaimasu" as opposed to "arigatōgozaimasu", right? – taylor Sep 8 '12 at 3:54
  • @taylor That's correct. – Terrance Shaw Sep 8 '12 at 3:57
  • 7
    there is even あざ~す! – Earthliŋ Sep 8 '12 at 4:02
  • @user1205935 does the shortened version follow the "melody"(for lack of a better word) of ありがとうございます? – Flaw Sep 8 '12 at 7:56
  • @Flaw Yeah, sure, it follows the "melody" ;) I looked, but couldn't find a sound sample, sorry. – Earthliŋ Sep 8 '12 at 8:03

Another possibility is that the /g/ is being lenited into a voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, as is common between vowels in Japanese. (See "Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: Japanese" by Hideo Okada, or Wikipedia.) Further, since the second /g/ has rounded vowels (/o/) on both sides, it is likely to be somewhat rounded (/ɣʷ/ = /w̝/).

The utterance, phonemically


then would be something like


Judging by your username, I'm guessing you're a native English speaker. Since most varieties of English diphthongize /o/ to something like /ow/, and minimally distinguish vowel length, English speakers are likely less sensitive to the intervening [w̝] and to the extra-long vowel sequence /ooo/. So you hear the utterance as


which would be transcribed as "arigatōzaimasu".

  • 1
    Your assumption on my native tongue is correct, and that is one very fine and in-depth answer. – Terrance Shaw Sep 8 '12 at 9:01
  • The lenition to [ɣ] was what I had guessed as well. Good explanation! – Zhen Lin Sep 8 '12 at 11:56
  • Does this rule out the possibility of an underlying morphological process? How do we know that /aɽígatoogozaimásu/ is or is not a derived compound? – taylor Sep 8 '12 at 19:37

I think you're just hearing two words that get said quickly and become slurred because they're so commonly used together. Human beings are lazy like that. I would think that "thank you" sounds like one word to a non-native English speaker :)

  • True enough, and again, they do speak their language quite quickly. – Terrance Shaw Sep 8 '12 at 8:01
  • Actually 39 (san-kyuu) is e-mail Japanese for thank you because that's how people say it to each other. – Tim Sep 8 '12 at 9:19
  • @Tim: Ah yes, sorry, I meant "as spoken by a native English-speaker" ;) – silvermaple Sep 8 '12 at 23:12

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