I've read about if "z" sound is pronounced /z/ or /dz/ and found the answer here that:

Typically, though not consistently, [dz] occurs at the beginning of a word or in the middle of a word immediately following a syllable-final consonant (§5.1, §5.6), and [z] occurs in the middle of a word immediately following a vowel.

So I thought: okay I need to just remember which word uses which sound. Then I heard native speakers saying:

絶対にだめです。with /z/ sound

そんなことは絶対できないじょ。 with /dz/ sound

So seems like the SAME word can have both pronunciations, depending on person?

My question is should I care at all? Maybe I should choose one sound /z/ or /dz/ and use it in every word? Will everyone be able to understand me?

Thanks for help :)

  • 1
    Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/8324/5010 (see alexandrec's answer)
    – naruto
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 16:48
  • 1
    Note also that different dialects have different realizations. I had one student from southwest Japan who insisted that his name こじま be pronounced //kozima//, in contrast to ふじむら (from older spelling ふぢむら) which he pronounced //ɸud͡ʑimura//. Most of his classmates from the Kantō region didn't distinguish じ //zi// from ぢ //d͡ʑi//, mostly pronouncing it as //d͡ʑi// and not hearing the difference used by the one fellow from the southwest. See the Yotsugana Wikipedia page. I suspect the //ze// ↔ //d͡ze// alternation you're hearing might be related. Commented May 30, 2019 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


You do not have to remember which word uses which. If you wish, you can stick to either [dz] or [z], and everyone will understand you. If you care, it may be better to follow the rule described in the answer you saw. As the answer says, in modern standard Japanese, [dz] and [z] are the variants (allophones) of the same sound (phoneme). That is, even if you may hear a native Japanese speaker say both [dz] and [z] depending on the situation, they are usually totally unaware of this fact, and they cannot even hear the difference. Please read the following questions.

Actually, [dz] and [z] were distinguished in old Japanese, and the distinction is still more or less preserved in some dialects (see Yotsugana). But this is not something ordinary speakers need to worry about.

  • Thanks now that is a great answer! Yeah I won't really care too much and just repeat the common word pronunciation if it doesn't make really any difference to native speakers, thanks! You're great sensei, sir. Commented May 30, 2019 at 18:44

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