So, I'm not proficient in Japanese but, as a programmer, I decided to create a program to generate katakana equivalents of english words automatically.

I have had some success, but with some ambiguities. For example, the phonetics for "though" being:

(American): /ðo/
(British): /ðəʊ/

My program generates: ゾー

A friend of mine told me that ゾゥ, also corresponds to "though", but she couldn't explain me why.

I guess what I want to know is what is the reasoning behind deciding the conversion of though to either have or ?

I read in a paper study, saying that most katakana words are derived from British english.

  • 1
    How did you write this program yet don't understand what it outputs?
    – user36788
    Mar 4, 2020 at 11:30
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    It's not possible to write a program which outputs something and you don't know why it outputs that.
    – user36788
    Mar 4, 2020 at 12:02
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    dryleaf, @Ben's question is not baseless. It is very confusing to me as well that you've written a program but don't understand the output. You could follow your own advice about clarifying and asking the right questions, by editing your question to make it more clear what you're asking about. Right now, your post reads to me that you don't understand your own conversion algorithm. Mar 4, 2020 at 16:25
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    I believe you're taking the word "conversion" too literally here. The way I understood his question is that due to his friend offering an alternative, he now wants to know where the exact difference lies and why you'd opt for either one. Can't really see anything in his post asking about algorithms tbh.
    – Boolicious
    Mar 4, 2020 at 19:10
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    @Boolicious, it's a confusingly written post. The incorrect IPA for AmE, the strange mention of 外来語 from British English that's presented as a quote from someone else, the lack of general context (what's the use case? who will use the output? how will they use it? does it matter if this reflects various English regionalisms? etc.), the slightly off English in the writing itself, etc. Mar 4, 2020 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


I'm not a native English speaker, but as Eiríkr Útlendi pointed out in the comment section, I feel there is a /ʊ/ sound even in American English (as long as the word is pronounced slowly and clearly). This can be confirmed by several sources on the net.

However, Japanese speakers are generally bad at English diphthongs, and they are often replaced by long vowels when katakanized, anyway. For example "no" (/noʊ/) is normally written as ノー rather than ノゥ, and "page" (/peɪdʒ/) is ページ rather than ペィジ.

So, it ultimately depends on your purpose. ゾゥ is more "faithful" in a sense and preferred in dictionaries (e.g., see ALC's entry), but ゾー is perfectly acceptable in many other cases.

By the way, what is your program's output for "note"? If it's ノート, then ゾー may be more consistent. But if your program outputs ノゥト, then you may want it to output ゾゥ for "though", too.

  • For note outputs ノート, although outputs オールゾー, those outputs ゾーズ
    – dryleaf
    Mar 5, 2020 at 23:37
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    @dryleaf Then ゾー seems perfectly reasonable to me!
    – naruto
    Mar 5, 2020 at 23:40
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    dryleaf's software looks very similar to the output of this online converter: note, although, those.
    – user36788
    Mar 6, 2020 at 0:03

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