I've started to notice this, and I'm not sure whether my eyes are deceiving me or not, but it seems as if several, but not all loans have a high statistical probability of vowels being reduced/devoiced in contexts where they would be very unlikely to in a native Japanese word, that place being fill-vowels being introduced purely to fit with Japanese phonotactics.

As an example, in the loan “dórama” [accute accent used to indicate accented mora] from English “drama”; the /o/ seems to be almost universally , somewhat, devoiced by many speakers, which would be highly unlikely for an /o/ in between two voiced sounds, in an accented mora in a native word.

I did a spectrographical analysis and it should be clear which of both spectrograms is from “dórama” and which from “dóreka”, by the same speaker:

[dórama vs. dóreka1

Dark bands at the bottom indicate vowels or vowel-like sounds in spectrograms, for those not in the know of this. It is clear that the dark band in the bottom of the first mora in the first picture takes a far less prominent existence than in the second one, indicating a reduction of vowel-like qualities, as is common for Japanese reduced vowels — it should also be clear that the /m/ in “dórama” has some vowel like qualities, whereas the /k/ in “dóreka” does not.

I have used the speaker Skent from this list, which I also used for “dóreka”, as he was conveniently in both. One may listen to all the examples of “dórama” there and investigate whether one agrees with me that the “do” mora is uncharacteristically reduced with all speakers, and compare it with these readings.

I could find no research that investigated this matter — do any Japanese native speakers have any input on the matter whether they feel that not reducing the “do” in “dórama” would sound unnatural or something else?

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    Just for clarity, what is the source materials for the spectral analysis? I assume both words are being pronounced by native Japanese speakers? One thing to note is that the pitch-accent for ドラマ is 1, while どれい is 0. I'm not sure if that would affect the analysis, but it's worth mentioning.
    – kandyman
    Aug 1, 2020 at 8:22
  • I got it from Forvo; I'm not even sure which of the example voices this is, but they all show a this similar pattern. The pitch accent was originally marked in my post but someone edited it out of it for whatever reason. I have restored it. It seemed as if the editor thought the acute accent I used in “doráma” was used to mark the devoiced vowel, not the mora on which the accent lies. Forvo also has multiple readings of “dorágon” of which only one undergoes devoicing; and I rarely hear that word with devoicing, the difference being quite visible under analysis.
    – Zorf
    Aug 1, 2020 at 12:34
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    But the accent lies on the first mora, doesn’t it? ドラマ{HLL} (ド↓ラマ) (HLL) Aug 1, 2020 at 12:42
  • @DariusJahandarie, yes, you seem to be right, looking it up and actually analysing the pitch. I guess my mind put it on the second one because reduced morae can't normally have the accent. That makes it even weirder that it's semi reduced. Now I feel I don't know anything any more.
    – Zorf
    Aug 1, 2020 at 13:54
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    @Zorf I think you need to make it clear to people who are not familiar with spectographic analysis what you are showing them. What is the upper picture showing and what is the lower picture showing?
    – kandyman
    Aug 3, 2020 at 11:44


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