The pitch contour of the interjection ううん has been described as high, low, middle. Alternatively, it has been described as a falling-rising tone. In either case, this appears to be unique in Japanese.

In English, the pitch contour of "I donno" is distinctive. I can reduce it to "ionno", "ionn", "nnn", or just hum the pitch contour without opening my mouth, and it's nevertheless understandable.

Given that the pitch contour of ううん is unique, and given that it's already fairly nasal, can I do the same thing? Can I say んんん without opening my mouth at all? If so, is this the normal pronunciation?

  • Just as a note, I generally see it written as うーん
    – paullb
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 4:09
  • I believe the ううん spelling is obligatory when it is used as a negative interjection, but うーん is allowed for the other meanings. I certainly could be wrong, but my dictionary agrees. (I think I may ask this as a question.)
    – user1478
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 5:09

1 Answer 1


I would say both うん and ううん are pronounced often without opening the mouth, ううん even more so than うん. I think (う)ん and (う)んん comes closer to the pronunciation; or even ん and んんん, like you suggested.


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