I'm Italian and while I was studying katakana words such as イタリア I didn't understand why, even though in Japanese there is the specific syllable "rya" (リャ), it's not used in the word イタリア and instead the combination of syllables "ri" and "a"(リア) is used as it has the same sound. So why is イタリア and not イタリャ?

  • Are you saying リャ and リア sound the same? リャ is one mora in length, リア is two mora in length. In rapid speech, perhaps リア sounds a lot like リャ, but they're not the same.
    – A.Ellett
    May 26, 2021 at 18:25
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    I think this question is essentially asking the same thing. Does this answer your question?
    – Earthliŋ
    May 26, 2021 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


I'm not an expert, but I think this would be because イタリャ would be based on some hypothetical word *Itaglia.

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    Why would that be the case? In the Italian word Italia, the last i is pronouned as a semivowel [j] (English y), not as a full vowel [i]. My guess would be that the word is based more on the written form than the sound of the word.
    – theberzi
    May 27, 2021 at 13:49
  • 'Italia' is /italja/, but 'Itaglia' would be /itaλλa/, and I am assuming that リャ would be reserved for the latter.
    – Angelos
    May 27, 2021 at 14:38
  • In Japanese, /rja/ and /ria/ are not allophones, a Japanese person would not perceive them as the same thing, so it would be weird to transcribe both as リア and reserve リャ only for /λ(:)a/, a sound that is not phonemic in Japanese. If they did have to transcribe Itaglia* (which corresponds to the pronunciation of Italia in some Italian accents) they would definitely use リャ, but this doesn't exclude that they would use it for -lia too, which is what would be expected.
    – theberzi
    May 28, 2021 at 6:16

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