The wiki says on 2 separate occasions that it should be /sɨ/, see the pages for Japanese phonology and Gojyuuon.

However, when the endings such as です・ます are pronounced without the reduction of that vowel, it sounds a lot like /sɯ/. See these bits from forvo: 行きます, 食べます, です, ~です

Here's my attempt at replicating what /sɨ/ would sound like in comparison to /sɯ/: https://voca.ro/1mThRUHgiEJW (/sɯ/ followed by /sɨ/).

The sound /ɨ/ exists in my native language so I was quite surprised to see that it exists in japanese as well, and in す no less, which I have never heard about. And as you can see from my recording, /sɨ/ sounds very off.

1 Answer 1


According to a dictionary, it is /sɯ̈/ (with the dots on it).

I'm not an expert, but according to quick searches:

There is a phenomenon called 中舌化, quoting from here

日本語の「ウ」は単独で発音すると非円唇後舌狭母音である。 しかし、「ス・ツ・ズ(ヅ)」のように舌先で発音される子音の後に 続くときは下の盛り上がりの位置が前にずれて中舌よりになる。 これを母音の中舌化という。

Probably this is why /sɨ/ is used in the tables of your link. But I guess the vowel is not completely centralized in general, and /sɨ/ sounds too different from す because of it.

This articles mentions /sɨ/ for す as well, but the sounds do not really sound like /sɨ/ to me.


Tohoku dialects tend not to differentiate し and す:



The pronunciation of Russian сын is written as スィーン in a dictionary at hand.

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    This happens with IPA. I’m not convinced that the consonant of に is the same as the sound represented by the letter ñ in Spanish, although they are both transcribed with the symbol [ɲ]. The degree of palatalization seems significantly greater in the latter.
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 24, 2021 at 10:57
  • The dots on /sɯ̈/ mean centralization (which is presumably what 中舌化 also means), so this should read /sʉ/ in conventional IPA. Not sure why that page decided to not use this symbol, even though it's on their vowel chart
    – maritsm
    Aug 24, 2021 at 17:36
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    @maritsm: [ʉ] is the central equivalent of the rounded [u]. The Japanese う is the unrounded [ɯ].
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 24, 2021 at 23:37
  • Indeed, I meant to write /sɨ/, which is the central equivalent of /ɯ/
    – maritsm
    Aug 25, 2021 at 8:31

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