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I was looking at the list of kana, and I realized something. Say, you wanted to write the syllable “ni”, you would write “ニ”, right? Is it possible to write “n” syllables using “ン” and vowels? For example, is it grammatically correct to write “ni” as “ンイ” or “んい”?

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The short answer is no. ンイ would still be two mora in Japanese. To an English ear, it would be more like two separate syllables

ng. ee.

Not sure how else to try to get that sound across.

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  • Makes sense. I just thought that they’d come together to make one syllable. Sep 11 at 2:26
  • The “standard” pronunciation of , adopted by news readers on NHK, is supposed to be [kaŋi] with a nasalized /ng/ sound, although I personally never pronounce it that way. I wonder if English speakers have difficulty distinguishing it from 簡易.
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 11 at 6:17
  • @aguijonazo For me, the distinction between 鍵 and 簡易 is particularly not hard to hear, but I did live in Japan for a while when I was young. So perhaps that helped.
    – A.Ellett
    Sep 11 at 10:19
  • @aguijonazo Of course, the problem with my answer is how to transcribe a phoneme that lacks a reasonable written counterpart in English. I'd considered "hmm. ee", but "hmm" seemed a worse choice over "ng". The other answer makes a very nice case regarding 死に vs 真意; I'd considered a similar route, but then thought if the OP was unsure about ンイ other examples from Japanese might not clarify things as much. But it's good to see someone else answered that way.
    – A.Ellett
    Sep 11 at 10:23
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んい and に are pronounced differently. 真意{しんい} is markedly different in pronunciation from 死に{しに} beyond just the accent.

しんい is pronounced for roughly 1.5x the time of しに, and while in しに there's a clear consonantal [n], in しんい the previous [i] is lengthened and nasalized.

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