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This is a question I had for some time: can 部屋 be pronounced as "hea", or it's always pronounced as "heya", with an audible YA sound?

I'm asking this because more often than not I hear it without the Y sound (like here in the pronunciation by akitomo, while that from molio clearly has that sound): usually I can hear it in other words, but I know some sound can be hard to hear if the listener isn't used to it (like nasalized vowels), so I'm not sure if it's an irregular (or imprecise) pronunciation, or if it's just I can't hear that specific sound in that specific word.

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    Hmm.. I still hear ヘヤ, but the palatal approximant [j] is indeed weaker in akitomo's pronunciation, but I think it's still there.
    – Eddie Kal
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:25
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    I too still hear the "y". It sounds very typical to me. It also sounds like it's being pronounced further toward the back of the tongue and the back roof of the mouth. If you're a native English speaker, this can be initially hard to pick up since English tends to pronounce "e" more as "ey". But in Japanese "e" is never pronounced this way.
    – A.Ellett
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:29
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    Then I guess I just have to get used to it, thanks. @A.Ellett I'm Italian; as far as I understand our and Japanese e are very similar, but something may be different enought that I'm just not used to sounds like that in 部屋.
    – Mauro
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:37
  • I'm actually curious whether there are any non-gairaigo words that have the vowel combination "ea". Right now, I can't think of any.
    – A.Ellett
    Nov 5, 2021 at 20:55
  • @A.Ellett there seem to be someone, but at least according to Jisho most of them not common; as common, it lists 家主{いえあるじ}. Edit: it doesn't seem to accept the link, try looking for *えあ* on Jisho.
    – Mauro
    Nov 5, 2021 at 23:04

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Though it is true that //eja// and //ea// tend to be neutralized in fast speech (e.g. 部屋タイプ vs ヘアタイプ), the sound clips on that forvo page all sound appropriate to me.

It is a conjecture, but since you said you are Italian, the standard Italian language has a 4-level vowel height distinction; that means you have an open //ɛ// (in vento "wind") and a closed //e// (in venti "twenty") between //i// and //a//. Japanese, in contrary, only has 3-level height, with only //e// that stands in the very middle ([[e̞]]) between //i// and //a//. It means the Japanese language tolerates a bit more open //i// than the Italian counterpart. In the sound clips I hear two distinct Japanese sounds //e// and //j// (which is nothing but //i//) after //h// and before //a//, but if you only hear monotonic //e//, you are perhaps recognizing both the starting and ending articluations within the range of Italian //e//.

(By the way strawberrybrown's pronunciation sounds most standard to me among those clips, and molio's one sounds overly exaggerated.)

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  • I am not sure I understand this part: "which is nothing but /i/". Did you mean "which is nothing like /i/"?
    – Eddie Kal
    Nov 8, 2021 at 21:52
  • That's interesting, thanks; as a side note, Italian do also have /j/, like in ieri / /'jeri/ ("yesterday"), also mid-word. In strawberrybrown's pronunciation I kinda hear it, "kinda" because I'm not sure I'd recognize it not knowing it's there, but I do hear it differently with respect to akimoto's.
    – Mauro
    Nov 8, 2021 at 23:08
  • @Mauro When I listen to Italian examples of //j// on Forvo, they sound quite "strong", that is, more squeezed and I even hear friction at the word initial. Japanese //j// is simply (Japanese) //i// as consonant, so I think much less intensive than what you're ready to hear. Nov 9, 2021 at 2:17
  • @EddieKal "nothing but /i/" was perhaps an overstatement but I wanted to say they have little difference in sound value. Nov 9, 2021 at 2:21
  • @broccolifacemask yes, I think our /j/ is always stronger than in 部屋, also mid-word (like forvo.com/word/saio/#it - "tunic (today, especially of a priest)" - and forvo.com/word/pi%C3%B9/#it - "more").
    – Mauro
    Nov 9, 2021 at 8:30

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