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For ッ before p, t, k, such as バック, it sounds to be voiceless.

But what happens if it is before b, d, g? This situation rarely occurs in Japanese, but sometimes exists in loanwords. Examples would be バッグ or ベッド.

Since there are so few examples, I'm not sure how it's pronounced. Should the ッ syllable sound voiced or voiceless? Any differences from the case before p, t, k?

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4 Answers 4

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The small ッ cannot be pronounced on its own. In other words, there is no such thing as "the ッ syllable". Discussing whether it's voiced or not is as meaningless as discussing whether punctuation marks (,, ?, !) and diacritics are voiced or not. Although they may affect how surrounding characters are pronounced, they cannot be pronounced in isolation.

If you mean the next consonant after the small-tsu, such as ド as in ベッド, yes, it will be voiced as it is written. ド in ベッド is voiced, like d in bed, and ト in ベット is unvoiced (t in bet).

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  • +1 for the insightful analogy to punctuation marks and diacritics. 😄 Apr 13, 2023 at 22:21
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Without regard to k/g, t/d, p/b, set your lip and tongue in the same shape and position as you pronounce the consonant which immediately follows and completely shut the outflow of air momentarily, which is the state of .

The exceptions I could find were:

  1. the case of following ch such as きっちり, ぽっちゃり, etc. where the shape and position of the tongue are those for t which reminds us of tch notations like pitch in English and
  2. the case of following s such as あっさり, ぐっすり, こっそり, etc. where sssss sound takes place without shutting the air outflow (probably because our teeth is not airtight). s could have taken the same strategy as ch and put silent t in front to avoid air leakage, but it didn't. (Precisely there are cases such as まっすぐ pronounced as まっつぐ, but very very local.)

I personally do not know any words in which is followed by j (voiced ch) or z (voiced s).

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    「バッジ」、「アルペッジョ」、「オッズ」とはいかがでしょうか。 Apr 18, 2023 at 18:41
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    本当ですね!外来語をすっかり忘れていました。ありがとうございます。ご指摘の意図が分かるよう、原文はそのままにしておきます。
    – Ryo
    Apr 18, 2023 at 18:59
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I don't have much first-hand experience, since I don't speak Japanese. However, I have read some phonetic studies that have some relevant information.

As naruto's answer explains, the basic pronunciation of ッ is not a separate sound, but a lengthening of the following consonant sound. When it occurs before p, t, k, the pronunciation is generally transcribed phonetically as a long or "geminate" consonant, written in the IPA as [pp], [tt], [kk] or [pː], [tː], [kː]. (This is not the same thing as a glottal stop, although it may sound similar.)

So the pronunciation we would expect for ッ before b, d, g is simply [bb], [dd], [ɡɡ] or equivalently, [bː], [dː], [ɡː]: a long (or geminate) voiced plosive.

However, there is some linguistic literature that indicates that voiced geminate consonants in Japanese are sometimes "devoiced", making them sound more like [pː], [tː], [kː]. Here are some papers on this that I found:

I think I hear devoicing in the first pronunciation of "バッグ" on Forvo (by gordon3155), although I'm not certain.

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There is almost always a glottal stop between the two syllables either side of the ッ, which might be what you mean by "sounds voiceless".

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