71

Kanji aren't necessary to write Japanese Your rationale is correct; Japanese is a living, spoken language; people are able to understand each other by sound only, therefore a writing system based on sound has to be sufficient. Some commentators have mentioned that Japanese speakers often allude to kanji when talking. That's true enough (and it probably ...


27

What Lyle said is true―you'll want to practice a lot. It's much easier to recognize words and phrases you're used to hearing, not just used to reading. That means ear training, and there's no way around it! Still, we can look at some facts about Japanese pronunciation. I'm a non-native speaker, and one of the trickiest things for a non-native speaker to ...


23

You may be familiar with the concept of sentence-level pitch changes in English; for example when you are asking a question, you end the sentence with a rising pitch to indicate that it is indeed a question. Japanese also has sentence-level pitch changes, but more relevantly to this question, it has word-level pitch changes. Downstep Notation In the ...


21

I share your experience. Sticking straight to the katakana pronunciation below, I have never had the problem of someone not understanding me any more. I believe this is the pronunciation currently taught in Japanese schools. A: エー【HL】 B: ビー【HL】 C: シー【HL】 D: ディー【HHL】 E: イー【HL】 F: エフ【HL】 G: ジー【HL】 H: エイチ【HLL】 I: アイ【HL】 J: ジェー【HHL】 K: ケー【HL】 L: エル【HL】 M: エム【HL】...


21

This is definitely a bit harder for native English speakers to pick up on at first, but sometimes homophones in Japanese are distinguishable by the pitch accent. So some of them aren't an issue at all. But of course some words do sound exactly the same. So how do you tell those apart? Easy: context. Kanji aren't "necessary" to distinguish between homophones;...


17

I'm fairly certain that this has to do with pitch in Japanese and accentuation in English. The natural pitch for デバグ【HLL】 is HLL, whereas デバッグ【LHLL】 would naturally be LHL (and バグ【HL】 is HL). To mimic accentuation by pitch (i.e. accented syllables get a high pitch after transliteration), the ッ is necessary to give the バ a (natural) high pitch. バグ already ...


14

This is the result of a well known devoicing rule in Japanese. Devoicing means that there is no vibration of the vocal folds. For example, the difference between [s] and [z] is only that [z] is voiced. The IPA diacritic for devoiced phones is a circle at the bottom of the glyph e.g. [z̥]=[s]. Although there is still much dialectal, idiolectal (the way a ...


11

父 and 乳 cannot be differentiated by pronunciation (including accentation). While the word titi "father" is attested in Old Japanese (8th century), titi "breasts" is not extant until the 17th century. However, it is more complicated than that. titi "breasts" is a reduplication of ti "breasts" which is extant in OJ. Also, titi "father" seems to be a ...


10

[トラブル]{LHLL} -- [トラブる]{LHHL} [ダブル]{HLL} -- [ダブる]{LHL} [バトル]{HLL} -- [バトる]{LHL}? (I can't think of any other pairs...) The verbs seem to have a pronunciation rule: [サボる]{LHL}、 [テンパる]{LHHL}、 [ハモる]{LHL}、 [パニクる]{LHHL}、 [バグる]{LHL}、 [ググる]{LHL}、 [スタンバる]{LHHHL} ... But I can't find a rule for loanwords ending with ル... [トラブル]{LHLL}、 [サンダル]{LHHH}、 [ライフル]...


9

The changes are basically regular based on the "original accent" of each word, but (1) these "original accents" are not set in stone; (2) people/groups speak differently; and (3) pitch accent, like any linguistic phenomenon, is constantly changing. (I'm going to skip the discussion of whether accent exists, etc., and just stipulate that the last "high" mora ...


9

It's a matter of pitch accent. In a manner somewhat similar to Chinese, Japanese actually has 2 tones that establish its inflectional patterns. They aren't widely taught to foreigners because the patterns vary amongst regions (e.g. Osaka and Tokyo are near-opposite), but one purpose that they do serve is to distinguish between homophones. According to the ...


8

In terms of etymology, みずうみ is indeed derived from two words, but it's now a single word—much like how English housewife is a single word, even though it's clearly derived from house + wife. This doesn't really matter for how you pronounce two /u/ vowels in a row, though. You just hold the sound for an extra beat ("mora"), like it's a long vowel: ...


8

おじいさん with the long //iː// sound means "grandfather". おじさん with the short //i// sound means "uncle". In modern Japanese, these are distinguished by vowel length and by pitch accent -- "grandfather" has a downstep after the second mora, so the ji is a higher pitch than the second i: おじいさん{LHLLL}, whereas "uncle" has no downstep: おじさん{LHHH}. Looking at the ...


8

this is a shortening of the なさい form, which is always pronounced with a pitch drop on さ. So wouldn't you say [まちな]{LHH}([さい]{HL})? Following that logic, wouldn't you also say [食べな]{LHH}? You're right. We pronounce the positive imperative 「~~な」 this way: [まちな]{LHH}。"Wait!" [たべな]{LHH}。"Eat (it)!" [いきな]{LHH}。"Go!" [みな]{LH}。"...


8

Yes, your analysis is correct. In fact the し can drop even lower than the う before it if you choose to really enunciate it. This sort of splitting is fairly common, for example with the prefix 非 or the prefix 被. I consider it wrong to read that word in heiban, it'd sound like 調子・全的(??) or something like that. However, there are sometimes cases where split ...


7

snailboat has already provided an excellent response, but I'd like to share an online resource that's pretty useful when trying to figure out the pitch accents of any given text. Just stick your Japanese text into Prosody Tutor Suzuki-kun, tweak the settings as you see fit, hit "analyze", and you'll see a rather accurate pitch analysis of the input text. ...


7

Some language families (such as Chinese and Athabaskan) have visible origins for their tones - you can't reconstruct tone back to the shared proto-language, but you can reconstruct other features that later turned into tone. Other language families (such as Bantu and Oto-Manguean) have no visible origins for their tones - you can reconstruct tone back to ...


7

Loanwords are pronounced exactly the way they are transcribed. Depending on the circumstances of the transcription (which are often unknown), the transcription is based on a mix of actual pronunciation, its alphabet representation and the weather. If "Melbourne" becomes メルボルン, then it will be pronounced exactly like //meruboruɴ//, no matter whether it's far ...


7

Many dictionaries (even monolingual ones) do not show accents, but of course there is something called "standard accent of Japanese" which you should generally respect. The most authoritative source of the standard accent of Japanese words is probably 日本語アクセント辞典 published by NHK, but there are also some online free accent dictionaries: OJAD Online Japanese ...


7

By accent. See: Is there any difference when pronouncing 橋 and 箸? はし【HL】(箸)、はし【LH】(端)、かき【HL】(牡蠣)、かき【LH】(柿) By context. すいせいですか、きんせいですか? → 水星ですか、金星ですか? すいせいですか、ゆせいですか? → 水性ですか、油性ですか? すいせいですか、りくせいですか? → 水棲ですか、陸棲ですか? ぎんせいですか、きんせいですか? → 銀製ですか、金製ですか? By actually changing the reading for known confusing pairs. See: How to Pronounce 化学 "Chemistry"? 化学【...


7

Both words have the same reading and pitch accent, so there wouldn't be a difference in pronunciation.


7

The plural suffix ~~[達]{たち} is pronounced [たち]{LL}, as in: [わたし]{LHH} → [わたしたち]{LHHLL} [あなた]{LHL} → [あなたたち]{LHLLL} [きみ]{LH} → [きみたち]{LHLL} [こども]{LHH} → [こどもたち]{LHHLL} [どうぶつ]{LHHH} → [どうぶつたち]{LHHHLL} [ねこ]{HL} → [ねこたち]{HLLL} [いぬ]{LH} → [いぬたち]{LHLL} [せいと]{HLL} (生徒) → [せいとたち]{HLLLL} [かんごし]{LHHL} (看護師) → [かんごしたち]{LHHLLL}


6

Not all ambiguous pairs can be distinguished by pitch, and we could just as easily provide you with loads of other ambiguous statements where NOTHING other than context could lead you to the right meaning. This kind of thing happens in all languages: in English, if I tell a female friend "You have a nice pair/pear", she'll rely on context (I hope) to tell ...


6

Very insightful point! I think you are right that pitch matters. As a case in point, say if my daughter is reading a textbook aloud in homework and gets a pitch wrong, I would correct her, because it's noticable. On the other hand, Japanese dictionaries written for Japanese do not have the pitch information either, and people from different regions often ...


6

I believe so. I can't find an explicit affirmation (I provided sources which I've read before, but I could have forgotten or missed such a statement), but for present tense adjectives in the Kyoto-Osaka dialect, it seems the accent falls on the antepenultimate mora (third to last) for trimoraic words or longer, otherwise it falls on the penultimate mora for ...


6

I hear both ぼく{HL} and ぼく{LH} for a first personal pronoun even only in Tokyo, so you can use either one you like. I actually use ぼく{HL} more frequently than ぼく{LH}, but I DO pronounce ぼく{LH} occasionally. As I feel both of them are pronounced regardless of age, I cannot declare which a voice actor voices. ぼく{HL} seems to be used more often than ぼく{...


6

If you're merely interested in the current "standard" accent of Japanese words, try one of these learning resources. The jokes in this video are based on a more advanced topic of the Japanese pitch accent, namely アクセントの平板化 ("flattening"). Briefly, it refers to the change of the pronunciation of certain words from the non-flat to the flat ...


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