I’ve described it specifically in native Japanese words since foreign loanwords (where the usage differs) has been excellently described already. In Part 2, we’ll cover the derived sounds and romanization. **A**. English hood vs. food > [ɸɯːdo] fūdo フード). In phrases, sequences with multiple o sounds are most common, due to the direct object particle を 'wo' (which comes after a word) being realized as o and the honorific prefix お〜 'o', which can occur in sequence, and may follow a word itself terminating in an o sound; these may be dropped in rapid speech. Consonants and vowels are not freely combinable as in English, see table on the right for all possible syllables and note irregularities like し shi or ふ fu. It’s not really like the English ‘r’ at all, but sounds like something between an ‘l’ and a ‘d’.  Similarly, *[si] and *[(d)zi] usually do not occur even in loanwords so that English cinema becomes [ɕinema] shinema シネマ; although they may be written スィ and ズィ respectively, they are rarely found even among the most innovative speakers and do not occur phonemically.. Japanese pronunciation is incredibly easy to learn compared to other languages. The goal is to get familiar with the sounds of Japanese and the IPA symbols. However, certain forms are still recognizable as irregular morphology, particularly forms that occur in basic verb conjugation, as well as some compound words. , Japanese speakers are usually not even aware of the difference of the voiced and devoiced pair. These are included for those who might want to look them up in greater detail – feel free to ignore most of it if this doesn’t apply to you. 1. a = "ah", between the 'a' in "father" and the one in "dad" 2. i = "ee", as in "feet" 3. u is similar to the "oo" in "boot" but without rounded lips 4. e is similar to "ay", as in "hay", but i… Because of this, we can tackle pronunciation and writing at the same time. It's best if you can have a native Japanese pronounce it for you. This is also found in interjections like あっ and えっ. When this would otherwise lead to a geminated voiced obstruent, a moraic nasal appears instead as a sort of "partial gemination" (e.g. A notable feature of Japanese is that the dental consonants /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/ undergo regular mutations before the front vowels /i/ and /u/. /k/ /s/ /t/ /n/ /h/ /m/ /y/ /r/ /w/ || /a/ /i/ /u/ /e/ /o/ But wait, there’s more! Standard Japanese uses100 distinct syllables. In modern Japanese, these are arguably separate phonemes, at least for the portion of the population that pronounces them distinctly in English borrowings. , Generally, devoicing does not occur in a consecutive manner:, This devoicing is not restricted to only fast speech, though consecutive voicing may occur in fast speech. These kinds of combo sounds are call affricates. a C-speaker), then the velar fricative [ɣ] is always another possible allophone in fast speech. “gyo-o” – I’ll explain this in a bit) and rows are called dan. The f often causes gemination when it is joined with another word: Most words exhibiting this change are Sino-Japanese words deriving from Middle Chinese morphemes ending in /t̚/, /k̚/ or /p̚/, which were borrowed on their own into Japanese with a prop vowel after them (e.g. Consonant clusters don’t exist in Japanese. Hangeul or Korean alphabet is made up of consonants and vowels. The one thing I don’t actually cover on this page is how to write the characters, that is, stroke order, but googling “hiragana stroke order” will yield plenty of animations showing you how to write the characters. Some analyses make a distinction between a long vowel and a succession of two identical vowels, citing pairs such as 砂糖屋 satōya 'sugar shop' [satoːja] vs. 里親 satooya 'foster parent' [satooja]. The consonant phonemes are listed below. that they must always be acommpanied byone of the five vowels in the latter part of a syllable. In this section, you’ll learn about the mora, the basis of both Hiragana and Katakana, and from there we’ll look at the organization and pronunciation of the basic 46 characters of Hiragana. Kawahara (2006) attributes this to a less reliable distinction between voiced and voiceless geminates compared to the same distinction in non-geminated consonants, noting that speakers may have difficulty distinguishing them due to the partial devoicing of voiced geminates and their resistance to the weakening process mentioned above, both of which can make them sound like voiceless geminates.. Some analyses of Japanese treat the moraic nasal as an archiphoneme /N/; other less abstract approaches take its uvular pronunciation as basic or treat it as coronal /n/ appearing in the syllable coda. , To a lesser extent, /o, a/ may be devoiced with the further requirement that there be two or more adjacent moras containing the same phoneme:, The common sentence-ending copula desu and polite suffix masu are typically pronounced [desɯ̥] and [masɯ̥]. There are a lot of combinations of paired syllables in Japanese such as: Hiragana / Katakana. We have ‘ka’ in the ‘a’ dan, ‘ki’ in the ‘i’ dan and so on: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko. You’ll see what appear to be additional consonants as we go through the chart, but in Japanese these are really variant pronunciations of the basic 15. Whenever double consonants occur (i.e. /ɡ/ may be weakened to nasal [ŋ] when it occurs within words—this includes not only between vowels but also between a vowel and a consonant. In place of ‘ti’ and ‘tu’ we have ‘chi’ and ‘tsu’. You’ll find print-out Kana charts, flash cards, and other goodies under Hiragana and Katakana resource page. This is also why there are only “double consonants” and no other consonant diphthongs in Japanese. These geminates frequently undergo devoicing to become less marked, which gives rise to variability in voicing:, The distinction is not rigorous. The Sounds of Language. Secondly, the vowel may combine with the preceding vowel, according to historical sound changes; if the resulting new sound is palatalized, meaning yu, yo (ゆ、よ), this combines with the preceding consonant, yielding a palatalized syllable. By convention, it is often assumed to be /z/, though some analyze it as /d͡z/, the voiced counterpart to [t͡s]. The Japanese language has two types of regular verbs that involve the stem, and can be referred to as Japanese consonant and vowel verbs. In 2003, The Lancet published a study examining a similar hypothesis, suggesting that the limited number of aspirated consonants in Japanese could explain why SARS had not spread in Japan. With a couple exceptions, each mora contains one vowel, and may start with a single consonant or a combination of a consonant followed by a ‘y’. Consonants: 17. ItuPAI = いっぱい. When a double consonant appears in a word, usually only one of the two consonants is sounded (as in "ball" or "summer"). The assimilated /Q/ remains unreleased and thus the geminates are phonetically long consonants. There are few complex consonant sound combinations such as in the English words strength or Christmas. One analysis, particularly popular among Japanese scholars, posits a special "mora phoneme" (モーラ 音素 Mōra onso) /Q/, which corresponds to the sokuon ⟨っ⟩. Hard Consonant Sounds. The sounds in the Japanese alphabet are one thing that makes Japanese easier for English speakers to learn than for Japanese speakers to … For example, Japanese has a suffix, |ri| that contains what Kawahara (2006) calls a "floating mora" that triggers gemination in certain cases (e.g. In a number of cases in English, consonant letters can be silent, such as the letter B following M (as in the word "dumb"), the letter K before N ("know"), and the letters B and P before T ("debt" and "receipt"). Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) Phonemic changes are generally reflected in the spelling, while those that are not either indicate informal or dialectal speech which further simplify pronunciation. In other words, Japanese only distinguishes between 20 basic sounds. You should definitely print out a Hiragana chart to look at as we go through the basic syllables. Before and ‘m’, ‘b’, or ‘p’, it’s pronounced as an ‘m’, before a ‘k’ or a ‘g’ in becomes an ‘ng’ sound like in English “sing”, and it’s pronounced as ‘n’ before ‘t’, ‘d’, and ‘n’. [page needed], These assimilations occur beyond word boundaries. These are the voiced consonants: B, D, G, J, L, M, N, Ng, R, Sz, Th (as in the word "then"), V, W, Y, and Z. Of the allophones of /z/, the affricate [d͡z] is most common, especially at the beginning of utterances and after /N/, while fricative [z] may occur between vowels. In cases where this has occurred within a morpheme, the morpheme itself is still distinct but with a different sound, as in hōki (箒 (ほうき), broom), which underwent two sound changes from earlier hahaki (ははき) → hauki (はうき) (onbin) → houki (ほうき) (historical vowel change) → hōki (ほうき) (long vowel, sound change not reflected in kana spelling). Within words and phrases, Japanese allows long sequences of phonetic vowels without intervening consonants, pronounced with hiatus, although the pitch accent and slight rhythm breaks help track the timing when the vowels are identical. Since the Japanese language has very limitted number of vowels and consonants, there appeared to be too many homonyms ( DO-ON-I-GI-GO 同音異義語). Vance (1987) suggests that the variation follows social class, while Akamatsu (1997) suggests that the variation follows age and geographic location. See below for more in-detail descriptions of allophonic variation. However, there's a glottal stop - i.e. As we learn about Japan, we learn many words to describe events, ideas, or objectshaving to do with the country and its culture. The writing system preserves morphological distinctions, though spelling reform has eliminated historical distinctions except in cases where a mora is repeated once voiceless and once voiced, or where rendaku occurs in a compound word: つづく[続く] /tuduku/, いちづける[位置付ける] /itidukeru/ from |iti+tukeru|. Most commonly, a terminal /N/ on one morpheme results in /n/ or /m/ being added to the start of the next morpheme, as in tennō (天皇, emperor), てん ＋ おう > てんのう (ten + ō = tennō). Of these, 5 are single vowels, 62 are consonants combined with avowel, and 53 are consona… Consonants: 17. doreddo ~ doretto 'dreadlocks'). .  The generalized situation is as follows.  A mora may be "regular" consisting of just a vowel (V) or a consonant and a vowel (CV), or may be one of two "special" moras, /N/ and /Q/. Standard Japanese has only 15 distinct consonants and 5 vowels. In cases where this combines with the yotsugana mergers, notably ji, dzi (じ／ぢ) and zu, dzu (ず／づ) in standard Japanese, the resulting spelling is morphophonemic rather than purely phonemic. In order to create a basic syllable, the consonants and the vowels have to be paired. In reality, there are a couple of additional consonants, but the variants left out are minor enough that they will not affect your being understood. [ɲipːoɴ]), but this notation obscures mora boundaries. There are columns for 10 of the 15 basic consonants and rows for each of the 5 vowels. However, the distinction between consonant and vowel is not always clear cut: there are syllabic consonants and non-syllabic vowels in many of the world's languages. More extreme examples follow: In many dialects, the close vowels /i/ and /u/ become voiceless when placed between two voiceless consonants or, unless accented, between a voiceless consonant and a pausa. The syllable structure is simple, generally with the vowel sound preceded by one of approximately 15 consonant sounds. This in turn often combined with a historical vowel change, resulting in a pronunciation rather different from that of the components, as in nakōdo (仲人 (なこうど), matchmaker) (see below). /N/ is restricted from occurring word-initially, and /Q/ is found only word-medially. The process of writing Japanese words into English is called romanization(the written words are called roumaji.) Example of a consonant sound in Japanese. Many textbooks (written by Native speakers) describe it as a pause (or the silent tsu). Korean character is made up of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post it in the comments section. For the remaining わ ‘wa’, the ‘w’ is pronounced using lip compression rather than rounding, like the vowel ‘u’ (IPA ‘ɰᵝ’). Your main concern in the ‘ha’ gyou is the ‘f’ in the Japanese ‘fu’ sound (IPA ‘ɸ’), which is made by blowing through unrounded lips, unlike the English ‘f’ which uses the top teeth and bottom lip. There are fifteen basic consonants. All questions, comments, and corrections are welcome. As you pronounce a letter, feel the vibration of your vocal cords. Old Japanese is widely believed to have had eight vowels; in addition to the five vowels in modern use, /i, e, a, o, u/, the existence of three additional vowels /ï, ë, ö/ is assumed for Old Japanese. Japanese words have traditionally been analysed as composed of moras; a distinct concept from that of syllables. , Some speakers produce [n] before /z/, pronouncing them as [nd͡z], while others produce a nasalized vowel before /z/. Due to Japanese being a language which has little to no consonant clusters, the system was designed without consideration to standalone consonants. Columns are called gyou (pron. Each of the remaining columns has a consonant paired with each vowel, except for the ‘ya’ and ‘wa’ gyou, which have several gaps. It’s not as though they are incapable of it by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that, other than “n”, singular consonants never occur on their own in Japanese. Features. For example, when voiced obstruent geminates appear with another voiced obstruent they can undergo optional devoicing (e.g. You’ll see what appear to be additional consonants as we go through the chart, but in Japanese these are really variant pronunciations of the basic 15. The morpheme hito (人 (ひと), person) (with rendaku -bito (〜びと)) has changed to uto (うと) or udo (うど), respectively, in a number of compounds. a B-speaker), that speaker will never have [ɣ] as an allophone in that same word. These include: In some cases morphemes have effectively fused and will not be recognizable as being composed of two separate morphemes. In the case of the /s/, /z/, and /t/, when followed by /j/, historically, the consonants were palatalized with /j/ merging into a single pronunciation. , In the late 20th century, voiced geminates began to appear in loanwords, though they are marked and have a high tendency to devoicing. If you’d rather just learn pronunciation for now, see A Guide to Japanese Pronuncation. Our first exception to the pattern comes in the very next column, the ‘sa’ gyou. Far less new sound… The ‘ka’ gyou is one of the simple ones. Before ‘y’, ‘h’, ‘f’, ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘w’ and all vowels, the pronunciation is somewhat different, since the tongue and lips do not touch anything. In Japanese, sandhi is prominently exhibited in rendaku – consonant mutation of the initial consonant of a morpheme from unvoiced to voiced in some contexts when it occurs in the middle of a word. Everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese, fully explained, Quick Reference Sheets and Other Print Outs, Hiragana and the Japanese Sound System, Part 2, Lesson Update: Japanese Verbs and Conjugation, a = “ah”, between the ‘a’ in “father” and the one in “dad”, u is similar to the “oo” in “boot” but without *rounded lips, e is similar to “ay”, as in “hay”, but is a pure vowel rather than a **diphthong, o is similar to “oh”, but is a pure vowel rather than a **diphthong.