Japanese Pronunciation

1 Aug

The Japanese language has symbols that do not correspond to the Latin alphabet.  However, as you may have noticed in the charts of a previous post (https://voiceoftruth.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/japanese-language-the-alphabets/), language learners have the option of approximating the sounds of these symbols with English pronunciations.  In other words, the Japanese syllable あ can be approximated by the English “a” or は by “ha”.

One Japanese sound of particular interest to the native English speaker is the “r” of ら, り, る, れ, and ろ.  While this “r” is often pronounced by non-natives like the “r” in the English language, it is actually a cross between the retroflex “r” (articulated between the post-alveolar and palatal regions) and the English “l”.

The ん is also an interesting syllable in the Japanese language.  Because it is pronounced like the alveolar nasal “n” of English it shares its properties.  For example, if it occurs at the end of an utterance or before a vowel, the preceding vowel is nasalized.  Example: にほん (Nihõn).  When ん is followed by an alveolar consonant (n, t, d, s, z), it is pronounced like a normal “n”. However, when it is followed by a bilabial consonant (m, p, b) it sounds like an “m” and before velar consonants (k, g) it sounds like a velar nasal “ng”.  Examples: てんぷら (tempura) and ばんごう (baŋgoo).

The vowels い and う in the Japanese language are eliminated in certain instances of speech.  This elimination occurs when the vowels are placed between voiceless consonants (k, s, t, p, h) or the vowels are preceded by them at the end of an utterance.  For example: 人がたくさんいます。(hito ga tak(u)san imas(u).)

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