Learning Japanese: Pronunciation

Posted by hornlo on December 5th, 2009 filed in Uncategorized

Whatever course material you use to study will provide detailed guidelines for pronunciation. I’ll also discuss some audio reference material in a later post, once I get past the mechanics of the written language.

For a quick introduction you may want to view these articles: “Pronunciation of Japanese” provides a sample reading (from the beginning of Natsume Soseki’s classic novel Botchan) along with the text in both rōmaji and hiragana, and a few practice word lists; “Japanese/Pronunciation” discusses the basic rules and guidelines for pronunciation, along with audio samples; “Japanese phonology” goes into much greater technical detail.

Rōmaji transcription is only approximate. For example, the sound of “ん” may be [n], [m], or [ng]; the sound transcribed by convention as “r” is closer to a blend of English [l], [r], and [d].

One kana symbol corresponds to one syllable, of which there are five types:

  • five basic vowels: [a], [i], [u], [e], and [o]
  • consonant + vowel: [na], [ki], [yu], …
  • syllabic consonant: [n]/[m]
  • doubled consonants: “kk”, “tt”, …
  • contracted syllable: for example, [ki] + [ya] = [kya], [chi] + [ya] = [cha], …

The vowels are always distinct, never blended, and they have only one pronunciation. For example, “oi” is “oh-ee”, not like “oy” in English “boy”; the words “aoi” and “iie” are each pronounced with three syllables.

All syllables are of equal stress and duration. Accent, when used, is conveyed by a tone or pitch change (high-to-low) rather than by loudness.

The first table below shows the rōmaji and hiragana syllabary of Japanese. The katakana syllabary is the same; just replace the symbols. The second table shows additional katakana symbols used to write “foreign” syllables.



Series NavigationLearning Japanese: Computer Input

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Site last updated 2020-08-18 14:20:29; This item last updated 2009-12-11 00:32:16