January 17, 2015

Pronunciations

I've heard two examples recently of how the Japanese think English speakers pronounce Japanese names.

In theory every mora in Japanese except ん is what we English speakers would call a consonant followed by a vowel. However, there are three major exceptions to that: す su,tsu, and し shi often drop the vowel sound and get pronounced respectively as s, ts, and sh.

Anyway, in the first episode of season 3 of Dog Days, there's a segment of Nanami and Shinku competing in the Iron Athletics competition in London, and the announcer (I think he's supposed to be English but he sounds Australian to me) pronounces Nanami's surname "takatsuki" as tah-kah-tsoo-kee. The Japanese pronounce it as tah-kats-kee.

The other is in the last episode of Arpeggio of Blue Steel. The US Navy in San Diego transmits a message to Japan informing them that the sub arrived safely. It's addressed to Yokosuka. The Japanese pronounce that yo-ko-ska but the American (and it was an American this time) says yo-ko-soo-ka.

Neither case was played for laughs; there was no feeling of "laughing at the gaijin". But I have a feeling that this kind of error is kind of a brand for English speakers, just like mixing up "L" and "R" is a brand for Japanese trying to speak English.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 09:45 PM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
Post contains 220 words, total size 1 kb.

1 It's addressed to Yokosuka. The Japanese pronounce that yo-ko-ska but the American (and it was an American this time) says yo-ko-soo-ka.

It's well-known 'round these here parts that I'm kinda a Pacific War guy.  Yokosuka Naval Arsenal was the big base for the IJN in WWII, in much the way you might say San Diego was for the US Navy (Truk and Pearl Harbor might be thought of as mirrors of each other, though that's not strictly true).

You'd think, then, that I'd know how to pronounce "Yokosuka."  It's only been in the past few years that I knew "Yo-ko-ska" was correct.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 11:07 PM (jGQR+)

2 Interestingly enough, I know a few former servicemen that spent time in Japan, and they all say it "yokoska" like the Japanese.  Hadn't really thought about it like that, but it does happen in a lot of place names.
Not that they Japanese ever haven't functionally dropped the two "u" in Toukyou.

Posted by: sqa at January 17, 2015 11:10 PM (k2E7c)

3 I myself only learned the correct pronunciation of Yokosuka by listening closely to the voices in Arpeggio of Blue Steel.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 17, 2015 11:31 PM (+rSRq)

4

One that confused the heck out of me is watakushi. (That's one form of "I" and it implies that the speaker is nobility. Gruier and Grunhilde in Mouretsu Pirates use it.) It's pronounced wa-tahk-shee. BUT...

If you pluralize it with the -tachi ending, thus watakushi-tachi, it's pronounced wa-ta-koosh-ta-chee.

Probably that's because saying wa-tahk-shee-tah-chee is uncomfortable and confusing, but that's just a guess.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 17, 2015 11:40 PM (+rSRq)

5

I was wrong about the announcer in Dog Days. His name is Graig Russell. He was born in South Africa and grew up in England.

I can't tell Australian, NZ, and South African accents apart. They all sound the same to me.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 17, 2015 11:50 PM (+rSRq)

6 "Not that they Japanese ever haven't functionally dropped the two "u" in Toukyou."

This is not the same. The ou gets combined into a longer vowel sound. If the u's were being dropped, the pronunciation would be "to-kyo", with a short o, like in "tora" or "konnichiwa"

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at January 18, 2015 02:51 AM (RGjwf)

7 The hard part is that the spelling gives no indication that vovel is dropped. You just have to rememeber the exceptions. I used to underline the kana in words like "ksuri".

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at January 18, 2015 07:20 AM (RqRa5)

8 Another weird exception, while we're on it, is how ひ hi is often pronounced "sh". Two examples: hitori is pronounced "shto-ri" and anohito is "ano-shto".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 18, 2015 05:57 PM (+rSRq)

9

In wapuro romaji, the use of "u" for long o sounds is due to the fact that in Japanese they use う u for that when the base mora is one with an "o" sound instead of using お o.

So in romaji we use "u" instead of "o", to stay consistent with the Japanese usage. Why they do that is anybody's guess. That's the kind of thing that happens in natural languages.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 18, 2015 06:02 PM (+rSRq)

10 I had read somewhere that an "oo" (as in ookami, "wolf"), and an "ou" (Toukyou) used to be pronounced differently, but the pronunciations drifted together over time.  Now they're both pronounced "oo", and the "ou" phoneme has vanished.  And most of the "oo" spellings went away with it; I can't think of one that doesn't appear at the start of a word (ookami, ooki).


Posted by: Mikeski at January 18, 2015 07:06 PM (lO+tS)

11 Now that it has been mentioned...I have to wonder how Akatsuki is pronounced.  I always pronounced the name of the destroyer and class as 'A-kat-su-ki' but maybe it should be 'A-kat-ski'...Which is actually is how they pronounce the name of a character in Log Horizon with the same Romanized spelling.

Posted by: cxt217 at January 18, 2015 07:30 PM (+Bfy8)

12 "Another weird exception, while we're on it, is how ひ hi is often pronounced "sh". "

I have never heard this. The only thing I hear is that sometimes the i sound is very short.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at January 19, 2015 12:04 AM (RGjwf)

13 I gave two examples. If you want to hear "anohito" pronounced that way, listen to the last episode of Mouretsu Pirates at time 07:14.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 19, 2015 12:23 AM (+rSRq)

14 "In theory every mora in Japanese except ん is what we English speakers would call a consonant followed by a vowel. However, there are three major exceptions to that: すsu,tsu,and しshioften drop the vowel sound and get pronounced respectively ass,ts, andsh."
This is called devoicing. It's most common, even in Western speakers, in the copula desu and the polite verb ending -masu.

Posted by: muon at January 19, 2015 01:23 AM (XIprt)

15 There seems to be a consistent set of rules for what sounds can be devoiced, allowing Japanese people to talk faster without ambiguity.

1) Any character that begins with a consonant and ends with "-u" can be devoiced...
2)...As long as it really is a single character, not a compound character like "shu" (しゅ) or "chu" (ちゅ).
3) Because of Rule 2, the characters "shi" and "chi" can also be devoiced. (Maybe "ji" as well, though I can't recall hearing that.)
4) Long vowels are never devoiced, e.g. "fu" could be devoiced, but never "fuu".

As to when devoicing is used, it depends on a lot of factors: how fast you are talking, whether you would end up with too many consonants in a row, whether you would end up with a word with no vowels, and how polite you want to sound. (If you are really trying to sound polite, pronounce both syllables in "desu.")

Posted by: jtappan at January 21, 2015 07:05 PM (Bkf8Y)

Hide Comments | Add Comment

Enclose all spoilers in spoiler tags:
      [spoiler]your spoiler here[/spoiler]
Spoilers which are not properly tagged will be ruthlessly deleted on sight.
Also, I hate unsolicited suggestions and advice. (Even when you think you're being funny.)

At Chizumatic, we take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately.

How to put links in your comment




What colour is a green orange?




16kb generated in CPU 0.01, elapsed 0.0134 seconds.
22 queries taking 0.0053 seconds, 34 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.