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Glossary of Aikido Terms

Japanese Language Pronunciation Guide

Vowel sounds in Japanese use the following pronunciation key:
aas 'a' in 'father'
eas 'e' in 'met'
ias 'i' in 'macaroni'
oas 'o' in 'solo'
uas 'u' in 'flu'
Consonants are pronounced the same as in English, with the following possible exceptions:
fOften much lighter than in English - to approximate the sound, purse your lips and blow lightly.
gWords that start with 'g' are given a hard sound as in 'goat'. When in the middle of a word, it is often nasalized as 'ng' (as in 'ring').
nWhen appearing as the final consonant, it is given a more nasal sound than in English, otherwise it is used normally like 'n' in 'not'.
rUsually pronounced as a rolling 'r', as in French or ie: 'rrroll up the rrrim to win'. Often used by Japanese speakers in place of the letter 'L' as there is no 'L' sound in Japanese. For example, the proper name 'Lila' would be pronounced 'ri-ra'.
x2Doubled consonants are pronounced as separate syllables.
General Guidelines

It is fairly easy for English speakers to pronounce Japanese. There is very little variance in stress or emphasis between syllables. Every "syllable" of a word is given equal weight or importance, unless it is a special case and has a lengthened vowel sound.

Syllables: Syllables can almost always be divided after a vowel. Even when a word is made up entirely of vowels, each vowel is read individually, (with the exception of long vowels), for example the word aoi (blue) is pronounced "ah-oh-ee".

Cluster of Consonants: Occasionally, syllables are made up of a cluster of consonants (ie: kyo, kyu, tsu, etc). When they occur, they are to be pronounced as a single syllable. For example, kyu sounds like the "cu" in the english word "cute". Another example is the Japanese city name Tokyo, which is correctly pronouced as two syllables "To-kyo", rather than three syllables "To-ki-yo".

Long Vowels: Long vowels are usually identified by a macron above the letter (ie: ā) or as a doubled letter (ie: aa, ii, oo), and in the case of the letter 'o', also followed by a 'u' (ie: ou). A long vowel indicates that the duration of the sound should be doubled. Note that you may not always see words written in that way for the sake of simplicity. However, it should be understood that there can be a vital difference between the correct romanized spelling and the spellings used for simplicity, for example the word komon (adviser) should not be confused with the word kōmon (anus)!

"Whispered" or "Devoiced" Vowels: Sometimes, vowels become "whispered". This would usually happen following sh, ch, s, and with ku, and is more common when the vowel is the last letter in the word. For example, the word ichi (one), might be pronounced "ee-ch", sounding very much like the english word "each". It is imortant to note however that the final "i" IS NOT entirely silent or removed, but is pronounced more quietly, "under your breath", ie: each-"eeh". Also, there doesn't appear to be a hard and fast set of rules for when you can do this, and therefore it is almost required that you had previously heard a word spoken in this manner. When in doubt, it is best to pronounce the word fully, ie: "ee-chee".

Click here for an interesting discussion on the AikiWeb forum regarding syllables and devoiced vowels. Pay particular attention to posts by David Iannucci.

* Disclaimer: This pronunciation guide is by no means a complete guide to speaking proper Japanese. Also, this guide was compiled from various sources on the internet and as a result may not be 100% accurate.

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