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Grammar detail: Japanese pronunciation

Japanese pronunciation
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One of the more straightforward aspects of learning Japanese is the pronunciation, which is quite regular. With only a few exceptions, each syllable in each word is enunciated individually in the same way each time it appears.
Each of the sounds in Japanese consists of a vowel sound (the sounds represented by hiragana あ, い, う, え or お), preceded by a consonant sound. In each case the vowel sound is consistent:
the 'a' in 'cab'
the 'e' in 'eat'
the 'ou' in 'you'
the 'e' in 'escalator'
the 'o' in 'soft'
Each separate sound in a word or name (as would be represented by a single kana character if the word was written out) is pronounced individually. So for example the name ゆりえ would be pronounced 'yu-ri-e' (as in, 'you', the 're' of 'read', the 'e' of 'edit').
A few irregularities exist. There is no 'hu' sound in Japanese - the kana symbol ふ is pronounced 'fu' (but は, ひ, へ and ほ are pronounced 'ha' 'hi' 'he' and 'ho' as expected).
There are a couple of 'situational irregularities' - words where a kana character is pronounced differently depending on context. The two most notable examples are the topic marker は, which uses the kana symbol 'ha', but is pronounced 'wa' when it functions as the topic marker. In the same way, the directional particle へ is pronounced without the 'h' as just 'e'.
When a vowel sound is doubled up, it is pronounced by lengthening the first sound. For the い, う and え sounds this doubling does not affect the pronunciation, but for あ the long 'a' is more like the 'a' in 'father', and for お the long 'o' is more like the 'o' in 'note'.
The doubling up is a little irregular in kana - in hiragana, the お sound is lengthened by adding う. For example, Tokyo is written in kana as とうきょう, and both the first and last syllable are pronounced with a long 'o' sound. In katakana, the lengthening is usually accomplished with a stroke symbol, as in for example チーズ (rather than チイズ) or タクシー (rather than タクシイ). This symbol is called a
ちょうおんぷ
長音符
(chōonpu).
When Japanese is written in 'romaji' (i.e., using the English alphabet), it is customary to write a long vowel sound with a stroke over the letter. So for example Tokyo would be written Tōkyō, and in the same vein, Kanshudo would be written Kanshūdō. In practice, this is only done when words are being written specifically to indicate how they should be read.
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See also:
  • pronunciation of おお
  • pronunciation of した
  • 連濁(れんだく) - voicing of first consonant in second part of a compound word

Kanji used in this grammar

チョウ   なが long   
1
オン   イン   sound   おと    ね    
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2
フ    sign, mark   
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4
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