Is the "U" always silent?

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by Michi, Apr 25, 2019.

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  1. Apr 25, 2019 #1

    Michi

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    I've noticed that the "U" in Japanese is often silent. For example, Kiritsuke is pronounced "Kiritske", and Konosuke is pronounced "Konoske".

    I'm wondering whether the "U" is always silent. Would Kanetsune be pronounced "Kanetsne"? The rule must be more complex than just "don't speak the U". Otherwise, words such as Usuba would be pronounced "Sba", which seems unlikely…
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  2. Apr 25, 2019 #2

    JBroida

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    Nah... it should be pronounced... people just get a bit lazy with it sometimes (myself included)
     
  3. Apr 25, 2019 #3

    Michi

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    Thanks for that!

    So, if I pronounce Kiritsuke as "Kiritsooke", I won't immediately brand myself as an ignorant fool?
     
  4. Apr 25, 2019 #4

    JBroida

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    Just think Romance language vowel sounds
     
  5. Apr 25, 2019 #5

    Marek07

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    Interesting. I followed Sara's pronunciation of Kiritsuke as recorded on ZKnives. She too seems to drop the "u". Surely it's not laziness on the part of a native speaker? More akin to the common dropping of the first "r" in library by many English speakers.
     
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  6. Apr 25, 2019 #6

    lemeneid

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    Japanese tend to speak a little faster so sometimes the vowels can be silent but it’s still there subtly if that makes sense.
     
  7. Apr 25, 2019 #7

    JBroida

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    This
     
  8. Apr 25, 2019 #8

    panda

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    He look a like a man, oh I see I seeeeeee
     
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  9. Apr 25, 2019 #9

    orangehero

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    what about itadakimasu?
     
  10. Apr 25, 2019 #10

    TurboScooter

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    It's called devoicing, but the vowel is not always devoiced. It happens commonly when the vowel sound is between voiceless consonants.

    U and I are the commonly devoiced vowels. For example, 下 (shita) has a devoiced I. It's more shta than shi-ta (like English she-tah). 好き (suki) is ski, not su-ki (soo-key).

    The ending U on things like desu and -masu verbs (like the aforementioned itadakimasu) are devoiced unless you're trying to be cutesy or whatever.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_phonology#Devoicing
     
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  11. Apr 25, 2019 #11

    Michi

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    Thank you Sir! :)
     
  12. Apr 25, 2019 #12

    osakajoe

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    Also depends on the social situation your in. You will enunciate words more clearly the more formal polite situations you are in.
     
  13. Apr 25, 2019 #13

    limpet

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    Interesting. When studying Japanese years ago, I remember our teacher telling us to ”think” those vowels when making them, as I understand now, voiceless. They are both there and not there. They are silent but affect how you say the word nonetheless.

    One common phrase I struggled with (still am) was ”shitsurei shimasu”.

     
  14. Apr 25, 2019 #14

    KenHash

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    This is the best explanation, albeit very academic. Certainly accurate. Although, as pointed out, that last "whatever" includes formal and official circumstances. Rather the opposite of being "cutesy".

    Years ago as a kid I heard an American lady say "..just a skosh". (pronounced skohsh) to mean "just a little bit".
    It was years later that I learned that the word was the Japanese Sukoshi 少し a term brought back by US GI's
    during the post WWII occupation and Korean War. But the pronunciation as "Skosh" is really how you hear it in most instances.

    The "U" often sounds silent when Japanese is spoken quickly. If spoken or read slowly, the U is quite clear.

    Going to the first post- Kanetsune (a name) should not be pronounced Kanetsne. On the other hand, forcing the "tsoo" is also wrong. Kiritsuke sounds like Kiritske when said quickly. But if you said Kiri-tsoo-ke, you would end up putting the accent on the "tsoo" part. Japanese is a phonetic language, like Spanish, Italian, modern Greek. But it does not have the accents placed on latter parts of the word. For years the USN radio at Yokosuka (home of the 7th fleet) used to say "Yoko sooka" but they changed to "YOkohska" which is closer to the way it's pronounced.

    BTW any other Japanese speakers on this forum?
     
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  15. Apr 25, 2019 #15

    Corradobrit1

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    Netsuke. Maybe I have very poor hearing but I hear 'Netskey' when its pronounced.
     
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  16. Apr 25, 2019 #16

    osakajoe

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    Yes. As in my ID says I live in Osaka. Mostly use Japanese in my daily routine and maybe 20-30 percent English.
     
  17. Jun 1, 2019 #17

    Sharp-Hamono

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    If you're speaking regular English, just pronounce it how it's spelled. You won't look stupid to most people if you pronounce the letters or if you copy people who seem to know what they're doing because most people do not speak Japanese.

    If you want to say Japanese words as a native speaker of Japanese would say them, as if you were speaking in italics, as people often do when they have some knowledge of the pronunciation of a foreign language (i.e., with French or Spanish, which I hear all the effing time), then it's a little more complicated. I'll leave you with two rules in jargon and then try to break them down:

    1) High vowels in Japanese are devoiced when they occur between voiceless consonants or at the end of a word.
    The high (position of the tongue) vowels in Japanese are /i/ and /u/ (pronounced about like the vowels in "leak" and "Luke," respectively). A voiced vs. voiceless consonant is just as you might guess from the name. There are consonants in all languages that can't be pronounced without some vibration of the vocal chords. Many of these consonants have a voiceless version. For example, /b/ is voiced but /p/, which is pronounced with the lips in exactly the same position, is voiceless. You could view /b/ as otherwise the same consonant as /p/ except for lack of voicing. So in answer to your question "why isn't Usuba pronounced 'sba,'" because /b/ is voiced.

    2) When <u> occurs after <o>, it represents a single sound, long /o/, and not a complex diphthong of two vowels.
    Japanese, unlike English (despite terminology that may be used imprecisely by lay people), differentiates between long and short vowels, i.e., in relative duration, which can cause words to mean totally different things. When Japanese is written in Roman letters, there are different ways to transcribe vowel length - it is often NOT indicated - but for reasons I have never researched, long /o/ is spelled in Japanese, and sometimes carried over into Romanization, as <ou>. The only place I see this mattering for pronunciation of words related to knives would be kurouchi and maybe names of knife makers, although again, it's usually not represented in Romanization, and I'm not sure why it was preserved in kurouchi. Basically, don't worry too much about this too much, but if you can remember that the <ou> in kurouchi is a long /o/, then you will sound a bit more knowledgeable than the average knife enthusiast.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
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  18. Jun 1, 2019 #18

    Michi

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    Thanks for that explanation, much appreciate it!
     
  19. Jun 1, 2019 #19

    DitmasPork

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    Reminds me of listening to Cubans speaking Spanish, ...quite fast.
     
  20. Jun 2, 2019 #20

    playero

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    In Spanish some vowels are omitted talking fast and also some consonant are interchanged or omitted depending the area you are.
     
  21. Jun 2, 2019 #21

    limpet

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    I could be wrong, but I think ”kurouchi” is two words written as one, where kuro means ”black”. If you check out the glossary at zknives, he writes it as “Kuro-Uchi”. So myself, I don’t treat it like a long “o” and instead I say both the “o” and the “u”.

    http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/jpnktknvterms.shtml

    Edit: Found a clip. Murray Carter says it literally means “black hammer”.

     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
  22. Jun 3, 2019 #22

    CoteRotie

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    Yeah, like in the Caribbean "maestra" sounds like "mae-tra", and "compay" I think came from "compadre". "Pos" for "Pues" in some places. Lots of interesting examples.
     
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  23. Jun 3, 2019 #23

    ian

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    Cool video. He's not the most natural presenter, but nice to see everything start to finish.
     
  24. Jun 4, 2019 #24

    ojisan

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    Japanese learners always know Japanese more than native Japanese speakers do. I’ver never thought about this.

    Yeah, I feel like I don’t use a long “o” when “o” and “u” are in two different words, while often use a long “o” when “ou” is in a single word. However, I cannot explain why I do like this.

    More funny thing is, with writing above sentence, I tried saying “kurouchi” multiple times in random sentences, and just realized I actually sometimes say it like “Kuroh-chi“ (slightly-longer-o ?). It seems I pronounce different sounds than I think in my mind depends on speed and context.

    These Us in single words are usually pronounced as a long "o" I believe: Ho(u)-cho(u) (kitchen knives), Ko(u)-soku-ko(u) (high speed steel), Ko(u)be-beef (too expensive), Sho(u)budani.
     
  25. Jun 4, 2019 #25

    TurboScooter

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    Murray Carter is saying it very slowly and distinctly in that video. Murray has another video where he says he pronounces honesuki as honeski and his native speaker wife will correct him and tell him it's ho-ne-su-ki. Around 8:55. You can hear how it's pronounced here (about 0:25, another at 1:36) in conversation. To me the u is devoiced.

    13-14 seconds in and 26-27 seconds in you can hear a native speaker say kurouchi.

    The romanization of long O is weird due to the different systems of romanization (like し/shi/si, つ/tsu/tu), I think. I feel like if you don't know Japanese then Hepburn is the one that helps the most or makes the most sense (づ being romanized du is not gonna really help a non-speaker). Then you have like 大きい with the actual double O.
     
  26. Jun 6, 2019 #26

    KenHash

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    That's "hammer" as in the verb. Not the noun.
     

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