• Juuuergen

    Senior Member
    American English
    I guess my simple explanation would be that it some cases it sounds more like [fu] and sometimes it sounds more like [hu]. It also falls into the "h" line on the syllabary chart, and I think as a result the convention is to transcribe it is as "hu" so it fits the other syllables in its line.

    To be more specific, I think it is pronounced more like [fu] especially in foreign words to replicate the [f] sound, since the natural way to produce this sound is to make it sound more like a cross between [f] and (and the fact that it sounds like both is also maybe a reason why you could transcribe it either way). For example, ファスト・フード. I think Japanese would tend to emphasize the [f] component of the articulation to make it sound more like the way we pronounce 'fast food' in English.

    However, I am not an expert on Japanese phonetics by any means, so maybe someone else knows better than I do. I am merely speaking from my few years of experience in Japanese language study and linguistics study.
     

    kenjoluma

    Senior Member
    Korean
    When uncertain of that specific pronunciation, it is safe to pronounce it [hu] all the time.


    (And this tip of advice always works fine especially on native English speakers.)
     

    Flaminius

    hedomodo
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    My pronunciation of ふ is always the same. It's neither [fɯ] nor [hɯ] but [ɸɯ], the voiceless bilabial fricative. I believe all native speakers of Japanese use this pronunciation when it comes to indigenous Japanese and Sino-Japanese words. Whether to romanise it as <fu> or <hu> is a matter of writing conventions.

    In loan words whose originals have the [f] pronunciation, a very limited number of people use [f]. Most people substitute [f] with [ɸ], thus [ɸaasɯtoɸɯɯdo] for ファーストフード. A smaller number of people, especially those in older generations, use [ɸɯ] or to replace [f]. Also important is to note that people in reality may use different realisations for different words. For example, I say [ɸɯirɯmɯ] for "film" because that's the pronunciation I heard while growing up but I find [hensɯ] for "fence" too countrified.
     

    nemurenai

    Member
    English
    Interesting. Thanks everyone. I'd learned to produce the sound in the correct way, but had always equated it to "hu". This clarifies a lot.
     
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