Pronounciation of Wa/わ

< Previous | Next >

Δημήτρης

Senior Member
Cypriot Greek
Hi.
Probably a stupid question, but I'm confused about the pronunciation of /w/ sound in Japanese.

Until now, I thought the Japanese /w/ is like a light greek /γ/ sound (not sure about IPA, but it's similar to a light English /wh/ in "what") but lately I heard many natives to pronounce /w/ in the は particle like the English /v/. For example では - deva.
On the other hand, わ (like in わたし) is more like /wh/.
Are wa particle (は) and wa(わ)pronounced in different ways? What's the correct?

Pronunciation is not my strong point, so a audio clip would be extra helpful.
 
  • sekaijuuni

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    わ and particle は are pronounced the same way.

    And according to Wikipedia:

    "わ [ɰ͡β̞a] Pronounced with compressed rather than rounded lips. The kana wi we wo are pronounced as vowels, , [e], [o]; and have been largely replaced with their vowel equivalents い え お."

    The wi, we, wo kana are from classical Japanese so you don't really deal with them anymore (though I have seen wi and even ye on storefronts), but there's the pronunciation. W in Japanese is a voiced labiovelar approximant, as in the English 'weep.' Hope this helps!
     
    Last edited:

    Δημήτρης

    Senior Member
    Cypriot Greek
    Just out of curiosity again, but as I'm exposed to Japanese more and more I discover some variations in the pronunciation that are "undocumented" - at least in the teaching materials. I'm interested particularly in the sound wa (わ or は as particle).

    Apart of the standard /w/ pronunciation, I noticed 2 other variations of some sort.

    a. Nearly a "ヴァ" (/v/、/β/?). ie 私は → ヴァタシヴァ、渡さない→ヴァタサナイ. I hear this pronunciation in formal settings
    b. Getting nearly merged with the previous u. ie ぼくは→ボクア. By boys, informally.

    Do these pronunciations exist or is just me hearing things?
     

    Ototsan

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Hi.
    Probably a stupid question, but I'm confused about the pronunciation of /w/ sound in Japanese.

    Until now, I thought the Japanese /w/ is like a light greek /γ/ sound (not sure about IPA, but it's similar to a light English /wh/ in "what") but lately I heard many natives to pronounce /w/ in the は particle like the English /v/. For example では - deva.
    On the other hand, わ (like in わたし) is more like /wh/.
    Are wa particle (は) and wa(わ)pronounced in different ways? What's the correct?

    Pronunciation is not my strong point, so a audio clip would be extra helpful.
    I have thought all my life that Japanese /w/ sounds pretty much like English /w/. Phonetically English /v/ is a fricative which is very different from /w/.
     

    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    A related question: is pronounced [βa] instead of [wa] by some speakers when used as topic marker? I'm using Genki as textbook and I hear the former. It sounds odd to me because the speaker would have to compress his lips to produce it, differently from [wa], pronounced with the lips separated.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Good observation! In fact, the Japanese W is pronounced with unrounded or compressed lips. In fact, the Japanese language, at least the Tokyo dialect, has a general loathing for puckering lips. A result of unrounded lips in pronouncing W is that fricative sounds are generated across a wider range of the lips than for the English W. Certainly, the Japanese W has an element of the bilabial fricative [βa].

    It is, however, not entirely the bilabial fricative. It is one of the timbres that you hear in this approximant. Wikipedia annotates わたし into [ɰᵝataɕi]. The [ɰᵝ] stands for the compressed labio-velar approximant.

    I will move your question and this reply to a more appropriate thread.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top