User:Samidare/IPA Guide

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The vowels あ, い, え, お should be transcribed [a], [i], [e], [o], respectively. (These are straightforward.)

For う, there are a number of alternatives; the Wikipedia page on hiragana suggests [u͍], other sources suggest [ɯ], while still others (like the Wikipedia page on phonology) use [ɯᵝ]. The difficulty stems from the unique realization of う: the same place of articulation as [ɯ], but with lip compression, which can be indicated in a number of ways via IPA diacritics.

For simplicity's sake, I have been transcribing う using just [ɯ], with no diacritic.

Note: [ɯ] (correct) is not to be confused with [ɰ] (incorrect), which looks similar to it; the former is a vowel, while the latter is a consonant.

Long vowels[edit]

The two-vowel sequences おう and おお should both be transcribed [oː], which reflects their actual realization. Similarly, the vowel sequences えい and ええ should both be transcribed [eː]. This also applies when consonants precede the first vowel: for example, こう should be transcribed [koː].

Finally, doubled vowels should be transcribed as the vowel followed by the long-vowel mark. For example, ああ should be transcribed [aː].

(The aim is to capture a broad transcription of the actual pronunciation rather than giving phonemic representations. Despite the phonemic differences between, for example, おう and おお, they are realized as the same long vowel when pronounced out loud, and therefore should have the same transcription.)

Note: the long vowel mark (ː) is not the same as the colon! Use the IPA section in the Wiki Editor's "Special Characters" menu to insert it.


In general, follow the table given here, with the exception of う as noted above.

Before い or ゃ, ゅ, ょ[edit]

When consonants come before い /i/, they are palatalized:

  • ひ /hi/ → [çi] (not *[hi])
  • し /si/ → [ɕi] (not *[si] or *[ʃi])
  • ち /ti/ → [t͡ɕi] (not *[ti] or *[t͡ʃi])
  • じ /zi/ and ぢ /di/ → [d͡ʑi][1]
  • All others: /Ci/ → [Cʲi], where C indicates some consonant.
    • e.g. き /ki/ → [kʲi], ぎ /gi/ → [gʲi]

In addition, consonants before ゃ /ja/, ゅ /ju/, ょ /jo/ are likewise palatalized:

  • ひゃ /hja/ → [ça] (not *[hja] or *[hʲa])
  • しゃ /sja/ → [ɕa] (not *[sja] or *[ʃa])
  • ちゃ /tja/ → [t͡ɕa] (not *[t͡ʃa])
  • じゃ /zja/ → [d͡ʑa] (not *[d͡ʒa])
  • All others: /CjV/ → [CʲV], where C is some consonant and /jV/ is one of /ja ju jo/. Examples:
    • きゃ /kja/ → [kʲa]
    • きょ /kjo/ → [kʲo]
    • きゅ /kju/ → [kʲɯ]

Special cases[edit]

Take note of the following special cases:

  • ふ /hu/ → [ɸɯ] (not *[hɯ])
  • ず /zu/ and づ /du/ → [zɯ][1][2]

Geminate (doubled) consonants[edit]

These are indicated in Japanese by っ. When transcribing these, double the consonant: for example, げっこう should be transcribed [gekkoː].


  1. 1.0 1.1 The realization of じ vs. ぢ vs. ず vs. づ depends on dialect (see the Wikipedia article on the yotsugana). In Standard Japanese, じ and ぢ are pronounced the same, and ず and づ are pronounced the same.
  2. The realization of the sound represented by either ず or づ in Standard Japanese is variable. Specifically, the realizations [dzɯ] and [zɯ] are in free variation, with [dzɯ] being common in pausa and [zɯ] elsewhere.

The moraic nasal ん[edit]

The moraic nasal ん has a number of realizations, varying depending on the environment in which it occurs.

For stops, the moraic nasal assimilates to match the place of articulation of the following consonant:

  • Before the bilabial stops /m/, /p/, or /b/: [m] (ex. せんぱい [sempai])
  • Before the alveolar stops /n/, /t/, or /d/: [n] (ex. こんな [konna])
  • Before the velar stops /k/ or /g/: [ŋ] (ex. りんご [ɽʲiŋgo])

In other cases:

  • At the end of a word: [ɴ] (ex. えん [eɴ])
  • Everywhere else: nasalize the previous vowel. This is indicated by a tilde over the vowel: [ã ĩ ɯ̃ ẽ õ]. (ex. さんぜん [sãzeɴ])

Obsolete kana[edit]

For obsolete kana ゐ, ゑ, and を, use modern pronunciation: [i], [e], and [o], respectively. For example, Tenshi Hinanawi should be transcribed as [çinanai tẽɕi], and Tewi should be transcribed as [teː].