Friday, January 13, 2006

My husband or my prisoner!?

Do you know that there are more than 1,000 sounds (pronunciation) in English?
Compare to that, there are only about 100 sounds in Japanese.
(46 sounds from あ to ん plus 25 sounds of voiced consonant like が・ぽ and 33 palatalized consonant like きゃ・じゅ・ぴょ.)

Correctly, as phonetics, there are some exceptions, like ん(n) in まんが(manga) is different from ん(n) in ふじさん(Fuji-san).
But basically, each hiragana / katakana always describes same sound.
I think this is one of the most different points between alphabet and Japanese writing system.

The good point is that if you can read hiragana / katakana, it’s easy to know how to pronounce the word and it’s only 100 sounds.
The difficult point is that there are so many same or similar sound words in Japanese!

Examples for completely same pronunciation

Koosei : こうせい(公正) justice
Koosei : こうせい(校正) proofreading
Koosei : こうせい(構成) structure
Koosei : こうせい(更生) rehabilitation

Kansoo : かんそう(感想) impression
Kansoo : かんそう(乾燥) dryness
Kansoo : かんそう(完走) running the whole distance

Shimeru : しめる(締める) to fasten
Shimeru : しめる(占める) to occupy
Shimeru : しめる(閉める) to close
Shimeru : しめる(絞める) to strangle

Examples for similar pronunciation
(These pronunciations are similar, but it’s easy to tell the difference for Japanese people.)

Yuuki : ゆうき(勇気) courage
Yuki  : ゆき(雪)   snow

kyuuyo  : きゅうよ(給与)  salary
kyuuyoo : きゅうよう(休養) rest

shugo  : しゅご(主語)  subject
shugoo : しゅごう(酒豪) heavy drinker

Be careful!!!
shujin  : しゅじん(主人) husband
shuujin : しゅうじん(囚人) prisoner

Be careful!!!
shoojo : しょうじょ(少女) girl
shojo  : しょじょ(処女)  virgin girl

If you know any interesting same or similar pronunciation pairs in Japanese, let me know please!


  1. 始めました。

    We messaged a little bit on Mixi a couple of weeks ago, and you asked me to check out your blog. I checked it back then, but I finally had a chance to look at it in detail. I'm sorry that it took me so long. I got slammed with a bunch of translation projects, and didn't have time for anything (I work from home).

    とても面白いですね! 大好きです。どうも有り難う。 Your blog is very interesting! I like it a lot. Thank you for doing it.

  2. Hi Toade,

    Thank you very much for your message on Mixi and comments for my blog!

    I'm glad to hear that you are interested in my blog. (^ ^)

    Keep in touch!

  3. Maybe 'husband' and 'prisoner' were originally the same word? ..... *~_^*

    I agree with toade, thanks for doing the blog!

  4. Hi Tom,

    Actually, when I explain the diffence of pronunciation between those 2 words, most of guys say similar thing.
    "Wow, very different meaning! But sometimes they might be same...!"

    That's funny. *^0^*

    Thank you, too!
    I'm very happy you see my blog and give me nice comments!
    Thank you very much☆