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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lesson 2.4: 拗音(ようおん) & 長音符 (ちょうおんぶ) Youon & Extended Vowels

Up to now I've been teaching that each 仮名かな(Can't read it?)is given it's own distinct voicing and intonation. In addition to that, a small や, ゆ, or よ-this usage being called a 拗音-proceeding a 仮名 signifies a whole new kind of sound. To show what I mean let's take the reading of two 仮名, き and よ and say them at regular speed. Now remove the pause and read this: きょ. Now you can say the other 拗音 仮名 without a hitch(if you feel it's not right, say it faster until it does). 

The 仮名 that utilize 拗音 would be き, ひ(including when either or  are applied to it),み,り,し(including when is applied to it)&ち. し. じ &ち are quite distinctive in that when paired with either 拗音 or a small え 仮名 they produce a whole new sound-those being しゃ(sha)しゅ(shu)しぇ(she)しょ(sho), じゃ(ja)じゅ(ju)じぇ(je)じょ(jo) & ちゃ(cha)ちゅ(chu)ちぇ(che)ちょ(cho). 

For futher assistance, here's a handy chart to the initial sounds and the brand new sounds

Informally, small 平仮名outside of y 平仮名(not called 拗音) can signify an extended vowel, such as in はぁ and ねぇ, and may be something you encounter when chatting with Japanese speaking friends over the net or while reading 漫画まんが. In 片仮名 this mark (ー)-called a 長音符ちょうおんぷ- is used mainly to show extended vowels, although on rare occasions it's also used in 平仮名 , as when 拉麺ラーメン is written in 平仮名.

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