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TYJ Hiragana for /N/, /Q/, and /H/

This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese

2.11. Hiragana for /N/, /Q/, and /H/


n' (before a vowel or y)
n (otherwise)
(m before m/p/b in Hepburn)
[m] before p/b/m
[n] before t/d/n/r
[ŋ] before k/g
[N] otherwise
(see right)
Basically, the pronunciation of /N/ is "n" with one-syllable length. It is important to correctly pronounce the mora following /N/. Modify /N/ if necessary.
If /N/ is followed by any vowel, "s", "h", "w", or "y", don't shut your mouth completely like "n". Keep your breath going out from both your nose and your mouth.
If /N/ is followed by "m", "b", or "p", pronounce /N/ as "m".
If /N/ is followed by "k" or "g", pronounce /N/ as "n" in think.

The Romanization is "n" in most cases. If followed by vowels or "y", the Romanization is "n'" to avoid confusion with n + vowels. In Hepburn Romanization, "m" is used when followed by "b", "p", or "m".

The following phrases are pronounced differently:
かに "kani" (crab) has two morae.
かんい "kan'i" (simplified) have three morea, the second of which is /N/. Don't let your tongue stop the breath from your mouth when you pronounce the /N/.
かんに "kan ni" (into a can) has three morae, the second of which is /N/ pronounced as "n".

the next letter
(t before ch in Hepburn)

(see right)
Pronounce the next consonant longer than usual.
When followed by a plosive like "t" and "k", /Q/ is a breath stop with the mouth position to pronounce the next consonant.
When followed by a fricative like as "s", /Q/ is a continuous consonant.

This hiragana looks like the hiragana つ "tu", but they differ in size.

The Romanization is duplicating the next letter. In Hepburn Romanization, use "tch" instead of "cch".

Note for /N/ and /Q/:
Even though /N/ and /Q/ contain no vowel, they are morae. Each mora has the same length of time.


^ or ¯
(over a vowel)
the previous vowel
Pronounce the vowel of the previous kana. For instance, if this kana follows か "ka", its pronunciation is "a". This kana is used only for imported words, and is called the long vowel mark.

Hiragana examples:

Pitch:L H H L
Romanization:Ni p po n
Meaning:Japan (noun)
* There is no grammatical difference between common nouns and proper nouns in Japanese.

Note: This word is the official name of Japan in Japanese, but another word にほん "Nihon" is more commonly used in colloquial Japanese.

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:si n bu n
Meaning:newspaper (noun)

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:ha n za i
Meaning:crime (noun)

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:ge n' i n
Meaning:cause (noun)

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:si p pa i
Meaning:failure (noun)

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:ro k ko tu
Meaning:rib (noun)
Note: The hiragana for /tu/ and the hiragana for /Q/ have different size.

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:ko k ka i
Meaning:national parliament (noun)

Pitch:H L L L
Romanization: me n
Meaning:Chinese soup noodle (noun)

Pitch:L H H
Romanization:ka rê
Meaning:curry, curry and rice (noun)

For your interest: Chinese soup noodles and curry and rice are the most popular foods in Japan. Both are so Japanized that Chinese and Indians think they are Japanese foods.
Next article in the series 'Teach Yourself Japanese': Double hiragana for consonants + y + vowels
Previous article in the series 'Teach Yourself Japanese': Hiragana for w + vowels
About author
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

I work as a display engineer.

One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.


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