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TYJ Hiragana for s/z + vowels

This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese

2.3. Hiragana for s/z + vowels

s + vowels:
sa[ sa ] ListenEnglish "s" + Japanese "a".
si (shi)[ ɕi ] Listen Similar to English "sh" + Japanese "i". You shouldn't round your lips when you pronounce [ɕ], unlike the [ʃ] in she [ʃi:].
su[ sɯ ] Listen English "s" + Japanese "u".
se[ se ] ListenEnglish "s" + Japanese "e".
so[ so ] ListenEnglish "s" + Japanese "o".

z + vowels:
za[ dɕa ] ListenEnglish "dɕ" + Japanese "a".
zi (ji)[ dɕi ] Listen Similar to English "j" + Japanese "i". You shouldn't round your lips when you pronounce [dɕ], unlike the [dɕ] in jeep [dɕi: p]
zu[ dɕɯ ] Listen English "dɕ" + Japanese "u".
ze[ dɕe ] ListenEnglish "dɕ" + Japanese "e".
zo[ dɕo ] ListenEnglish "dɕ" + Japanese "o".

Note that "si" and "zi" have different consonants from others because of palatalisation.

The "z" in the middle of a word is commonly pronounced as [z] instead of [dɕ]. Similarly, "zi" can be pronounced as [ʒ] (as in azure [æʒə]) instead of [dɕ]. Since Japanese speakers don't distinguish [dɕ] and [z] actually, you can pronounce "z" as the latter, which is easier for English speakers.

Hiragana examples:

Pitch:H L
Romanization:su si
Meaning:sushi (noun)

For your interest: Sushi is a popular food in Japan. It is made of raw seafood (!) and rice. It tastes good, so give it a try if you have a chance. Some people expect Japanese foods to be hot like Thai and Korean foods, but Japanese foods have delicate and elegant tastes. Japanese foods boast of being low-fat and healthful, which is one of the reasons why the Japanese have the longest life expectancy in the world.

Pitch:H L
Romanization:sa zi
Meaning:spoon (noun)

Pitch:H L
Romanization:su zu
Meaning:small bell (noun)

Pitch:H L L
Romanization:se ka i
Meaning:world (noun)

Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:sô zô
Meaning:imagination (noun)

Pitch:H L
Meaning:elephant (noun)

Pitch:L H H
Romanization:se i zi
Meaning:politics (noun)
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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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