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禁煙 vs 記念 (and similar cases)

Davide92

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Hi guys, I compared the pronunciations of 記念 and 禁煙 on Forvo and they sound different to me: 記念 sounds like [kinen] and 禁煙 sounds like [kiŋŋen], a bit like が with 鼻濁音 but a bit longer. Is this a regular thing when moraic ん precedes a vowel within a word?

And what about moraic ん + vowel across words? For example, in the sentence 訳文を原文と比較しなさい, how should I pronounce the 'んを' sequence?
Thank you.
 

nice gaijin

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Hi @Davide92, good catch, it's because they are different. While the spelling in romaji may look similar, one is きねん and the other is きんえん. It's not just 鼻濁音, but the moraic nasal ん (撥音), which assimilates the place of articulation of the following sound, and is realized as a nasalized version of that next phoneme. Also bear in mind that the extra mora in きんえん makes it longer than きねん.

In cases where it precedes vowels, it becomes a weird nasal approximate version of the vowel, in this case, [ẽ]. When in a word-final position and not followed by anything, it's realized as a [ɰ̃]. The only constant is that it's always nasalized. These sounds are hard to recognize and isolate (for English speakers, at least), so fortunately we can generally get away with just using whatever nasal sound we can muster (usually just a [n])

In your example, 記念 is [kineɰ̃] and 禁煙 is [kiẽeɰ̃], and 訳文を would probably be something like [jakɯbɯõo], the pronunciation guide on google translate (訳文を) does a pretty good job of reproducing the sound, though it's still challenging to hear if you didn't grow up in the language.

Here are some other threads where we discussed some phonology:
 

Davide92

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Thanks a lot @nice gaijin , very interesting stuff! I probably heard [ŋ] because I'm not used to [ẽ] at all (or [ɰ̃] for that matter). 😅 Once you notice this, you can't really unnotice it!
 

Buntaro

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Wouldn't きんえん be rendered into Hiragana as kin'en?
 

Hiroky

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記念 and 禁煙
First, you must know Japanese 漢字 mean.
記念 is 記 ki and 念 nen
禁煙 is 禁 kin and 煙 en
It’s both looks like on word but pronunciation separately.
If you read that way, maybe easier to understand.
 

Toritoribe

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A Kanji compound word(熟語) is actually a single word, so there are some cases that the pronunciation of each kanji changes from the original one. For instance, 奥義 is おうぎ, not おくぎ, because of u-euphonic change (ウ音便). Similarly, 率直 is そっちょく, not そつちょく because of flipping euphonic change (撥音便). Also, 連濁 sometimes occurs. 根本 and 安産 are こんぽん and あんざん, not こんほん and あんさん, respectively.

Indeed, it's useful to know the meaning of each kanji to deduce the meaning of the compound word (well, there are many cases "the first kanji modifies the second one and vise versa", "a combination of the similar meaning or opposite meaning", etc. even for this method), but it's not always useful for the reading since most kanji have multiple readings. You need to confirm the correct reading in dictionaries or something after all, for instance for 生菓子(なまがし), 生糸(いと), 人生(じんせい) or 一生(いっしょう).

Furthermore, even though the romaji/kana is the same n/ん, it's pronounced differently depending on the following syllable, as nice gaijin-san explained excellently. ん is not the same between 金曜(きんよう)and 金粉(きんぷん).

These issues are a problem in pronouncing a compound word just as a combination of two independent kanji.
 

Davide92

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Thank you Hiroky-san, thank you Toritoribe-san! Indeed, I've noticed that I can't always predict the reading of 熟語 even when I'm somewhat familiar with all the kanji in them... That's why I love 振り仮名! 😁
 
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