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International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) Transcription Conundrum/Error

Michealin

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Every source I've encountered notes that [ɯᵝ, ɯᵝː] front to [ɨᵝ, ɨᵝː] after palatalized consonants (cf. Ryuu). However, [ɨ] is an unrounded vowel, which yields the accompanying pronunciation on IPA reader. Yet, it's pronounced with a central [ÿ] everywhere else. IPA reader's Japanese voice (Mizuki) seems to be from the Ryuukyuu Islands because she depalatalizes the initial consonant. Additionaly, I used the protruded [ʉ] in the pronunciation because it dislikes the compressed [ÿ]. Would I be incorrect to use [ÿ, ÿː] raher than [ɨᵝ, ɨᵝː] when transcribing the sound?
 

nice gaijin

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How neat, I love the idea of a text-to-speech IPA reader. It seems that there aren't many of these, and none of them are without flaws. At first glance (and upon closer inspection), I'd say you're running up against limitations of the app.

I too, am not without my flaws, and I'll start by saying that I consider myself a mere amateur enthusiast of Japanese phonology. My knowledge on vowels is not comprehensive, and I have only passing familiarity with the superscript modifiers, so I had to do a little reading to fully understand your question.

First thing I noticed was that your links do not have the ɯ sound (ɾʲɨᵝː and ɾʲʉː). To my knowledge, the end-point of ~ゅう is still the close back unrounded vowel ɯ, and is not replaced because of the palatalization.

In my phonology class, I was taught to transcribe りゅう simply as [ɾjɯː]/[ɾʲɯː], and that the palatalization naturally creates the transitory high(er) vowel sound through assimilation. It starts at the flap, where your tongue contacts the alveolar ridge, and as your tongue moves towards ɯ there are what could be described as intermediate sounds. Saying it to myself I can hear what you mean about "fronting" as the palatalization leads into the final vowel sound, making it sound sort of like a dipthong. I'm not sure if it's possible to properly pronounce the palatalization without the assimilation, so transcribing the fronting sound seems unnecessary to me personally; ultimately you will have to make the higher vowel on your way to the as a matter of physiology.

I also noticed that if you change the "voice," some of them do a better job with certain sounds (try the french, spanish, and tatyana (russian) voices), but to recreate りゅう, きゅう or ちゅう it's necessary to spell out the transition as ɨɯ, and the superscripts, palatalization and long vowel markers don't seem to matter: you can remove these characters and play again, and notice that the sound doesn't change between ɾʲɨᵝɯː, ɾʲɨɯː, ɾʲɨɯ, and ɾɨɯ... Mizuki does not handle these sounds well though.

As I was just doing this, I found it interesting to repeat ゆう to myself, then introduce the flap and make it りゅう, and notice the subtle differences, mostly in the tongue's position. As an experiment, change the voice to Tatyana (because this doesn't work with Mizuki) and test jɯː and ɾjɯː. Yet I see that if you enter ɾʲɯː, the palatalization disappears and it sounds the same as ɾɯː (this seems like an error to me)

I would chalk all this up to limitations of the tool (which was likely created from audio clips and not a computer model of the human vocal tract), and I'd say that it's probably not super helpful for accurately testing your transcriptions. It may actually be counter-productive if it forces you to use these unusual character combinations in order to get the voice to behave.

edit: added links to make things easier and save the trouble of copy-pasting.
 
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Michealin

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Sumimasen, nice gaijin-san. I know I should've responed much sooner than this, but I got sidetracked with other things even though I started thinking of a resply immediately after reading your post.

My links don't have [ɯ] because Wikipedia states "{i}t is centralized to [ɨ] after ... palatalized consonants (/Cj/)", citing Labrune (2012) p. 25. This is reflected here and here. Yet, fronting ɯ to unrounded ɨ isn't supported by either of those pronunciations. If it's truly centralized as Labrune suggests, it'd be to a weakly-rounded compressed ÿ͑, not a weakly-rounded protruded ʉ̜, for obvious reasons. I couldn't use ÿ on the IPA reader due to it's limitations, so I used ʉ instead.

I didn't try changing the voice until because after making the links in my first post because I read that it's better to use a native speaker's voice. Unfortunately, that seems to be false based on the program's limitations, at least in this case, and errors they cause. Perhaps, those of us intereasted in the topic could try finding papers on the subject other than Wikipedia's citation because I agree that the end-point of ~ゅう is still the unaltered close back unrounded vowel ɯ.
 

nice gaijin

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Sumimasen, nice gaijin-san. I know I should've responed much sooner than this, but I got sidetracked with other things even though I started thinking of a resply immediately after reading your post.

My links don't have [ɯ] because Wikipedia states "{i}t is centralized to [ɨ] after ... palatalized consonants (/Cj/)", citing Labrune (2012) p. 25. This is reflected here and here. Yet, fronting ɯ to unrounded ɨ isn't supported by either of those pronunciations. If it's truly centralized as Labrune suggests, it'd be to a weakly-rounded compressed ÿ͑, not a weakly-rounded protruded ʉ̜, for obvious reasons. I couldn't use ÿ on the IPA reader due to it's limitations, so I used ʉ instead.

I didn't try changing the voice until because after making the links in my first post because I read that it's better to use a native speaker's voice. Unfortunately, that seems to be false based on the program's limitations, at least in this case, and errors they cause. Perhaps, those of us intereasted in the topic could try finding papers on the subject other than Wikipedia's citation because I agree that the end-point of ~ゅう is still the unaltered close back unrounded vowel ɯ.
Hm, ɨ and ɯ are very close to one another, and ɨ's area of articulation is between the /r/ and /u/, so it makes sense that it might express in a clipped りゅ sound without a chōonpu (long vowel, as in りゅう). However, now that I think about it, this sound is very rare in Japanese; almost every instance of りゅ I can think of has a long vowel. I found some kanji that list りゅ as onyomi, but don't actually appear in any dictionary words. Indeed, the only exceptions to this appear to be some names: りゅ #names - Jisho.org

More could be said of り [ɾi] and う [ɯ] next to each other (which happens more often in compound words: *りう* - Jisho.org).

It seems like whatever vowel changes we're talking about here are merely the product of assimilation due to the area of articulation of the surrounding phonemes, and are either rare or sub-perceptible. Any "fronting" or "centralization" is a product of the movement of the mouth from one sound to the next, and is not worth splitting too many hairs over unless you're trying to analyze Japanese on an abstract, atomic level for academic pursuit. Trying to use a modified ÿ or ʉ to describe these sounds feels like we're trying to approximate ɯ without writing ɯ, and seems unnecessary and less clear.

As the tool you linked does not support full IPA notation, and their "Japanese" voice is very limited, I'd say your best bet for identifying them would be to simply listen to examples of native spoken Japanese. If you really want, you can isolate the sounds in question, and if you have a good ear you may be able to identify/confirm the sounds in question. We had some fun in phonology class by clipping out sounds we thought were unique and playing them back in isolation, realizing they were in fact the same.
 
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