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Pronunciation: 「 失礼します 」

yukio_michael

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My querry in this thread concerns the pronunciation of the word, 失礼 (しつれい) shitsurei. It seems as if, even when I had previously heard this word, I wasn't aware that I was hearing it--- I didn't catch it until quite recently.

It seems like the first part of shitsu (失) the kanji meaning "to lose", is devoiced, so, when someone says, shitsurei shimasu, I only seem to hear the ~tsurei shimasu.

Similarly, I had to practice a bit to pronounce words like, 一人 (ひとり), hitori, and have similar issue with words like hina matsuri.

Can anyone give me some advice on how best to pronounce words that have vowels that become devoiced at their beginnings? Maybe where I could hear samples of words like this?

Thanks!
 

nice gaijin

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I used that a few times today; if you want to practice saying it, try whispering "sheets" really fast to yourself; don't voice the "ee" sound, and you don't have to pull your lips that far back if at all, but that's approximately the positioning of your articulators for that unvoiced vowel.

The Japanese /h/ phoneme is quite varied in comparison to other consonants; the articulation of the consonant in ひ is different from that in は, へ, and ほ. Whereas the /h/ sound in 橋 or 横浜 is a glottal fricative (similar to the English /h/ phoneme present in "how," "hawk," and "hand"), when followed by an /i/ vowel, the pronunciation is closer to the [ç] allophone, and is actually a palatal fricative. This means that the area of articulation is your hard palate as opposed to the back of your throat; the body of your tongue rises close to the roof of your mouth as you aspirate, making a sound similar to a leaking tire. However, I don't think that the /i/ sound in words like ひな祭り are unvoiced.
 

Supervin

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... 失礼 (しつれい) shitsurei. ... I only seem to hear the ~tsurei shimasu.

Similarly, I had to practice a bit to pronounce words like, 一人 (ひとり), hitori, and have similar issue with words like hina matsuri.
I'd say 失礼します and ひ are separate issues.

The し sound is still present in 失礼します, but only very slightly as it seems to liaise with the つ sound, in a way that the 'i' sound in 'shi' is skipped.

Hmm, interesting. I wonder if other phrases also have a liaised しつ or if this a common occurrence in Japanese for this combination...
 

nice gaijin

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There are many unvoiced vowels in Japanese that give way to silent aspirated pauses. Of course it depends on what dialect one speaks; there are even varying vowel sets in different regions.
 

Glenn

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The general rule is that the high vowels ("i" and "u") become devoiced between unvoiced sounds and on unaccented syllables. Notice in しつれい that "sh" and "ts" are unvoiced, and し is unaccented, so "i" is devoiced. However, since what follows "u" is "r," a voiced sound, "u" keeps its voicing.

Also, all consonants are palatalized before the high front vowel ("i") in Japanese, which is why we have し as "shi" and not "si" and ち as "chi" and not "ti." It's also that funny "k" sound in き, like 来た, and the "h" sound that you mentioned in ひ.
 

yukio_michael

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I think as I gain confidence in my spoken Japanese, I'll be able to pronounce words more quickly, which I think is key in speaking Japanese, giving sylables the propper beat, and words like this will flow better.

Thanks everyone for the info.
 
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