~えい Long Vowel Sound

Hi, this is my very first topic on the forum ! ╰(▔∀▔)╯

I’ve this question since I started studyng japanese…
Tae kim’s guide says that when there’s an えい sound, the pronunciation is ええ.
Indeed, if we look up for 時計 (とけい) on Jisho we found that it’s pronounced " tokee", however if we’re a bit more careful we may have noticed that listening to music or other videos, 時計 (or other common words like 先生, 学生 (せんせい, がくせい)) it’s often pronounced “tokei” !
I know for sure that both pronunciations are correct but I wonder if it’s a preference or some sort of dialect. Help me answer this question! 皆さん、ありがとう。

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It’s not uncommon for songs in any language to break or bend general pronunciation rules so that they fit into the song better. So I wouldn’t use pronunciation in songs as a guideline for how to pronounce things.

P.S. Welcome to WaniKani and to the community!


This is a spelling thing. Anything can vary by dialect, but if you treat every えい (inside individual kanji readings) as though it’s ええ, no one will think anything strange about your pronunciation.


映画(えいが), 水泳(すいえい), 命令(めいれい), etc. pretty much always sound like エー to me. But 永遠(えいえん) feels more like エイ. Is it a special case or am I perceiving things oddly?

I can hear 永遠 as えい instead of ええ. That could be because the second kanji starts with え.

You can kind of hear the えい in 経営 too, for example.

I can’t think of any other 〜えいえ〜 like words but that makes sense.

Less clear what happens 〜おうお〜 though. 騒音(そうおん) maybe feels a little bit like ソーウォン?

おう is the same as えい in this sense. It’s a long vowel, not a combination of two vowel sounds.

Is it possible that this is more of a lazy speech thing?
I’ve noticed that the い becomes え as well, but in my humble gaijin opinion, I feel like it’s more along the lines of ない becoming ねえ in that it’s just easier to say this way, and we all know Japanese speech takes the easiest route when it comes to pronunciation. If it means they move their mouths less… lol

It’s not the same. It’s literally just that spelling is not always exactly what it looks like.

You won’t hear an NHK announcer say ない as ねえ.

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Yes, but doesn’t WK’s 騒音 recording sound like it dips into う? Although it’s unclear whether it’s part of 騒(そう) or 音(おん).

Comparatively, in WK’s 永遠 recording I hear the first kanji as a long エー and the second kanji as something like イェン.

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I’ve found the imabi website some time ago and I can recommend the first two chapters about pronunciation in this case. The author seems to be somehow a person with knowledge in linguistics, so I guess it won’t be all that wrong.

There are actually words like 姉さん(ねえさん) where you stretch without the い. To sum it up, as far as I understood imabi. lengthening the お with おう and the え with えい seems to mostly appear in on’yomis (hence orignally chinese words). My personal guess is that a long time ago the japanes people maybe tried to pronounce the words more closely to the original chinese pronunciation, but over the time the sounds just became long お and え. Unfortunately, I have no proof or historical hints. So there is a good chance that my theory is plainly wrong :smiley:
However, what ever the reason might be, it is indeed an interesting question.

Regarding the えいえ: If you would not pronounce the い it would result in a triple え. I think it would just be to confusing and impractical if the speakers of a language had to distinguish between three different syllable lengths, so pronouncing the い more clearly has established. Especially since the meaning of many, many japanese words already depends on whether a vowel is long or short (ばあさん - ばさん, 有名(ゆうめい) - 夢(ゆめ)). But I’m not sure either.

Anyway, I agree with the previous answers: The “correct” pronunciation of えい seems to be ええ, and, as seanblue already mentioned, don’t try to imitate songs or so. For example, in German you write very often "silent e"s, like in “haben” (have), but never speak them. Doing so sound very strange and unnatural, still in songs you sometimes here it because of various musical reasons (beat, metric, etc.).

ps: this is my first post, too yay


Assuming that Jisho’s pronunciations are correct…
Typing “*いねい #common” or “*いせい #common” you can find other words with the exact same pronunciation, that makes me think that it’s probably a general exeption (you can’t extend two times in a row an え sound using い).

Regarding 騒音, probably it’s better to pronounce it as “ソーオン” because even if you pronounce it with the う, the difference is very subtle (in my opinion it’s better to stick with the rule of the long vowel). Also you won’t pronounce 高校 (こうこう) as “コウコウ”
Let me know if I’m wrong.

Fun fact: Jisho’s audio is from WaniKani. :slight_smile:

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The whole えぇ-buisness (じゃねぇ、高けぇ、お金がねぇ、etc) is a feature of Kansai dialect and seems to become popular in other parts of Japan as kind ofa rough, masculine way of talking among male friends.


I’ve hear natives making えい sound ええ and making it sound えい. But far more on the first group.

My (Japanese native) wife claims there’s a difference between spoken ええ and えい. Specifically, she thinks my name is more デイモン than デーモン. I prefer writing it the second way and don’t hear the difference anyhow. But I admit that I don’t always hear the distinction between Japanese vowel sounds such as 食べている vs 食べてる (the second form is slangy).


Oh, I got to know your name :smiley:

Incidentally… why “Sezme”?

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If anyone’s interested

Certain words of Japanese origin should be pronounced え and not えー such as 姪、鱏、etc.

Some conjugations of verbs should be pronounced え and not えー such as
There are people who disagree with this however and believe that まねーて、かせーで etc are valid pronunciations for these kinds of verbs.

In slower, more deliberate speech え can be found which makes がくせ an ok pronunciation.


It’s a mystery lost in the sands of time. But I’m pretty sure there’s no good reason. (Incidentally, since the first 8 months or so I spent with my wife (then girlfriend) were in México speaking (bad) Spanish, she knew me as Damián until we eventually switched to English.

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What a great story you’ve got hidden there.


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