Hito heard shto

Using Rosetta Stone and I keep hearing hito 人 in 女の人、男の人 as “shto” . I have tinnitus so I do not know if this is because of that, versus regional pronunciation, versus a rendaku like issue.

Any insight on this?


I think it’s just a typical case of “i”, (as well as “u”) often not being voiced when following an unvoiced consonant (such as “h”). Thus resulting in “otokonohto”, “anohto” etc.

Same as how “desu” often becomes “des”, and “shita” often becomes “shta”.

Yes vowel sounds between unvoiced consonants and the end of a sentence are often devoiced themselves which makes them very week.

As far as H vs Sh, the ひ sound is not quite an “H” sound, but a [ç], which doesn’t exist in American English, but it is like the h in “Hue” in Australian and British English.


Not sure about Rosetta Stone, but I have definitely heard people in Japan add a subtle “sh” to 人. Most of the time, I don’t notice it. I guess it’s like the way some people fall further on the “f” side of ふ, while others fall on the “h” side.

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If you have a hearing issue where it is difficult to tell apart unvoiced consonants (f vs. s is a pretty common one, since those sounds have higher frequency than, say, z vs. v) then maybe that is why you are hearing it that way?

/ç/ and /ʃ/ (the sh sound) are also pretty close to each other in the mouth, so if English is your first language, it might sound like that. (although, is し an /ʃ/? I haven’t actually read that much about Japanese phonology, so I’m not sure, but it sounds a little different.)


I also hear this in Japanese speakers. h definitely sounds different depending on the vowel that follows. the one that is most noticeable is when followed by u, but i think the h sound also varies when followed by e and i, getting close to an /sh/ sound in English. this is especially apparent when the h sound is followed by the t in hito… to me, the relatively more ejective h going to a t with the lips staying close together making the ‘i’ sound ends up approximating the /Sht/ sound as in the word “Schtick”. glad to hear i’m not the only one who hears this!

According to the wikipedia page on Japanese phonology, Japanese has both /ç/ and /h/, so I think it definitely varies depending on the vowel that comes after.

In the English dialects that use /ç/, it always comes before /j/ (ie, the “y” sound in human and hue). /j/ is a palatal sound, so the /h/ sound gets palatalized. What’s the palatal version of /h/? It’s /ç/!

The vowel in ひ is pretty high up in the mouth (like, your tongue is pressed towards the palate), so that’s probably why it’s pronounced as /çi/ instead of /hi/. I reckon it’s the same thing with へ, but ほ and は the tongue isn’t pressed against the palate so much so they’re just /ho/ and /ha/.

Sorry if this is a little incoherent, I typed it up kinda fast

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You are hearing correctly. My mother is Japanese from Tokyo and says shito, but my cousins from Wakayama say hito. I don’t know if it depends on where you are from in Japan (dialect), or whether it’s like sabishi versus samishi (lonely). Different pronunciation, but same meaning. I am Japanese-American, by the way, and keen to learn Japanese.

It’s not only “hito” that gets the “sh” treatment. Coffee will come out as “kohshi-”. I’ve been told that this is one thing identified with Tokyo shita-machi dialect.

The Tokyo dialect of Japanese is characterized by the frequent occurrence of whispered (that is, voiceless) mora. Whenever an i or u vowel occurs between any two voiceless consonants (k, s, t, p, or h), the vowel automatically becomes *voiceless, or, in some cases, is *lost. This happens whenever the two consonants come in the same word or in consecutive words.

* A voiceless sound is one which is not accompanied by the vibration of the vocal chords.
* When it is lost, the first of the two consonants has a full-mora beat

Japanese, The Spoken Language, Eleanor Harz Jorden

My husband is just starting to learn Japanese through the Rosetta Stone app and he was doing the same thing. He gave me quite the look when I told him it wasn’t really Shito.

The breathiness of the は行 sounds seems to be surprising in general to English speakers. I think it’s understated compared to the differences of the ら行, for instance. We have it beaten into our heads that らりるれろ aren’t “ra ri ru re ro” or “la li lu le lo,” but something else, and we don’t really hear the same thing with はひふへほ even though it’s true that the romaji aren’t a perfect comparison.

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It’s because in Standard Japanese it is something like this:


ふ is generally always talked about. But of the remaining, ひ is the only one that is different, and not a voiceless glottal fricative like the rest of them. While /ç/ is also a sound not very present in English, and if you’re a speaker of American English, is pretty much never spoken. If you speak Spanish though it is in “mujer” and for German speakers it is in “nicht”.

@ezekiy し is actually [ɕi] which is obviously very close to [ʃ] and thus generally taught that way. Though for Polish speakers し is the exact same as ś.


I’ve used a bit of Rosetta Stone Japanese in the past, and heard ひと on those words myself, so your tinnitus may be at play here. They did have male and female voices, and I feel if I recall correctly the male voice was a bit more muddied as far as clarity of pronunciation goes.

Why isn’t the difference between ひ and は included in romaji then? Do Japanese people perceive them as allophones or was it becaus the person transcribing it didn’t realize they were different sounds?

It’s probably cause there’s no good way to really write ひ in romaji that’s better than using an “h”. I don’t know much about Kunrei, but as far as Hepburn, it definitely predates modern IPA so its possible they just didn’t really care or notice the difference at the time.

It does seem that it is an Allophone though. Here’s the one line I found in Wikipedia: /h/ is [ç] before /i/ and /j/ (About this sound listen), and [ɸ] before /u/ (About this sound listen),[4] coarticulated with the labial compression of that vowel.

The same question could be asked for just about any english word. Is the H in humid the same as the H in Hot? Why isn’t this difference indicated in written communication?

The reason we don’t write using phonological alphabets is that it is impractical.

Even for the word “hot”, it is pronounced /hɒt/ and /hɑt/, depending on which side of the pond you’re from. Same likely goes for different dialects in Japanese, and ひ・ふ

Well, we distinguish し as having a different consonant than さ, and ふ as having a different consonant than は. I think it just boils down to what people think sounds different.

Hot = /hɑt/ (General American version)
Humid = /hjuːmɪd/

So yes, they are the same “H”, though some dialects simply don’t pronounce the “H” which is not entirely surprising as it comes from “umidus”.

Or, just say muggy and call it a day?

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