Pronunciation differences and grammatical correctness

Apologies for the vague title, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to address the issue.

I noticed that there are quite some differences in terms of pronunciation between the many study resources (including media) I’ve been using and I’m not sure whether any one of them is more correct than the rest. To some extent I’m following the pronunciation I’ve been exposed to through anime and news broadcasts and they seem to agree in a lot of ways. When I learn new words, I try to apply similar rules, so for instance:

  • 女性 - じょ is short, せい long with a slightly silent い at the end
  • 不正 - ふ is short, せい behaves as before
  • 男性 - だん and せい are evenly spaced, possibly because of the ん sound in だん?

But then words like 図書館 appear and I hear at least 2 versions:

  • としょ-かん - a very slight pause between としょ and かん
  • と-しょ–かん - 2 pauses, but the one after しょ is longer than the one after と

And 彼女:

  • か-の-じょ - 2 short pauses (how I used to pronounce it)
  • かの-じょ - 1 pause between the kanji (how I pronounce it now)

Do variations like this come from the differences between pronunciation of standalone words vs words in sentences or is one form in general more correct than the other?

At this point I’m just curious. I don’t mind sounding a bit like a foreigner, because my English (arguably my second main language?) is a mix between UK and US English, mostly because of the mixed exposure.

can’t say I’ve ever noticed pauses between mora in normal speech, so I’m struggling to understand exactly what you’re asking…

can you hear it in any of the audio clips in these links? (and if so, which ones?)

each kana is one “mora”, and should be pronounced for roughly one unit of time (at least ideally - normal speech is always a bit different of course). the main exception is the digraphs where you have a big kana and a little kana, such as じょ, which are pronounced as a single mora.

so じょ and are 3 mora, and is 4 mora (with each mora marked with a dot).

if you haven’t come across mora before, I really recommend reading up on them because they’re really important for pronouncing japanese properly


In the recordings I can clearly hear even spacing between the kanji. Not sure why in the anime I watched (Eureka 7) 図書館 was pronounced with a slightly stronger emphasis on と. Perhaps it was spoken very fast and that confused me.

Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me, thank you! I vaguely remember hearing something about mora, but I definitely didn’t know the below:

When pronouncing the above words again it does feel like each dotted sound has an equal duration. I will try to pay more attention to this! :slight_smile:

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It could just be overanalyzing or mishearing but yeah mora are generally pronounced with even timing. You can think of it like beats in music. There are sometimes subtle differences in actual speech but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. One example is when people intentionally draw out double consonants like in やっぱり or other words to add emphasis.


Yes, I think mishearing is the main culprit here.

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