The Sokuon

After getting けってい and にっこう wrong more times then I care to admit I decided to do some reading. I have no idea why I did not do this before and am simply posting this here incase someone else has the same issue.

The small tsu is called a sokuon and is used only before a kana that starts with “s” “t” “h” “k” and the “p” (voiced h). It cannot be used before any vowel kana or “n”.

This now explains why when you are counting most things you use いっ (いっき, いっさつ and いっぽ) but one machine is いちだい !!! Same for いちもんじ and いちねんせい.

Apparently there is some rare exceptions (Cramorant from Pokémon is ウッウ), but doing a search for っ does not show any times the above is broken.

I have never seen this rule in any of the text I have used to study. It is always just assumed you will remember where to use it.

Can anyone see why I would be wrong with saying this?



I’m pretty sure that’s small-っ-as-glottal-stop rather than a sokuon. That is, it’s pronounced u’u rather than uu.


It’s in the WK User Guide:

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Nah, the question here isn’t “how” but “when”.


It only says “how” to type it, not “when” to type it.


Ah, my mistake.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen it formally discussed anywhere either. It’s just one of those things I picked up.

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That might be true (not sure how to pronounce it) but it brakes my rule :slight_smile:

The issue with me is I have a hard time “just remembering” things. It takes a long time before I commit to long term memory. Give me a rule, no problem. I guess that is why I am good at math and physics, not so good at speleing… :grin:

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Yes, that is because in the cases you are pointing out it’s being used to mark a geminated consonant.

Actually it does not get used with with ‘h’ consonants other than in possibly exceptional cases. Here’s a bit more info from wikipedia:

The sokuon usually cannot appear at the beginning of a word, before a vowel kana ( a , i , u , e , or o ), or before kana that begin with the consonants n , m , r , w , or y (in words and loanwords that require geminating these consonants, ン, ム, ル, ウ, and イ are used respectively instead of the sokuon). In addition, it does not appear before voiced consonants ( g , z , d , or b ), or before h , except in loanwords, or distorted speech, or dialects. However, uncommon exceptions exist for stylistic reasons.[2]


Funnily enough, that means “To hold” in Samoan, like holding something.

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These are the guidelines I use for two-character 音読み compounds:

  • If a trailing く comes before K, the く becomes っ
  • If a trailing ち/つ comes before K/S/T/H, the ち/つ becomes っ
  • If a trailing っ/ん comes before H, the H becomes P

There are exceptions, and you have to be more careful with larger compounds that contain prefixes/suffixes, but overall I’ve had great success with this approach.


That’s interesting, I personally haven’t had trouble with this yet so seeing these rules laid out like this is intriguing. Really you should just take words on a case by case basis and you’ll soon realise what sounds best. Like I’ve heard washing machine as せんたっき and if you compare that to せんたくき you can see why, the former is easier to pronounce. I imagine a lot of sokuon developed in this way.

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I have sort of worked out the last rule, nice one too.

Anyone know if there is a nice list of this sort of thing? Things like when to use にん\じん or いち \じつ. I worked those out myself but it would of been nice to know them before I started…

Some annoying kanji just have multiple commonly-used 音読み (e.g. 人・大・日), with no reliable pattern to them.

In those cases you still end up having to learn word-by-word, though you can sometimes carve out a rule for useful subsets (e.g. nationalities are always じん).

(IIRC, the multiple readings mostly come from different words being borrowed from Chinese at different points in history, which is a fun piece of trivia but generally doesn’t help much with actually learning modern Japanese readings.)

Issue with just going with what sounds best is when you have non-english speaking people like myself. In my native Polish, saying words that “sound” wrong is just normal… Things like “burknąć” is easy for me. To a English speaker wrapping your tongue around “bu-r-k-n-on-ch” sounds “wrong”. Same goes here. Saying せんたくき is just as easy as せんたっき and now I am stuck staring at the screen trying to remember how to spell it.

That’s what I mean. Just some “this will work” most of the time rules would be great.
Sure, after using the language for some years you will just remember them. But just like mnemonics, rules like this make learning far easier.

Anyone know any tricks with たい \ だい ?

The problem is that they don’t work most of them time. It takes longer to list the exceptions than to just memorize them as you go.

It’ usually だい when it starts a word. Except when it’s not. :wink:


Just tried it with だいたい and たいてい and wow, it works!


I’m sorry, but are you sure you are talking about one machine and not one day?
Anyway, thank you for the information!

Sorry, was thinking machine, but wrote day… Fixed.

Works for both anyway :slight_smile:

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