WaniKani Pronunciation?

I am still on level 1 (obviously) and I just learned about the small つ, so why is the pronunciation for 女 spelled おんな, rather than おっな? Are they different in some way?


That’s just how the Japanese have chosen to do it. You use ん instead of っ if the following kana starts with N.




ah so are all double Ns like that?

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I don’t think you’d pronounce おんな and おっな the same if there was such a thing.
While there is a slight carry over to the first syllable with っ, there is an audible pause there.

ん is a bit of a special case in many regards.


I’d say it has to do with the fact that ん is the only consonant that can be by itself, so you can have stuff like おん, but not something like おk. So it makes sense that they use that single letter when the consonant is repeated instead of the general っ. Something like that? :stuck_out_tongue:
There’s also the difference in pronunciation, with ん you pronounce it completely, while with っ you sort of do a pause and only pronounce the second consonant.


It’s not a syllable, though

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ん is not a syllable. The syllabic N is one mora, yes, but not a syllable. かん would just be one syllable, for example.

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I agree. I don’t think there’s ever an actual glottal stop (where you close your throat, abruptly cutting off all sound) before the “n” sound in Japanese… So you would read 女 as on-na while you read 学校 as ga-[glottal stop]-kō.

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I’m pretty confused by this topic. Like… what?


enters the grounds

A syllable is not the same thing as a mora. A syllable can be the following things (+ others I probably forgot), though what is considered acceptable to speakers depends on the particular language’s phonology (V is a vowel, including diphthongs; C is a consonant):
V (“ah”)
CV (“no”)
VC (“of”)
CVC (“foot”)
CVCC (“dogs”, “short”)
CCVC (“spot”)
CVCCC (“text”)
CCCVC (“spread”, “scream”)
and even CVCCCC (“texts”).

Japanese is more limited in its syllable structure, so the only acceptable syllables in the language are as following:
CVC (when there’s a っ or ん).

A mora, on the other hand, is a unit of time that each acceptable building-blocks unit of sound takes. That’s why the word がっこう (学校) has 4 morae (が, っ, こ, う), but only 2 syllables (/gak-ko:/) (/o:/ stands for a long /o/ vowel).

In Japanese there are 2 ways to portray the closing of 1 syllable with a consonant, but it results in 5 different cases:

  • Case 1: ん (ほん): that’s it, no doubling.
  • Case 2: ん+m(v), ん+n(V): the doubling of a nasal consonant (おんな、あんまり). The ん will always sound like the next consonant does.
  • Case 3: っ+everything else: the doubling of the next consonant. がっこう, ベッド.
  • Case 4: っ on its own: the previous syllable ends with a glottal stop. No doubling occurs. Happens usually in exclamations. へえええっ, いやああっ!, etc.
  • Case 5: a non-voiced CV(u) syllable is at the end of an utterance or followed by an unvoiced CV syllable, which is how です (/des/) and あります (/a-ri-mas/), and also やくそく (/yak-so-ku/) came into being. As soon as a voiced consonant syllable follows them, the devoiced/reduced syllable regains its presence. (Regardless, these reduced syllables still take an entire mora.)

@atonement: ん on its own is not a syllable, but rather an interjected sound that’s accepted by speakers to have a meaning, much like how “tsk” or “hm” are in English. They’re not, strictly speaking, words, but can still be understood as holding a meaning.

@1091229: basically it’s an orthographic choice made by the Japanese to represent the doubling of its nasal consonant.

@crihak There’s no glottal stop in がっこう. There’s a small pause between starting to say the consonant and continuing the rest of its assigned syllable. It’s pronounced like this: /gak-ko:/


Still pretty new so take this with a grain of salt, but I don’t think it would be pronounced the same if it were おっな. I look at little the little guy as a pause, not an extension. So oh . na vs onnna.

Listen to the audio sample here

He holds the n in that audio sample.


chotto and matte have a pretty distinguished pause.

It’s like comparing ッ vs ー in katakana imo.

Syllables don’t have meanings. Your example of ん did. It is one syllable by itself, but I think the initial comment that started this was stating that the ん in おんな is not a syllable in itself. So that’s a 2 syllable word. By the definition of mora, that would be a 3 mora word because the ん takes up a beat (if you will).

I THINK thats what Kumirei was getting at.


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A syllable doesn’t necessarily have a lexemic meaning. Sometimes they do, often they don’t. They’re made up of phonemes, which are the smallest unit of a language that can carry a meaning.

This is what Wikipedia has to say on interjections (Wikipedia is actually an excellent resource on linguistics): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interjection

Across languages, interjections often use special sounds and syllable types that are not commonly used in other parts of the vocabulary. For instance, interjections like ’ brr’ and ’ shh! ’ are made entirely of consonants, where in virtually all languages, words have to feature at least one vowel-like element. Some, like ’ tut-tut ’ and ’ ahem ', are written like normal words, but their actual production involves clicks or throat-clearing.[12] The phonetic atypicality of some interjections is one reason they have traditionally been considered as lying outside the realm of language.


The reason that the んな doesn’t sound like っと is because the air isn’t completely obstructed in the nasal/approximant consonants, so it just sounds like you’re holding “nnnnnnn” or “mmmmm” for a bit before continuing the syllable. If Japanese had L, then it would’ve acted the same; you can hear it in the Arabic word Allah here. Since different consonants are pronounced differently mouth-wise, their lengthening in the っ sounds a bit different, depending on the consonant in question.

This thing is called gemination in linguistics:

In phonetics and phonology, gemination (/ˌdʒɛmɪˈneɪʃən/), or consonant lengthening , is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a single instance of the same type of consonant. It is distinct from stress. Gemination literally means “twinning” and comes from the same Latin root as “Gemini”.

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okay so oh na rather than on na?

I would say that on-na. But you do not stop hearing the ん sound between the o and the a. On the other hand, with がっこう there is an instant with no sound in the middle, gak-stop-ko.

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I get what you’re saying, but you picked a funny example because おk is actually a thing.


I know, I should’ve used something else. :joy:

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I’m confused about how this turned into a debate about what a syllable is in Japanese. Like, are syllables even a thing relavent to Japanese at all?