Why does L + A not make ら in the IME anymore?

I used to really like that. They’re fundamentally the same anyway, so many of my mnemonics involved L words. Like 楽. This tree made me so comfortable, my cats LACKed GACKs for the rest of their lives. But now I have to type RA and it… bothers me very minorly : /\

So like, what’s going on? Why the change?


Because LA is a usual way to type small あ(ぁ)supported on other IMEs. It’s consistent with typing other small vowels (LIぃ LUぅ LEぇ LOぉ).

I think you shouldn’t connect the romaji input to the actual Japanese sounds. On a Japanese kana keyboard there are no L and A at all.


Aaaaah, I only knew about the x one. Thank you, this is much easier now!

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My first Japanese textbook (meant for French speakers) also proposed using L as an approximation for the Japanese R, and it’s definitely closer than the English R, anyhow, so I imagine it’s much easier to use. However, R seems to be the preferred transcription for that sound across common transcription systems, whereas L has other purposes in common IMEs so it’d probably be best to use R instead of L.

Just for reference though (even if I imagine you might already know this), the Japanese R sound is basically the same as the Spanish R sound. I saw a discussion about this on a language forum once, and it’s actually quite easy to prove: listen to any anime or drama character who’s presented as tough/gangster-like with a regional accent. When they say stuff like「おらあ!」, they tend to trill their Rs just like Spanish speakers do. You can’t do that with an L. The standard pronunciation (without trilling) is like the short Spanish R (the tapped R) that appears in “pero”, whereas the trilled version is the Spanish long/double R, as in “perro” or “arroz”.


As a portuguese speaker who can easily tell the difference between R and L (and trilled R), I can confirm this… only half of the time. Many times they clearly say la. There’s this stupid anime that I was watching, this one cat was going やらし やらし やらし and the L was pronounced very strongly. Also, ever heard of mario kart 64? Toad in that game says R instead of L and L instead of R when talking in カタカナ語. Like, maybe they’re saying it wrong? I believe the truth is they say neither, it’s something in between that can go either way depending on, idk, their mood.

I just programmed myself to treat the sounds as the same thing


Yeah I know. It’s all just approximations and conventions to allow us to type their language.

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Here’s the section of the Japanese phonology Wikipedia article that’s relevant:

Realization of the liquid phoneme /r/ varies greatly depending on environment and dialect. The prototypical and most common pronunciation is an apical tap, either alveolar [ɾ] or postalveolar [ɾ̠].[6][7][4] Utterance-initially and after /N/, the tap is typically articulated in such a way that the tip of the tongue is at first momentarily in light contact with the alveolar ridge before being released rapidly by airflow.[8][7] This sound is described variably as a tap, a “variant of [ɾ]”, “a kind of weak plosive”,[8] and “an affricate with short friction, [d̠ɹ̝̆]”.[4] The apical alveolar or postalveolar lateral approximant[l] is a common variant in all conditions,[4]particularly utterance-initially[8] and before /i, j/.[6] According to Akamatsu (1997), utterance-initially and intervocalically (that is, except after /N/), the lateral variant is better described as a tap [ɺ] rather than an approximant.[8][9] The retroflex lateral approximant [ɭ] is also found before /i, j/.[6] In Tokyo’s Shitamachi dialect, the alveolar trill[r] is a variant marked with vulgarity.[6] Other reported variants include the alveolar approximant [ɹ],[4] the alveolar stop [d], the retroflex flap [ɽ], the lateral fricative [ɮ],[6]and the retroflex stop [ɖ].[10]

My impression is that the standard (and the most common form) really is the tapped R that you have in Portuguese and Spanish. However, it seems like there are a lot of other variations as well (which I wasn’t aware of).

EDIT: Oh, but it is true that I tend to feel like the Japanese R sometimes sounds like a D too, so it’s not always just a tapped R, I guess.


D? I’ve… never heard D. Maybe (probably) I’m a total noob who barely knows any japanese, but like, I’ve never heard it sound like D. Maybe the D in portuguese is so concise that what could be a D to you would never be a D to me. :thinking: :thinking: I do remember brits saying the brazilians’ pronunciation of english words with D is funny.

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One that really sounds like D to me is Kyoko’s pronunciation here WaniKani / Vocabulary / 理由 I think that the actual sound is closer to the tap in “little” in English than the d in dog though.

Hm… maybe. I’ve never heard it before. What I’m talking about in Japanese is pretty light though. It’s just that you’ll notice that some English speakers sometimes confuse the Japanese R with a D when listening to Japanese people. For example, when VTuber Tokino Sora was addressing overseas fans, some people thought she was ‘Soda-chan’. :laughing: It’s probably just a result of the tongue position involved.

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I think that’s because the beginning of the audio snippet was cut accidentally… or maybe not, IDK, I guess Kenichi’s sample sounds like a D too if I pay close attention. I guess it sounds like R to me.

Reckon “because it’s now consistent with all of the other most-used IMEs” is a better justification than “because Japanese kana keyboards don’t have romaji”. :stuck_out_tongue:


To me it’s like trying to say all three consonants at once - d, l, r. Like trying to use multiple pen colours in those clicky pens, it just doesn’t work (for me).

Take a sec and make those three sounds to yourself. They’re actually pretty similar!