TIL: Rendaku, Pimsleur 1-5, and Human Japanese Ch 4, 5

Finished chapter 5 of Human Japanese

Ever wonder why the Japanese kana alphabets are Katakana, and Hira”ga”na? I actually did. I wasn’t curious enough to look it up on my own, but the question had occurred to me. Luckily, someone on /r/LearnJapanese thought to ask, and someone provided an answer.

According to Wikipedia, Rendaku is a phenomenon in Japanese morphophonology that governs the voicing of the initial consonant of the non-initial portion of a compound or prefixed word. In modern Japanese, rendaku is common but at times unpredictable, with certain words unaffected by it.

Rendaku can be seen in the following words:

    ひと + ひと → ひとびと
    hito + hito → hitobito (“person” + “person” → “people”)
    いけ + はな → いけばな
    ike + hana → ikebana (“keep alive” + “flower” → “flower arrangement”)
    とき + とき → ときどき
    toki + toki → tokidoki (“time” + “time” → “sometimes”)
    て + かみ → てがみ
    te + kami → tegami (“hand” + “paper” → “letter”)
    おり + かみ → おりがみ
    ori + kami → origami (“fold” + “paper” → “paperfolding”)
    ひら + かな → ひらがな
    hira + kana → hiragana (“plain” + “character”, compare かたかな katakana, which does not undergo rendaku)
    はな + ち → はなぢ
    hana + chi → hanaji (“nose” + “blood” → “nosebleed”)
    まき + すし → まきずし
    maki + sushi → makizushi (“roll” + “sushi” → “nori-wrapped sushi”) (Rendaku is prevalent with words that end in sushi)
    やま + てら → やまでら
    yama + tera → Yama-dera (“mountain” + “temple”)
    こころ + つかい → こころづかい
    kokoro + tsukai → kokorozukai (“heart” + “using” → “consideration” or “thoughtfulness”)

tofugu offers a better explanation than Wikipedia, imo, so I’ll link to their explanation too. Anyways, it’s unrelated to what I’m attempting to learn at the moment, but it seemed like an interesting detour to learn about.


I think this week, I might go back to Lesson 3, and re-listen to ensure that I can memorize this stuff a bit better. I’m finding it harder to remember everything as I push forward. Lesson 5 was actually a little slower paced, but I still want to be able to speak the conversations without the hesitation that I currently have to recall the phrases. I know I’ve also had a little bit of romaji here in my notes. I’m going to try and cut that out as I want to be in the habit of identifying the kana without even accidentally catching the pronunciation beside it.

Lesson 5’s new vocabulary:

    わかります / わかりません – wakarimasu / wakarimasen – so this isn’t “new” per say, however it can mean more than simply “understand”, it can also mean “know”… as in “I know, or I don’t know.”
    そですね – so desune – again, not new… but it isn’t just used as a way to agree… by stretching out that last e sound, it can also mean the equivalent of “let me think about it…”
    たべます / たべません / たびませんか – eat / not eat / won’t you eat?
    のみます / のみません / のみませんか- drink / not drink / won’t you drink?
    なにか – “something”
    なにかたびませんか / なにかのみませんか – won’t you eat something? / won’t you drink something?
    いいえけっこうです – According to Google Translate, this means “no thanx”. But I’m pretty sure it’s more along the lines of, “no thank-you” or “No, it’s fine”.

Seems like a legit translation.

Human Japanese

Chapter 4 of Human Japanese was essentially a bit of information on the layout of Japan. I don’t think it’s worth putting any notes here.

Chapter 5 on the other hand, we go back to finish the Hiragana.

    は – you’ll notice this one is used a lot, like in わたしは. It’s always pronounced as a wa when used in that context. Here’s a bit of an explanation. Be sure to include a hane at the end of the first line, and that the loop is wider than it is tall. It’s unfortunate that there’s almost no hane in any of the font that I’m using… Maybe I should look into changing the font for my blog…
    ひ – the loop shouldn’t be sharp at the bottom. it’s more like a U than a V, but it also tilts slightly to the side.
    ふ – interestingly, typing hu brings this up, even though it’s supposed to be fu. In print, the two lines on the sides are often connected with an arching curve. HJ uses the same mnemonic that I was taught at Sheridan. Think of this as an image of Mount Fuji. It should fit inside the shape of a triangle.
    へ – The down-stroke is about twice the length of the up-stroke.
    ほ – the same as は but with a second line at the top.

H doesn’t soften the same way, when ten-ten are added… instead it does the opposite. h becomes a b sound. In this series as well, we actually have a second accent called a maru, which looks like a circle. Maru evokes a p sound.

    は ひ ふ へ ほ
    ば び ぶ べ ぼ
    ぱ ぴ ぷ ぺ ぽ

I certainly don’t have instantaneous recognition of letters the same way that I do with the roman alphabet, but I’m pleased that I am guessing the pronunciations correctly. Even if it takes me up to 2 seconds to identify them.

    ま – take notice of the even spacing of the bottom, top of loop, each line, and then the top.
    み – It’s a fancy H… try to keep the loop open, and the arch long and to the right.
    む – the bottom needs a wide enough base. It kind of resembles a travel mug. Sort of. Not really. I learned it as a moo cow. seems more suitable to me.
    め – Looks unfortunately similar to the letter ぬ. Just make sure that first line intersects twice, and remember that nu has the noodle, whilst me actually isn’t very messy.
    も – that first stroke should veer up to the left, since an efficient hand draws a loop to the first horizontal line (in the air of course)

There’s no ten-ten with the m’s.

I actually got he pronunciations here ok, even though I confused け which is of course a ke.

    や – that first line goes horizontal and curves,the second one is the right most line, and there’s a slight hane over to the third stroke which is the tall vertical line. Some times, it’s not a “slight” hane, and the second and third lines actually connect. Note it shouldn’t be completely horizontal or vertical, but rotates around 40 degrees.
    ゆ – Like an n that curls around and then has the vertical line. Apparently lots of people make it as one continuous stroke.
    よ – Similar to past shapes, but note that it’s just the one line and it doesn’t intersect, but rather only just right. It should just out about the same as the loop juts out.

I really need to memorize how い and う interact with vowels.

    ら – similar to ち. after you start the second stroke, be sure to come slightly up and over into the つ like shape.
    り – think of looking at reeds sticking out of the water. Often people draw this as a single stroke with a brush. Be sure to include the hane.
    る – think of the extra loop as a kangaroo tail to remember the difference between this and ろ. The downward angle juts further left than any other part of the letter. Be sure to give it the full value.
    れ – unfortunately similar to ね, but there’s a fish-hook rather than a loop. Make sure the line comes down strong rather than curving to the left.
    ろ – I actually already make 3’s similar to this when I write… so the same rule applies above about the downward jut.

I of course have difficulty with this letter. But it seems to sound similar to a Scottish r but maybe even more like an l… so… kind of l-like. Not r-like.

    わ – and of course this is going to be familiar thanks to わたし being one of the first words learned… but it also bears unfortunate similarity to れ and ね. Remember, it’s ne that has the loop.
    を – not used in ordinary words, but as a grammar marker. Also typically pronounced just as an o sound. This one looks pretty unique, so… I guess just memorize it.
    ん – kind of similar to an h in italics.

All in all, I’m actually remembering Hiragana pretty well. I think it should stick this time as long as I keep at it.

We can elongate consonants using a small つ.

めった, けっこん, しっぽ for example. It comes before the consonant we wish to over-pronounce. Obviously we don’t need to do this with n sounds, since the letter ん can be used instead.

it’s normal to add a y sound at the end of an ん when it is followed by a vowel. ¥ for example is pronounced en, normally, but せん¥ would see the ¥ get its full yen pronunciation. (\ is the key to type the ¥ btw, under the ime.)

It isn’t just つ that gets to lead a double life… やゆよ all serve dual purposes. They can be written half-size to create new sounds. しや for example is shi ya, but しゃ becomes sha.

    しゃ しゅ しょ
    じゃ じゅ じょ
    ちゃ ちゅ ちょ


these work kind of uniquely because it just becomes sha, ja, cha, shu, ju, chu, sho, jo, cho. But やゆよ can also be added to any character that ends in an i sound such as ki, ni, hi, bi, etc. In these cases however; it will result in ya, yu, yo sounds being applied.

    きゃ きゅ きょ
    ぎゃ ぎゅ ぎょ
    にゃ にゅ にょ
    ひゃ ひゅ ひょ
    びゃ びゅ びょ
    ぴゃ ぴゅ ぴょ
    みゃ みゅ みょ
    りゃ りゅ りょ

That’s a crap ton of alphabet, and only half of the basic alphabets! We’ll still need to review Katakana, the foreign word alphabet. ten-ten soften the syllables, and maru exist only on the h letters. や ゆ よ and つ can all be written at half size to produce extra sounds, and ん adds a y sound when a vowel follows so that we don’t confuse it with な に ぬ ね の.