Correct Pronunciation of "Kamikaze"?

Ah, I see. Ignorance fought!

And this would typically be transliterated in English differently than everyone else is doing it:


And I agree that there is an English pronunciation that has drifted from the original, i.e., kah-mih-KAH-zee or kah-muh-KAH-zee.


I’ve heard that the “u” sound is often dropped. A company name like Matsushita is pronounced without the “su” syllable, running the two “s” sounds together.

Is this true generally? If not, it is even true for this specific case, and if so, why?

No, I don’t think so. Your link confirmed what I remember from linguistics long ago: a schwa is pronounced like the last “a” in “sofa.” It’s like an “uh,” basically. Although I grant you I could easily imagine George W. Bush talking about how Eye-ran is going to go kamikazuh with its nukuhlar program.

i and u after s are often dropped when they occur in the second syllable or later of a word. So in “sugoi”, the u is pronounced, but in “Matsushita” it can be dropped. But then there’s many exceptions, see here:

The major problem is that they lost. Had the Japanese won, with the tokkoutai making a major contribution, then more people would be discussing it.

As Japan is so different from Japan, with exaggerated tales of samurai and *seppuku / harakiri * have fascinated Westerns for so long, as well as the idea of a suicide when face is lost (also overly exaggerated) that the kamikaze played into the stereotypes.

No one ever talks about the Basij, despite the fact that many more were deployed and killed.

Often, but not with Matsushita. TThe “u” sound gets dropped in “suki” (like/love) so it is pronounced “ski.”

For the why, I’ll defer to someone who studied Japanese formally.

I’m going to tiptoe away quietly and let you two fight it out.

Watch this, at the 42 second mark, the Japanese person pronounces the name Matsushita Kounosuke (founder of Matsushita company) in Japanese. You can make up your own mind is the “u” is dropped or not.

Ok, I’m now stumped. How is “ka-mee” different from “commie”?

That’s the problem with a language that doesn’t accurately represent the differences between variations in different “English” accents.

If you’re southern (like me) there isn’t much difference between those two for most speakers. Try to think about it if you were speaking very clearly to someone when trying to emphasize rhyming syllables: The Rain in Spain falls Mainly…

so Kah-meee (kami), Shere-Khan, ska, bra, ta-da!, yee-hah… all these are the same (or should be)

Commie, rom-com, comedy, dot-com, insomnia, somber… all those are the same (or should be)

Those two sets of words should have very different vowel sounds in them. If they don’t, then your accent is causing you troubles, and you need to listen to someone with a different accent pronounce them so you can hear the difference, then insert the words in your accent that represent the difference. If you don’t have the words in your accent to represent a difference there, then there’s not much anyone else can do for you.

No, call it poetic license. The main difference is in the last syllable.

Aside: if the Japanese weren’t using the term “Kamikaze” to describe the suicide bombers, how did it enter the American vocabulary?

Japanese-American here. Dunno about “formally” but I was continually bilingual until American public schooling beat it out of me… but I still have as much feel for the orthography and pronounciation of Japanese as any young school-age kid who spoke mostly Japanese around the house can.

I can confirm the elision of the weak “u” in the “tsu”/“su” phoneme in those words and similar ones, at least in informal contexts, and perhaps specifically in the more southerly cities. (My mom’s from Kitakyushu, so she’s kind of a Japanese Southern Belle). Maybe the pure hyōjungo Nihongo doesn’t do it so much, the way that BBC Received Pronounciation doesn’t tweak the vowel sounds of English as much as Yorkish or even East-Ender.

Again…not a scholarly approach; just what I grew up speaking.

Doesn’t the “i” in “shi” get dropped a lot too? I don’t think I’ve ever heard* somebody literally say “shita” (i.e. “under” or as in “-mashita”), it’s almost always “shta”, if there’s an “i” sound there, it’s incredibly shortened and stifled to my ear.

  • Unless they were really emphasizing something

The first thing you need to know about Japanese pronunciation is that it has five vowel sounds - a, e, i, o and u - which really don’t match up very well with the various vowel sounds in English. (That’s apart from the problem that vowel sounds vary widely in different dialects of English.) They are much more like the five vowel sounds used in Italian. So, in Japanese, “kame” (tortoise), “kami” (god) and “kome” (rice) are all pronounced differently - the “a” is different from the “o”, and the “e” is different from the “i”.

The second thing you need to know about Japanese pronunciation is that it distinguishes long and short vowels. In “kamikaze” all the vowels are short, so saying it’s pronounced like “kah-mee-kah-zay” is misleading, because those English sounds are much more like the corresponding long vowels in Japanese – in Japanese, you have to make them short, and drop the part of the vowel sound that makes them diphthongs in English.

I hear that too, not sure what contexts affect that. We should note that the English and Japanese “sh” is different. English (IPA: ʃ) vs. Japanese (IPA: ɕ always?). It’s a bit more “breathy” than the one in English. I’m no linguist, but I think the mouth is a big more open? Palato-alveolar vs. alveolo-palatal :rolleyes: which doesn’t help me much.

I think that’s dialectal. At least the people I know from Hiroshima and Osaka tend to use something closer to ʃ (though some contexts do have a breathier one at least, I agree). I can’t offer a link to my cite, but the IPA Journals’ Illustrations of the IPA for a Tokyo-area Japanese male gives the sound as “ʃ” too.

Um, indeed. What was/were the Basij? I tried googling, but got some Iranian militia, nothing Japanese.

Yes, with their specific origin as a near-suicide human wave attack corps in the Iran-Iraq war. Apparently motivated by patriotic hunger for martyrdom, thousands of lightly-armed Basij would charge unsupported (no artillery, no air attack, not even supressing fire) against entrenched Iraqi forces, even clearing known minefields with their own bodies to simply overwhelm the enemy lines.

So asking why suicide attacks aren’t called “basij” instead of “kamikaze” is probably a good question. My guess is that Americans haven’t faced Basij suicide charges yet.