TUFS Language Modules


The mora nasal is noted by ん (n)in kana. It is a nasal sound not necessarily pronounced the same way every time. For native languages of many Japanese language learners, the nasal such as [n] is pronounced as [n] no matter what comes after it. However, this is not the case for the Japanese mora nasal. That is to say, the pronunciation of the mora nasal in Japanese varies according to the consonant that follows it. The placements of the tongue and the shape of the lips when pronouncing the mora nasal are near to those placements when pronouncing the succeeding consonant. For example, if ma, pa or ba column consonants follow the mora nasal, such as insamma ( さんまa Pacific saury); then the nasal sound of the mora nasal would be produced by closing the lips, giving the [m] nasal sound.If the next sound is from the ta, da or na column, such as in minna( みんなeveryone); then the mora nasal would be pronounced with the tongue at the back of the upper alveolar, giving the [n] nasal sound. If sounds from the ka or ga column follow the mora nasal, such as in genki ( げんきvitality); then n would be pronounced as a [ŋ] nasal sound. Also, if za or ra-column sounds come after the mora nasal, then the mora nasal would be pronounced with the tip of the tongue near the placement when forming the next sound.

Native Japanese speakers recognize the mora nasal as having the duration of one mora. For example, in the case of samma (さんま Pacific saury), some learners would wrongly perceived it as having 2 units such as sam-ma さん・ま, but native Japanese speakers would treat it as having 3 different parts, as in sa-m-ma さ・ん・ま. Practice pronouncing the mora nasal so that it has the same duration as sa or ma.