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つ becomes っ ?

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つ becomes っ ?

Postby phreadom » Mon 06.15.2009 4:16 pm

I was reading through Tai Kim's Guide to Japanese, and in the "Reading Kanji" section, I ran across a statement that simply didn't sound accurate or really make sense to me.

I understand the rendaku stuff... but there is a part where he says that a large つ ('tsu' sound) becomes a small っ (grammatical took to indicate sound change), which I've highlighted in the quote below:
Tae Kim wrote:Another concept that is difficult to grasp at first is that the actual readings of kanji can change slightly in a compound word to make the word easier to say. The more common transformations include the / h / sounds changing to either / b / or / p / sounds or 「つ」 becoming 「っ」. Examples include: 「一本」、「徹底」、and 「格好」.


Note though that he has a section about the small っ where he clarifies its sole use as a special sound changing character:
Tae Kim wrote:The Small 「つ」
A small 「つ」 is inserted between two characters to carry the consonant sound of the second character to the end of the first. For example, if you inserted a small 「つ」 between 「び」 and 「く」 to make 「びっく」, the / k / consonant sound is carried back to the end of the first character to produce "bikku". Similarly, 「はっぱ」 becomes "happa", 「ろっく」 becomes "rokku" and so on and so forth. I have provided my own simple mp3 file to illustrate the sound difference between 「もと」 and 「もっと」. And in case you're wondering, both are actual words and yes, both mean different things.


That said, what bothered me was that the large つ doesn't actually become the small つ in any sense as I understand it. While the large つ might be changed into a conjugation form that includes a small っ, it isn't really changing into a small っ per se.

zen pointed out as an example:
zengargoyle wrote:発火点 (はっかてん) (n) point of ignition; flash point;
発 (はつ) (n,suf) (1) departure; departing (from ...); departing (at time ...); (2) beginning; (3) issued by (e.g. document); (ctr) (4) counter for gunshots; counter for blows (punches); (P);


However, while it does indeed seem that the large つ from 発 (はつ) has been replaced by the small っ in 発火点 (はっかてん), it would seem more accurate to me to say that the large つ was simply dropped and the next sound carried back with the small っ in a form of rendaku.

For instance 日本 (literally nichi hon, にち ほん) gets shortened using rendaku to just にっぽん. So here you'd have to say "the ち becomes a small っ". It doesn't really become it. The trailing kana just get dropped and the starting sound of the next part gets carried back using the small っ. It doesn't matter what the trailing kana on the first part is. Basically any kana could "become" the small っ, so the use of the specific example of つ becoming っ is then misleading because it makes you think that the large one specifically turns into the small one when it really doesn't matter what the original trailing kana is because it's just going to get dropped and the start of the next one carried back. The matter of the trailing kana being a large つ is irrelevant.

Maybe I'm just being too picky about this? We talked about it in The Lounge, but it's still really bugging me as being a poorly worded explanation of that specific point. :(
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 06.15.2009 4:50 pm

I agree with you. There's a tendency for casual explanations of Japanese to discuss matters of phonology and pronunciation in terms of kanji or kana -- this works for the most part but there are times when it doesn't work very well. The use of っ to represent a double consonant is essentially arbitrary; there's no direct relation between っ and the Japanese sound "tsu".

That being said, I don't know how to explain that phenomenon well, so I'm not sure what should be said there instead. The problem is that it's not always easy to know what the source of the sound is -- 日本 is a good example; it has been pronounced both にほん and にっぽん since the Nara period, and I'm not sure that it's correct to say that it comes from にちほん -- there are other cases where ち plus an h-sound does not change (i.e. いちはら).

(As an aside, the term "rendaku" only applies to cases of voicing, as in kan + tsume = kanzume; the double consonant issue is not rendaku. The term for this is 促音(sokuon)).
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby phreadom » Mon 06.15.2009 5:46 pm

Thanks Chris. I'm trying to think of a better way to word that part that won't be misleading or confusing for people like me.

It's a little tricky for me, as I'm just a newbie myself... but there must be a better way to state that without getting too complicated. :(

I just don't know enough vocabulary to be able to give good examples of what I'm talking about.
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby Hyperworm » Mon 06.15.2009 8:05 pm

Isn't 促音 just the term for the vocal pause introduced by っ?
In fact I thought 「促音」 was interchangeable with「小さい『つ』」 in speech >_>
Not sure what to call this, if indeed it's not rendaku. ^^;
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 06.15.2009 9:19 pm

It's definitely not 連濁 because the term 連濁 comes from 濁音, which means a voiced consonant (as opposed to 清音, an unvoiced consonant).
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby keatonatron » Mon 06.15.2009 9:54 pm

I think Tae Kim was simply using that as an example of how readings can change when two kanji are added together. He's not saying it's some rule that the つ has to be made small when adding another kanji.

But while we're on the subject, one thing I've pointed out (many years ago!) is that Japanese people don't generally think of っ as "the same as つ, but little". It is a completely different character that just happens to be based off the first one (perhaps because つ is/was the character that gets changed the most?). It is common for any of the t-row of hiragana to be replaced with っ to make the word easier to say.

Although we romanize Nippon with two P's, it really sounds the same if you pronounce it like Nit'pon. っ wasn't originally the doubling of consonants, but simply the T sound without any vowel after it.
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 06.15.2009 10:16 pm

keatonatron wrote:Although we romanize Nippon with two P's, it really sounds the same if you pronounce it like Nit'pon. っ wasn't originally the doubling of consonants, but simply the T sound without any vowel after it.


Are you sure about that? There are other consonants that get 促音 after them, like k (in 格好, for instance).
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Re: つ becomes っ ?

Postby phreadom » Mon 06.15.2009 10:18 pm

keat: That's more the point I'd want to get across... that it doesn't have anything to do with the large/small tsu, as they're really completely different critters. The way he presents it seems really confusing, or at least misleading to me. It seems to me that I actually see ち changed more often than つ, but I'm a newbie, so...

Everything else I've read in the guide so far made sense to me, I just got hung up on that point because I like to really understand what I'm reading and that didn't make sense. :)

(And I seem to be a little bogged down on Chapter 6 in my Genki I book, so I thought I'd attack something else for awhile so that I'm at least still making some kind of progress.)

And thank you for the additional information. :D Is there a good source to read a little more about that etymological aspect you mention?
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