JCS/The Great Enablers:
E.J. Harrison

 Pronunciation of Judo Terms

by E.J. Harrison

From Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, January 1949, 8-10. Reprinted courtesy of Richard Bowen on behalf of the Budokwai. Copyright © 2000 the Budokwai, London, England, http://budokwai.org.

"Transliteration" in linguistics means the system of conveying as nearly as possible by means of one set of letters or characters the pronunciation of the words in languages written and printed in a totally different script. Although, of course, the term may be applied to, let us say, a transcription in Latin letters of Hebrew, Greek, or the Slavonic languages written in the Cyrillic alphabet, yet it is more generally associated with the rendering in Latin letters of Chinese, Japanese and any other Eastern tongue lacking an alphabet and relying solely on so-called ideographs for conveyance of the written and printed word to paper. The Japanese Hiragana and Katakana are not strictly speaking alphabets but syllabaries and are therefore equally subject to transliteration. The only exception is n final, which has a syllable to itself.

Thanks to the pioneer efforts of such famous scholars as Sir Edward Satow, Basil Hall Chamberlain, Captain Brinkley, E. M. Hobart-Hampden, J. H. Gubbins, [F. W.] Eastlake and others, this system has been almost perfected in relation to Japanese, and nowadays virtually every Japanese schoolboy is familiar with the word "Romaji" (literally the Roman letters) and is aware that these letters are now used for the transliteration of the Japanese spoken language (zokugo) when this is being taught to foreigners who have neither the time nor inclination to memorise thousands of ideographs indispensable to the study of the literary language with its profusion of Sinico-Japanese forms or kango.

Non-Japanese judoka generally and members of our Budokwai more particularly are interested in the transliteration into Latin letters of judo terminology. Hitherto, judging by our quarterly bulletin and sundry textbooks on the art in English, we seem to be committed to the practice of duality, i.e., praiseworthy efforts have been made to supply an English rendering for the original Japanese nomenclature of "te" or "tricks." At the same time, unless I am greatly mistaken, there is a growing tendency among our own members to use the Japanese terms in preference to the not infrequently clumsier and less terse English equivalents. It is in this connexion and on this assumption that I am moved to offer a few elementary hints on the correct pronunciation of the Japanese expressions.

For persons possessing some knowledge of a continental tongue a more or less correct pronunciation of the vowels is not as a rule very difficult. Thus a is like the a in father, but shorter; ai diphthong like ai in aisle; au like ow in cow; e like e in pen; ei diphthong like ei in vein; i like i in machine; o like o in tobacco; o with macron like o in over but more sonorous; ou like ou in though; u like u in put; u with macron resembles u in rude; y as in English.

Bearing the foregoing simple rules in mind, the judo tyro should be able to avoid the crude error of pronouncing, say, kake as "cake" instead of as a word of two syllables, or the Japanese place name Hakone (pronounced "Hak-oh-neh") as a word of two syllables, viz., "Hak-wun" (!).

While on the subject of vowel sounds, it should be borne in mind that the i and u are frequently almost mute and therefore unaccented. Thus a familiar judo term tsukuri should be pronounced not as a word of three but two syllables, viz., "tskuri". Similarly tsuku-koto (under atemi classification) is sounded more like "tsku-koto" with the first u almost silent. So too in uchitsukeru-koto (under nage-waza classification) the second u is short. Also in sutemi the u is virtually elided. Kwansetsu-waza is pronounced "kansets-waza". Other examples could be cited, but the foregoing must suffice. Generally in careful Romaji transliteration the short u is written "ü".

Instances of the short i occur less frequently in judo nomenclature, and so I shall limit examples to the following: Hidari-shizentai and hidari-mae-sumi, which is the Tokyo dialect sound almost like "shdari-shizentai" and "shdari-mae-sumi"; and hiki-komi-gaeshi, pronounced "shki-komingaeshi". The Japanese word hito (man, human being, etc.) sounds like "shtoh."

Among the consonants g should be carefully noted. Thus in the body of a word and in the particle ga, it has the sound of ng in king; at the beginning of a word and in words formed by reduplication, such as goro-goro, gata-gata, etc., g has the hard sound of g in goat. Applying this rule to judo, we get for chugaeri the sound "chungaeri"; for haraigoshi, "haraingoshi"; for seoinage (so often in our own publication wrongly transliterated as "seoenage" or even "seoyenage") the sound "seoinange"; for kataguruma, "katanguruma"; for hizaguruma, "hizanguruma," for ukigoshi," "ukingoshi"; for sumigaeshi, "sumingaeshi"; for yokogake, "yokongake"; for osotogari, "ohsotongari"; for ogoshi, "ohngoshi"; for hanegoshi, "hanengoshi"; for tawaragaeshi, "tawarangaeshi; for kouchigari, "kouchingari", for ashiguruma, "ashinguruma"; for osotoguruma, "ohsotonguruma," etc.

In newaza or groundwork, kami-shiho-gatame sounds like "kami-shinongatame", and analogously in other combined words ending in "gatame" or "garami" (e.g. udegarami, pronounced "udengarami"). Udehijiigi sounds like "udehijingi". Remember again that the vowel e is never silent and is pronounced like e in pen (see above).

The only other consonant calling for comment is n. When followed by ch, d, n, r, e, s, t, or z, it is pronounced as in English. When followed by f, h, w, or g, it nearly resembles the French terminal n; when followed by g or k, it is pronounced like ng in king.

JCS Apr 2000