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Old 09-30-2005, 08:27 PM   #1
kokyu
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Honbu or Hombu?

I should have asked this question when I was living in Japan, but somehow, I never got around to asking

There seem to be 2 different ways of pronouncing 「本部」. From what I know about the Japanese language, it should be 'honbu' , but many people pronounce it hombu - even in Aikido textbooks, people translate
「本部道場」 as Hombu Dojo (and not Honbu Dojo)

I noticed this 'm' and 'n' pronunciation difference in the subway as well. For example, 「日本橋」 in hiragana is written にほんばし, but in English, it is written as Nihombashi (and not Nihonbashi).

I would really be grateful if someone could explain the 'correct' pronunciation of 「本部道場」
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Old 09-30-2005, 09:13 PM   #2
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

A similar case is the word for newspaper in Japanese. This is 新聞 in Chinese characters and しんぶん in katakana. However, the English translation favoured by my local newspaper is Chugoku Shimbun, with an 'm', not Shinbun, with an 'n'.

I think you are mixing up pronouncing and writing. Uttering the word is governed by the conventions of euphony, or ease of pronunciation. So it becomes shimbun, Hombu. Writing the word in kana, for example, is governed by the conventions of the syllabary. Every consonant in Japanese except 'n' is followed by a vowel. so there is no way of writing 'shinbun' with an 'm'.

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Old 09-30-2005, 11:07 PM   #3
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

If I remember correctly, the linguistic terminology for this would be "reverse assimilation in the place of articulation." The usual "n" sound is produced at the alveolar ridge (that "shelf" right behind your teeth) However, as Peter alluded to above, since there's a bilabial (eg "b", "p") sound coming after the "n" sound, the lazy human mouth decides that it'll save it some trouble and uses nasal bilabial consonant (ie "m") rather than a nasal alveolar consonant (ie "n"). You'll see such things even in English in words such as "impossible" (which most likely came from adding the prefix "in-" to the word "possible).

As far as actually pronouncing that part of the words goes, I think you'd be hard pressed to distinguish someone saying "honbu" (with a real "n") and "hombu" in regular, everyday speech with their back turned towards you. (Similarly, the "th" and "f' sounds are also hard to distinguish without visual and contextual cues.) Seriously, I kind of doubt there are many Japanese folks out there who would say "ho n bu" rather than "ho m bu" when speaking naturally.

Transliteration or the art/science of writing Japanese words in the Roman alphabet is not consistent. Some people write "kenpo" while others write "kempo." Some people even write "si" rather than "shi" -- probably since, technically, there's no "si" sound (as in the Spanish "yes" or the German "if") in Japanese. There are even other issues such as nigori (the voicing of certain consonants in a compound word) where some people write "katatedori" while others write "katatetori." Also tricky is the case of long vowels -- if we were really picky about it, we'd probably be writing the name of the art as "aikidou" rather than "aikido" since the last vowel is a long one...

Peter, Chris, Michael, David I, and anyone else, please feel free to correct me if anything I wrote above sounds wrong...

-- Jun

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Old 09-30-2005, 11:44 PM   #4
Rupert Atkinson
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Honbu is how it is written, Hombu is how it is pronounced. It is confusing as they look / sound so similar but consider say the Chinese written 'x' that is pronounced 'shi' and you might see what I mean.

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Old 10-01-2005, 09:30 AM   #5
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Honbu is how it is written, Hombu is how it is pronounced.
I think that's an interesting distinction to make, but it's not universal; I'll point out that some places use "hombu" written (eg the Aikikai website, the Yoshinkan website). Other places may use "honbu" written, too, though, making this all the less clear cut in the long run...

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Old 10-01-2005, 05:19 PM   #6
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

I have asked a japanese person this question.. The answer deals with the natural flow of speech.

Say honbu 5 times fast, then say hombu 5 times. The 'n' has a 'hard' or elongated sound to it. In natural speech, it is easier to roll that sound to an 'm' as opposed to an 'n'. Prevents a slow down in speech.

Another example of this is sushi. Alot of japanese people will say zushi when using it in a sentence. Here is another example.. 'inari sushi' and 'inari zushi' The 's' is a hard sound where the 'z' rolls off the tongue easily..

My .02..
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Old 10-01-2005, 06:52 PM   #7
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Yes, I have understood things like Rupert - in part at least. The "n" or "m" distinction has to do with how characters are romanized when they are written - not how it is pronounced when spoken. Different romanized systems use one or the other. The one I learned in school never used the "m" (only used "n") - others did. Either way, when reading or romanizing you were supposed to know that the pronunciation was neither an "n" nor an "m" but was a kind of in between thing - a nasal "n". In studying Japanese, I have never been taught to pronounce things with a lone "n" or a lone "m," even though in some cases I'm sure that one could get away with speaking like this (as in "honbu" and "hombu"). I was taught to always produce a nasal "n" sound when reading the character in question.

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Old 10-01-2005, 07:10 PM   #8
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Honbu is how it is written, Hombu is how it is pronounced.
Sounds like "honbu" so me. Maybe it's just Kansai.
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Old 10-01-2005, 07:38 PM   #9
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

I was taught that when ん is followed by p or b sounds, it is pronounced m, as Jun said.

Quote:
Another example of this is sushi. Alot of japanese people will say zushi when using it in a sentence. Here is another example.. 'inari sushi' and 'inari zushi' The 's' is a hard sound where the 'z' rolls off the tongue easily..
another rule that is difficult because most of time you change the s to z when it is the last part of a compound word. but about 10% of the time there are expections.
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Old 10-01-2005, 09:37 PM   #10
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Honbu is how it is written, Hombu is how it is pronounced. It is confusing as they look / sound so similar but consider say the Chinese written 'x' that is pronounced 'shi' and you might see what I mean.
That's an interesting comment. However, in the case of the Chinese 'x', the pronunciation rule is a sound between 's' and 'sh', so there isn't any confusion in my opinion - i.e. one sees 'x' and *knows* how it is pronounced.

Quote:
diesel wrote:
Another example of this is sushi. Alot of japanese people will say zushi when using it in a sentence. Here is another example.. 'inari sushi' and 'inari zushi' The 's' is a hard sound where the 'z' rolls off the tongue easily..
That's true. However, the furigana for inari zushi (one of my favorites) is written as 「いなりずし」 or [inari zushi], so there's no confusion when pronouncing it.

I have never seen the furigana for 「本部道場」. Is it 「ほんぶどうじょう」 or 「ほむぶどうじょう」, i.e. [honbu doujou] or [homubu doujou]? The latter being a case where the 'u' in 「む」 or [mu] is hardly pronounced.

The mind boggles.
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Old 10-01-2005, 09:40 PM   #11
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

I mentioned 新聞 しんぶん because for a number of years I was the translator and editor of the English-language sections of our local newspaper that were published on August 6, the day commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. So I had to work with the Japanese members of the Editorial Department.

The question was how to translate the newspaper's title into English. Unhappy with Chugoku Newspaper, they wanted Shinbun or Shimbun in the title. I argued for Shinbun; they argued for Shimbun, on the grounds that this reflected better how the word was actually pronounced in Japanese (at least the Japanese spoken in this part of Japan).

Incidentally, I have never detected any difference in how Japanese living in the Kanto pronounce ほんぶ and how Japanese living here pronounce the word.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 10-01-2005 at 09:43 PM.

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Old 10-01-2005, 09:47 PM   #12
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Soon-Kian Phang wrote:
I have never seen the furigana for 「--{""ケ場」. Is it 「ほんぶどうじょう」 or 「ほむぶどうじょう」, i.e. [honbu doujou] or [homubu doujou]? The latter being a case where the 'u' in 「む」 or [mu] is hardly pronounced.

The mind boggles.
It is ほんぶどうじょう. As I stated in my first post, there is no way writing shimbun (or hombu) with an 'm' syllable in Japanese.

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Old 10-02-2005, 01:05 AM   #13
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
I mentioned 新聞 しんぶん because for a number of years I was the translator and editor of the English-language sections of our local newspaper that were published on August 6, the day commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. So I had to work with the Japanese members of the Editorial Department.

The question was how to translate the newspaper's title into English. Unhappy with Chugoku Newspaper, they wanted Shinbun or Shimbun in the title. I argued for Shinbun; they argued for Shimbun, on the grounds that this reflected better how the word was actually pronounced in Japanese (at least the Japanese spoken in this part of Japan).
Hmmm... that's very interesting. It appears that the Romaji pronunciation is more faithful to the actual pronunciation than the Hiragana one. So, I guess for 「日本橋」 one should read [Nihombashi] and not [Nihonbashi].

This is one of those things that makes the study of Japanese difficult. It's something one has to pick up from usage rather than the textbook. Just like intonation. For example, we have 「かき」[kaki] which could mean oyster 「牡蠣」 or persimmon 「柿」, but intonation is used to differentiate the two. I remember this very well because a friend of mine was saying 「かき」[kaki] but it sounded like 「牡蠣」[oyster] rather than 「柿」[persimmon]. This caused some confusion to the Japanese listeners

(There are tones in Chinese, but standardized accent marks or numbers are used to indicate the intonation)
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Old 10-02-2005, 03:12 AM   #14
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Soon-Kian Phang wrote:
Hmmm... that's very interesting. It appears that the Romaji pronunciation is more faithful to the actual pronunciation than the Hiragana one. So, I guess for 「日本橋」 one should read [Nihombashi] and not [Nihonbashi].
Actually, the locals pronounce it にっぽんばし, and is romanized as Nipponbashi.
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Old 10-02-2005, 04:39 AM   #15
kokyu
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rob Haruo Hori wrote:
Actually, the locals pronounce it にっぽんばし, and is romanized as Nipponbashi.
They may pronounce it as Nipponbashi, but I distinctly remember the Romanization as Nihombashi on the chikatetsu [subway] wall.
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Old 10-02-2005, 04:43 AM   #16
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Soon-Kian Phang wrote:
Hmmm... that's very interesting. It appears that the Romaji pronunciation is more faithful to the actual pronunciation than the Hiragana one. So, I guess for 「"・-{橋」 one should read [Nihombashi] and not [Nihonbashi].
Heavens no. You could never spell the sacred name for the land of the gods with an 'm', especially here. Japanese soccer fans always shout "Gambare Nippon!", not "Gambare Nihon!"

Of course, がんばる is another example.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 10-02-2005 at 04:47 AM.

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Old 10-02-2005, 06:21 AM   #17
kokyu
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rob Haruo Hori wrote:
Actually, the locals pronounce it にっぽんばし, and is romanized as Nipponbashi.
I noticed that you are from Osaka, so the Romanization may be different from what one sees in Tokyo.

These two sites refer to 「日本橋」 as Nihombashi.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihonbashi
http://www.jref.com/practical/nihombashi.shtml

I guess the sites have to be edited
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Old 10-02-2005, 07:08 AM   #18
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Honbu is how it is written, Hombu is how it is pronounced.
I still stand by what I said, but accept that locals may tend to produce both versions. Think of the word - often - how do you say it? I am from the UK and pronounce the 't', but accept that not everyone in the UK does. However, I have yet to meet an American who pronounces the 't'. But that is pure pronunciation - we don't have any particular rules about it. Japanese romanisation, on the other hand, follows rules that non-natives follow (if they know them), whereas natives could not care less about such rules. I learned to write 'n' to match the Japanese 'n', and 'm' to follow the Japanese 'm' - writing is writing, after all. Pronunciation is something else, so 'n' followed by 'b' in the spoken form changes to 'm'. But as some natives ignore it, so may you.

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Old 10-02-2005, 10:47 PM   #19
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

How did you learn to write the japanese 'm' when there is no letter to correspond to it in the japanese alphabets? Even in romanization from hiragana and katakana, ほんぶ romanized is honbu. Romanization doesn't hold true for phoenetic and spoken rules..

I understand what you are saying about spoken japanese, but romanizing because the sounds are pronounced different is bad.. back to your example, lets write often as offen, or across as acrost. Try backwards translating that.. わかる?

Try searching a japanese dictionary for hombu...

Last edited by diesel : 10-02-2005 at 10:49 PM.
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Old 10-03-2005, 01:18 AM   #20
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Eric Roku wrote:
How did you learn to write the japanese 'm' when there is no letter to correspond to it in the japanese alphabets? Even in romanization from hiragana and katakana, ほんぶ romanized is honbu. Romanization doesn't hold true for phoenetic and spoken rules..

Try searching a japanese dictionary for hombu...
Speaking of 'm' - the only written ones are: ma, mi, mu, me, mo.

There is no final 'm', only a final 'n'.

In fact, 'n' is the only final consonant in Japanese, is it not? Everything else ends in a vowel. And 'm' only appears between syllables.

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Old 10-03-2005, 02:24 PM   #21
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

You gentlemen are reinforcing my idea that there is no earthly reason to learn japanese!

Ron (just kidding)

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Old 10-04-2005, 07:23 AM   #22
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

I agree with most of the previous postings. According to my Kodansha Japanese-English dictionaries, the Japanese syllable "n" can be pronounced in at least 6 different ways depending on the sound that follows the "n."

It's pronounced as "m" as in "market" before an "m," "b," or "p" sound, so according to this dictionary, the standard pronunciation of the word in question is "hombu." However, the romanization used in the dictionaries is "honbu," which doesn't reflect the actual pronunciation of the word.

It's pronounced as "n" as in "nation" before a "t," "d," "n," "ch," "j," or "z" sound.

Check the dictionaries for the complete pronunciation guide. Having said all these, I do think that a native speaker will often not be aware of the different variations and that the actual sounds they produce may not be exactly the same as the english approximations.
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Old 10-04-2005, 08:49 AM   #23
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote:
I think that's an interesting distinction to make, but it's not universal; I'll point out that some places use "hombu" written (eg the Aikikai website, the Yoshinkan website). Other places may use "honbu" written, too, though, making this all the less clear cut in the long run...

-- Jun
Just because they use it (the 'm') does not make it right

As part of my job I have to deal with the romanisation of Korean - a real nightmare. Japanese romanisation is 100 times easier. As an aside, if you ever decide to learn Korean , never ever try to learn it using romanisation - just learn their alphabet and start from there.

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Old 10-04-2005, 09:14 AM   #24
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Just because they use it (the 'm') does not make it right
You're right, of course, but I'm not arguing which one is "right." Just that what you wrote does not apply universally.

Using Google Battle, a site which returns to you the number of "results" indexed for two certain keywords in Google and lets you know which one is used more often, "honbu" is, indeed, used much more at 410,000 results and "hombu" at less than a third of that at 134,000 (results).

However, taking into account Peter Goldsbury's thoughts on the Japanese term for "newspaper," I found out that "shinbun" returns 818,000 results and "shimbun" 6,780,000 results (results).

Transliteration is not an exact science and does and will point out the differences between the spoken and written language. The Japanese participle はand the postposition へ are usually transliterated as "wa" and "e" rather than "ha" and "he" due to the way they are pronounced rather than the way they are written.

Even using the "strictest" of transliteration rules into the regular English alphabet will lose certain distinctions. As someone pointed out, "homonyms" that differ only in intonation is difficult to convey through romaji only (eg kaki, hashi, sake, ame). (Of course, the same problem exists in hiragana, but that's another story in contextual references.) Also, there are even situations such as a vowel followed by a glottal stop that are used in certain interjections (eg 「あっ」、「えっ」、「うっ」 ) which presents a difficulty in how to transliliterate that into just romaji. In my experience, in order to properly convey these kinds of subtle differences that provide difficulties for simple transliteration, the international phonetic alphabet or some other such system would do much better in properly dealing with these kinds of cases.

Any way, sorry I digressed a bit. But, hopefully, that'll provide some information on this subject for those interested.

-- Jun, recovering linguist

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Old 10-04-2005, 10:08 AM   #25
kokyu
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Re: Honbu or Hombu?

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
You gentlemen are reinforcing my idea that there is no earthly reason to learn japanese!
We are just talking pronunciation here... wait till you see the grammar

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
As part of my job I have to deal with the romanisation of Korean - a real nightmare. Japanese romanisation is 100 times easier. As an aside, if you ever decide to learn Korean , never ever try to learn it using romanisation - just learn their alphabet and start from there.
Coincidentally, I am learning Korean. And I started with their alphabet (no romanization). Why is romanization so much more difficult for Korean than Japanese? I am curious.
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