Wednesday, November 13, 2019


In Japanese, handakuonka 半濁音化 is a change in pronunciation similar to rendaku 連濁 in which the syllables ha-hi-fu-he-ho はひふへほ get a handakuten 半濁点, turning into the semi-voiced pa-pi-pu-pe-po ぱぴぷぺぽ.

For example: kinpatsu きんつ (金髪), "golden hair, "blond," which combines the morphemes "gold" and "hair," kin きん and hatsu はつ, or ippatsu いっつ (一発), "one shot," which combines "one" and "shot," ichi いち and hatsu はつ.


For reference, some examples of handakuonka.
  • kan-hai かん
    kanpai かんい (乾杯)
    Cheers! (before drinking)
  • kan-heki かん
    kanpeki かんき (完璧)
  • en-hitsu えん
    enpitsu えんつ (鉛筆)
  • san-ho さん
    sanpo さん (散歩)
    A walk. A stroll. (around the park, and so on.)
  • sen-fuu-ki せんうき
    senpuuki せんうき (扇風機)
    Electric fan.
  • totsu-ha とつ
    toppa とっ (突破)
  • ichi-hen いち
    ippen いっん (一変)
    Complete change.
  • zetsu-hin ぜつ
    zeppin ぜっん (絶品)
    Superb piece of work.
  • kiri-fu きり
    kippu きっ (切符)


The handakuonka generally occurs after an n ん or small tsu, which represents a "geminate consonant, " sokuon 促音. This small tsu っ usually stems from a different change in pronunciation, called sokuonbin 促音便.

For example:
  • gatsu がつ (月)
  • hi ひ (日)
  • gatsu-hiつひ
    gappiっぴ (月日)
    Month and day. The date.

Above, ga' がっ is affected by sokuonbin, while pi ぴ is affected by handakuonka. The two changes are happening simultaneously.

As far as I'm concerned handakuonka is basically the same thing as rendaku, but it turns out that the term rendaku doesn't actually include changing ha-hi-fu-he-ho to pa-pi-pu-pe-po for some reason.

It only includes changing ka-ta-ha-sa かたはさ to ga-da-ba-za がだばざ, and so on. It only includes voiced sounds, with the diacritic dakuten 濁点, not with the handakuten.

If you change ha は to ba ば, it's rendaku, but ha は to pa ぱ is technically not.
  • han-dan んだん (判断)
  • sai-han さい
    saiban さいん (裁判)
    • This is rendaku.
  • shin-han しん
    shinpan しんん (審判)
    Referee. Umpire.
    • This isn't rendaku, this is handakuonka.

To make matters worse, handakuonka literally means "handakuon-fication," because the syllables with a handakuten diacritic are called handakuon 半濁音 in Japanese.

In other words, it's not even worth calling this a "term," it just literally describes what's happening: turning an unvoiced syllable into a semi-voiced syllable.

So there are even cases where the term rendaku is used to describe ha-to-ba, but no term at all is used to describe ha-to-pa. For example:
  • Context: a paper is talking about how number and counter combinations, like ippiki 一匹, "one small animal," and sanbiki 三匹, "three small animals," are pronounced different from normal.
  • ha-gyou no oto wa, mae no kotoba no gobi ni tsumaru oto (sokuon) ni tsuduku baai wa pa-gyou ni henka suru. kore wa hatsuon-jou no mondai to kangaerareru. shitagatte, ichi, roku, hachi, juu, hyaku wa pa-gyou ni henka shite-iru.
    As for the ha-row, when the preceding word ends in a sokuon it changes to the pa-row. This is thought to be a matter of pronunciation. Consequently, one, six, eight, ten, one hundred are changing into the pa-row.
    • ha-row: ha-hi-fu-he-ho.
    • pa-row: pa-pi-pu-pe-po.
  • mata, mae no kotoba no gobi ga haneru oto (n, hatsuon, bion) ni tsuduku baai wa ba-gyou ni henka shite-iru. kore wa rendaku to yobareru hatsuon-jou no mondai de-aru. shitagatte, san, sen, man wa, ba-gyou ni henka shite-iru. kono rendaku wa, ka-gyou, sa-gyou, ta-gyou nimo okoru.
    Furthermore, when the preceding word is the nasal vowel n ん it changes into the ba-row. This is a matter of pronunciation called "rendaku." Consequently, three, thousand, ten thousand, are changing into the ba-row. This rendaku also happens in the ka-row, sa-row, and ta-row.

Above, Ito (伊藤, 2004:36) specifically calls the change to the ba-row by the term of rendaku, and even cites the other rows in which rendaku occurs, but provides no term whatsoever for changing ha-row syllables to the pa-row, which is the handakuonka that this article is about.

Beyond this, there's only one moderately interesting and completely useless thing to know about handakuonka.

In modern Japanese, there are basically no kanji whose reading includes pa-pi-pu-pe-po.[読みに半濁点が付く漢字 -, accessed 2019-11-13.]

In other words, there are no morphemes that include pa-pi-pu-pe-po. It's always ha-hi-fu-he-ho, and it only turns into pa-pi-pu-pe-po when suffixed to something. ALWAYS.

Since handakuonka only happens in suffixes, in the middle of words, there are no words that start with pa-pi-pu-pe-po in Japanese.

By which I mean there are no native Japanese words spelled with kanji that start with pa-pi-pu-pe-po, because loan words and mimetic words can start with those.
  • peeji

    "Page." This is an English loan word, not a native Japanese morpheme.
  • pon

    This is a mahjong term. It's a Chinese loan word, not Japanese.
  • paatto
    With a paa. (mimetic.)
  • pittari
    Fittingly. Exactly. (mimetic.)
  • potapota
    Dripping. (mimetic.)


Changes in Pronunciation

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