What"s your instinct? How many syllables do you think there are in the complying with words?

kawaii かわいい (Japanese for "cute")

Kawai カワイ (the Japanese piano manufacturer)

Kauaʻi (name of one of the Hawaiian islands)

In English, it"s our halittle to treat diphthongs consisting of 2 vowels as one syllable, yet that"s not the way they carry out it in Japanese, which has no diphthongs.

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I asked numerous of my Japanese Studies colleagues their opinions around the syllabicity of these 3 words. Here are 3 replies:

Linda Chance:

To my mind, kawaii かわいい has 4 onsetsu 音節 (whether those are syllables or not is an additional debate).
Kawai カワイ has actually three.

Kaua"i カウアイ has actually four, and would certainly not be perplexed through the first four-onsetsu word. It might be an alternative creating for the second.

Frank Chance:

Kawaii ("cute") has 4 syllables: ka wa i and i.

Kawai (the piano manufacturer) has three syllables: Ka wa and also i.

Kaua"i — Not an expert on Hawai’ian however the feeling from online is that it is kau-a-i.

Ka-ua-ʻi is wrongKau-a-ʻi is correct, however incompleteTbelow is a spoken feature of the word Kauaʻi that is lacking in the depiction over and it is recognized as a w-glide. W-glides are herbal cases of the spoken Hawai"ian language. W-glides have the right to follow u vowels. In the case of the word Kauaʻi, a w-glide complies with the initially syllable and also is added to the front end of the second syllable. Kau-(w)a-ʻi Kauaʻi is pronounced KAU-WAH-ee with anxiety on the capitalized syllables

David Spafford:

Kawaii has four, as much as I deserve to tell. Even n ん counts as a syllable, by the means, at least in music. Kawai has three.

My knowledge is that the variety of syllables is the same, but the Japanese does not have the glottal stop discovered in Kaua"i.

Part of the difficulty, at leastern for me (VHM), is the distinction in between onsetsu and syllables, also moras, for that matter. See, for example:

Seiichiro Inaba, "Moras, Syllables, and also Feet in Japanese", Language, Information and Computation (PACLIC12), 18-20 Feb, 1998, 106-117.

Han (1994) says that moras are isochronous devices, but no inference is drawn for isochrony regarding the length of the syllable in Japanese. As the tempo of speech boosts, however, the phonetic truth of moras appears to end up being much less evident (Beckmale 1982 and Larish 1989). This paper gives a new insight on the evident gap in between phonology and phonetics, which originates from the difference between Initial Foot Parsing (IFP) and also Surface Foot Parsing (SFP). Additionally, it emphasizes an important consideration of timing devices larger than moras.

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Moras are traditionally thought about to be abstract units, however ones that play an important role in Japanese phonology (Bloch 1950, Hockett 1955, and also Ladefoged 1982). Japanese poeattempt is often cited as proof that the mora is a mental unit. Haiku, consisting of 3 lines of 5, seven, and 5 onsetsu, is one develop of Japanese poetry. Onsetsu is regularly interpreted as "syllables" in some of the Japanese literature, yet this is a mistranslation. If the syllables are all light, as in (la), the syllable count and also the mora count agree regarding the onsetsu. But in (1b), the onsetsu of the poetry coincides via the mora count, however not the syllable count.