aishanuwang one year ago 日本語 - the kanji 時 ("o'clock") has the kana じ, but I've seen this can be pronounced as either "ji" or "zi." Is it simply a matter of preference on the part of the speaker, or does the pronunciation change based on the place of 時 in the sentence?

1. anonymous

Hello, As far as I known it is not a matter of preference or the use of a kanji character. The kana character you reference is part of the 四つ仮名 (yotsugana). Which is a specific set of four kana characters. （じ, ぢ, ず, づ） (zi, zi, zu, zu). $$\bf{じ}$$ transliterated is usually written as $$ji$$ due to Hepburn transliteration style being more common in America. The $$ji$$ however does not mean to sound they same way you pronounce it American English. It sounds closer to the $$j$$ in French if I had to make a comparison. (Which is somewhat like $$zi$$ in American English.) If you understand the International Phonetic Alphabet, I can explain this all the more easier by saying it sounds like $$dʑi$$ or $$ʑi$$. (Which hits the pronunciation spot on. (Should be soft though.)) Side note: The $$ji$$ comes from Hepburn transliteration style, the $$zi$$ comes from the Ministry of Education transliteration style, also known as the Kunrei-shiki rōmaji style. Disclaimer: Pronunciation, orthography, and phonology are not my forte. Peace.

2. anonymous

As I understand it: there is no opposition in Japanese between the phonemes \ʒ\ and \ʤ\, and as Algorithmic said above, the romaji transcription ji and zi will lead to the same character じ on your computer. Typing jikann or zikann will both lead to 時間.

3. anonymous

Sorry I should have clarified, $$dʑi$$ and $$ʑi$$ sound exactly alike however it can be written either way or so I have seen. So I decided to leave both in because of the common usage of both.

4. aishanuwang

Thank you both for the clarification!