Are the pronunciations of "海女" and "尼" different even if they are the same "Ama"?

2021/09/16 blog
Ama and Ama

Hi, I'm Rikako Sato, an Ama diver in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, who runs Guest House AMARGE.


Today, I would like to introduce the difference in pronunciation between 海女 (= traditional women skin diver) and 尼 (=nun) both pronounced as "Ama" in Japanese, which are often mistaken.


First of all, some people may have been surprised like "What! Are they pronounced differently?"


I can't say that this is the case nationwide, but at least in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, where I live, and in Shima City next to Toba, the pronunciations of 海女 and 尼 are different.


I think the difference is similar to the difference in pronunciation of 橋 (= bridge) and 箸 (= chopsticks) in Japanese.

 Traditional Woman skin diver, "Ama" 


When pronouncing this "Ama", add an accent on the first "a".


 Nun, "Ama" 


When pronouncing this "Ama", add an accent on the latter "ma".


 My failure story 


I have a story about the pronunciation of "Ama" when I started to be an Ama 6 years ago.


We Ama divers are not able to dive everyday. Whether or not to go diving is decided by a group of Ama women checking the weather and the condition of the sea on the morning of the day.


There is a duty system called "Hiyorimi" in our village, and one day when I was on duty, the sea conditions were not good to go diving and we decided not to.


So I was chosen to broadcast on the town broadcast that there was no Ama diving for the day, and I spoke to the microphone.

Then, I made a mistake in the intonation, and later, every time I met senior Ama women in the village, I was pointed out that "Hey Rikako! Your pronunciation was wrong! That means nun  and not Ama, you know!" And made fun of me.


Now that I am in my sixth year of Ama, so I don't make a mistake in pronunciation, but sometimes when strangers or a young apprentice Ama makes a mistake in pronunciation, I feel I want to tease her and want to tell "The right way to procounce Ama".