how important is pitch accent in japanese

Nonetheless, just learning about pitch accent won’t improve your ability to notice it where you hadn’t before. No one’s expecting beginners in other languages to learn the phonetics of accent. Though differences in pitch exist between homophones, context is enough to decipher what’s spoken. Currently you have JavaScript disabled. An annoying thing about studying pitch accent is that many dictionaries, especially English-Japanese ones have no information about it. So if you tried to say 東京(とうきょう)you might end up with H / H / L / L. However this word is actually a “unaccented” word, so the proper pronunciation is “L / H / H / H”. But with this kind of thinking you’ll never even approach native-level pronunciation. Will I be totally misunderstood, or just easily identified as a gaijin (assuming I'm talking over a phone or intercom?) [Note: Tokyo has two syllables in English because the ‘o’ sounds are shortened. Also depending on who or who you don’t follow, you may have heard conflicting opinions regarding its importance. Having to separately also look up the pitch accent of a word after looking up its meaning seems like an annoying chore that I’d prefer avoiding unless absolutely necessary. I make no extra explicit effort towards remembering the pitch pattern of words because I believe that that effort is better spent in learning more vocabulary and exposing yourself to more Japanese input. If you didn’t understand this, don’t worry. You should expect each major dialect to exhibit its own unique twist to the same formula. In many cases the intonation pattern between Osaka and Tokyo dialects are completely opposite, such as in the word 今(いま). It helps you to realize how Japanese isn’t flat and why some syllables get ‘eaten’. For the advanced learners with several years of experience, you may begin to learn to differentiate between Tokyo dialect and others. Answer: Hard to say. The nature and location of the accent for a given word may vary between dialects. As the title suggests, I'm wondering how important pitch accent really is when learning to speak Japanese. Confusingly, 'pitch accent' is used in two different ways. Diversity of Pitch Accent Systems in Koshikijima Japanese Haruo Kubozono National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics Abstract: This article describes the diversity of pitch accent systems found in Koshikijima Japanese in comparison with those of Kagoshima and Tokyo Japa- nese. Dogen over on YouTube recently made a really great video about pitch accent in Japanese: There’s a really good explanation about pitch vs. tone here, and describing why Japanese as a “flat” language stems from comparisons to other tonal languages, and also from terminology in Japanese and how that influences the way Japanese is taught. A pitch-accent language is a language that has word-accents—that is, where one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch (linguistic tone) rather than by loudness, as in a stress -accent language. Your email address will not be published. However, I enabled coloring words by pitch accent because it wasn’t any extra effort. In standard (Tokyo-dialect) Japanese, this "accent" may be characterized as a downstep rather than as pitch accent. You may have noticed many such discrepancies without having explicitly known about pitch accent. To be frank, I couldn’t decide whether Dogen’s course was on Patreon was worth buying because his free video lessons didn’t have much useful information and there were no details about how long his course on phonetics is or what topics are included. This predicts that pitch accent plays a small role in lexical selection for Japanese language comprehension. A final or is often devoiced to or after a downstep and an unvoiced consonant. One of my pocket Japanese-English dictionaries I bought specifically because it does contain pitch accent information for every word, in its case using an acute accent, but I hear there are multiple systems and no one standard for indicating this. Learning the proper pitch accent of words is essential if you want to speak Japanese with a perfect accent and sound like a native. Instead, here are two links to sites that contain visual representations of pitch accent. I’ll use an example where I was specifically corrected by a native speaker, and abbreviate “L = Low” and “H = High” to conserve space. As for homophones, I don’t think it’s important to be able to tell them apart by their pitch pattern because you can distinguish a word from its context anyway. Knowing the basics of pitch accent gives you a framework to understand and internalize these differences over time. Basically, every word in Japanese is said with a certain intonation. Of course, intonation is only aspect of dialects, there are also difference in vocabulary, particles, and how sentences are ended. Japanese is known as a typical ‘pitch accent’ or ‘non-stress language’ in the literature as opposed to a ‘stress accent language’ like English (McCawley, 1978, Beckman, 1986).It is also classified as a ‘word-pitch language’ as opposed to a ‘tone language’ like Mandarin Chinese and an ‘intonation language’ like English (). But with this kind of thinking you’ll never even approach native-level pronunciation. Assuming that most people have no interest in sounding perfectly like a native, does pitch accent have any other utility? The nature and location of the accent for a given word may vary between dialects. For example, in 機能 (きのう), the first syllable is loud and then the pitch drops off. Japanese is often described as having pitch accent; this differs significantly between dialects. Not all dictionaries will indicate this, but pitch accent is certainly important, because it can make the difference between different words. This is why Japanese is considered to be a pitch-tone language, half way between tonal languages and stressed languages. In other words, knowing the different pitch pattern types makes you realize that there’s an underlying system to the variations in pitch and that it’s not just a random way Japanese people happen to speak. I never bother looking it up. Follow Self Taught Japanese on WordPress.com, Japanese novel review: “Desert: A Campus Life” (砂漠) by ”Kotaro Isaka” (伊坂幸太郎), Japanese expression: というのも “to iu no mo”, Japanese drama review: “Million Yen Women” (100万円の女たち), Japanese fairy tale translation: “The Crane’s Flute” (鶴の笛) by Hayashi Fumiko, Analysis of a common Internet phrase: “詳しくはこちら” (kuwashiku wa kochira), Car(車、くるま)- Low / High / High  [stays high for certain words that follow such as particles], Shoe (靴、くつ) – Low / High [words following keep normal pitch]. However, for those who want to spend the extra time perfecting certain words or find it hard to catch the intonation changes in real time, there are a variety of resources available. non in Japanese, the present paper reconsiders the notion of pitch accent as applied to Tokyo Japanese. Pitch accent is a phonetic feature of certain languages in which specific rises and falls in pitch comprise a fundamental component of the pronunciation of words. In my opinion, this effort is better expended in improving facets of Japenese that expand your ability to communicate such as learning vocabulary or practicing grammatical constructs. However, many beginners will be daunted by the volume of rules and choose to skip this aspect of Japanese learning that’s so obscure. It gives you a mental model to absorb phonetic discrepancies. The former of these is known as “accentless” or “flat” (平板), though this nomenclature is confusing since it isn’t really flat. I don’t really make an active effort to learn the pitch accent patterns of individual words. There are two things to keep in mind when it comes to how the pitch moves in Japanese words. It’s completely unnecessary if your goal is just to talk and express yourself in Japanese. In multiple years of study, the most I remember an instructor talking about it was maybe a brief mention about 雨 and アメ but this sub seems to place a high emphasis on learning it for nearly every word. It serves to differentiate lexical and/or communicative meanings. INTRODUCTION Accent is a prominence given to a certain syllable in a word or phrase over the adjacent syllables, independently of the mode in which this prominence is produced. See the same wikipedia page for details. I think the most natural way to learn pitch accent is just pay close attention to the intonation of the words you hear, especially when listening to those speaking Tokyo dialect. In newsgroup discussions, these are represented by a string of letters H or L for high or low. Thanks if any help could be provided. Mexican X-plainer: Chiclets & Smacking Gum, Why larger communities create more systematic languages. For beginners and advanced students. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Though it’s said to be good, I haven’t used it myself because I figured that it would be more in-depth than I was interested in. However, in contrast to Chinese, few homophonic word-pairs are really distinguished by pitch accents (Shibata & Shibata, 1990). Ignoring pitch accent is equivalent to saying “all non-native speakers of Japanese must have an accent”. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. Learn how your comment data is processed. Japanese isn’t a tonal language. Instead, what the Japanese language does is used pitch accent patterns where the intonation of the syllables move. [EMAIL CONTACT: selftaughtjapanese -at- gmail.com], Podcasts: an essential tool for foreign language self-study, Some hints about Japanese pronunciation | Self Taught Japanese, Research Results: Homophones in Japanese | Self Taught Japanese, Japanese intonation changes in two-word compounds | Self Taught Japanese, Roudoku (朗読): The fun and benefits of reading books out loud in Japanese – Self Taught Japanese, Pronunciation: one of the hardest parts about learning Japanese (and a review of a great resource to help with that –– OJAD) – Self Taught Japanese. The pitch doesn’t fall until the final る. In the case of Standard Japanese, nearly every word in the language is consistently pronounced with one of four main pitch accent “patterns”. Being an accent, it does differ from area to area but you’re probably learning standard Japanese anyway and regardless of differences between dialects, you need to be consistent within a dialect. Of course, with enough listening practice, you’re sure to notice and remember disparities in pronunciation naturally, but knowing about the variations in pitch makes you more aware of these and less likely to dismiss it offhand (oh, a syllable just sounded inaudible this time). Pitch accent in Japanese is fundamentally a word-level property, not a phrasal or sentence-level property, although it interacts non-trivially with sentence-level intonational patterns (see Igarashi, this volume, and Ishihara, this volume for more on the interaction between word-level accent and sentence-level tones). Pitch Accent - Japanese. Knowing the basics has the potential to open you up to noticing and remembering some pitch accent information without even trying. Just learning the theory behind pitch accent won’t help in becoming able to hear differences in pitch patterns that you can’t distinguish already. I own one such paper book which is contains a detailed account of the accents for all common words, but frankly I never use it. Ignoring pitch accent is equivalent to saying “all non-native speakers of Japanese must have an accent”. In conclusion, knowing about pitch accent gives you the tools to understand why some words sound different than expected. There are basically 4 such patterns in pitch. T Some Japanese dialects don't even utilize pitch to distinguish words. My personal opinion is that some amount of pitch accent study is crucial for any Japanese learner who’s serious about reaching a high level of Japanese fluency. As mentioned earlier, taking up the effort to learn all the rules regarding pitch accent and remembering the pitch accent patterns of words is only worthwhile if you share the goal of having a literally pitch-perfect Japanese accent. I can’t try something if I don’t know what I’m trying or why I should try it. 18 Everyday Sayings You Forgot Originated From Shakespeare, So You Want to Teach Yourself a Foreign Language, How Learning Languages Has Enriched My Life. It explains why the ‘u’ in ‘desu’ is nearly inaudible. While you can be done with the basics within an hour, learning and getting used to all the rules for how pitch accent changes depending on circumstance, and memorizing the patterns for individual words will take a lot of effort. Japanese pitch accent is a feature of the Japanese language that distinguishes words by accenting particular morae in most Japanese dialects. Yet, it’s only among Japanese learners where an obsession with pitch accent can be found. For example, one of the first textbooks I studied from mentioned that the accent differs from region to region (this is true), so there isn’t much use in trying to learn it. 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