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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Yamamoto.
Welcome back to The Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide at JapanesePod101.com.
In this lesson, you're going to learn the basics of pitch accent in Japanese.
Let's listen to these words.
たまご egg、た・ま・ご、たまご
さかな fish, さ・か・な、さかな
Each syllable is pronounced with either a high or low pitch.
The pitch accent for each word is determined when said in isolation. So, if you pronounce it in a different pitch, such as たまご (high, low low), it sounds strange.
Do you know why we need pitch accent in Japanese?
Japanese has many words with the same sounds but different meanings.
雨 (あhigh - めlow) and 飴 (あlow - めhigh)
雨 means "rain". It goes from high to low.
飴 means "candy". It goes from low to high.
Also, we have 橋 and 箸
箸 means "chopsticks." It goes from high to low.
橋 means "bridge." It goes from low to high.
To differentiate between these words with the same sounds, we need pitch accent. This is a key characteristic of Japanese.
There are two rules you need to know.
The first one is...
Pitch does not change in the middle of a syllable.
- てんき (high-low-low)、weather, て・ん・き、てんき
て is high.
Each ん and き is low.
So, each syllable is pronounced with either a high or low pitch. And pitch doesn't change in the middle of a syllable.
The second rule is...
First and second syllables of a word don't have the same pitch as each other.
あか red, あ・か、あか、high and low
いぬ dog い・ぬ、いぬ、low and high
げんき fine, げ・ん・き、げんき、high, low, low
ひらがな hiragana, ひ・ら・が・な、ひらがな、low, high, high, low
In all words, the pair of the first two syllables should be "high-low" or "low-high".
We're going to give you examples of some words with their pitch accent pattern. Try saying these words. You'll also review the sounds you learned so far.
とり、bird, と・り、とり
さくら、"cherry blossom"、さ・く・ら、さくら
おとうと、younger brother、お・と・う・と、おとうと
Be careful with the long vowel おー.
Repeat after me.
おとうと (with claps)
Here, you have a long vowel おー again. You need to change the tone from high to low in the middle of the long vowel.
Repeat after me.
きょうだい (with claps)
Congratulations! You've learned all the essential parts of Japanese pronunciation. You can listen to plenty of dialogs and vocabulary recorded by native Japanese speakers at JapanesePod101.com. Model your pronunciation on these and keep practicing!
How do you practice pitch accent? Share in the comment section!


Please to leave a comment.
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Friday at 6:30 pm
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Hello Listeners! Do you have any question about this Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide Lessons? Please, let us know!

March 3rd, 2019 at 10:43 pm
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I still don't understand the first rule. For example, if there are five syllables. Let's say the first one is low, then the second one is for sure high. From what I understood of the first rule, the third syllable should be also high just as the second syllable. However, about the fourth and fifth syllable? Thanks!

October 11th, 2018 at 12:53 am
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Hi Evan,

Thanks for studying with us and asking a question.

The kana for rain or candy are both written as あめ but in kanji they are different 雨 (rain) and 飴 (candy). If these words are spoken, the only way to tell the difference is the pitch accent and the context.


Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

August 3rd, 2018 at 12:14 am
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by reading how would you know if it was candy or rain, are the kana written a certain way to tell the difference, Thanks in advance.

April 4th, 2018 at 11:19 am
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Hi JP,

Thanks for your kind feedback! Let us know if you have any questions!



Team JapanesePod101

March 28th, 2018 at 5:25 am
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What a superb series of phonetic lessons; all ten of them were just excellent.

ありがとう ございます。


February 11th, 2018 at 5:28 pm
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Thank you very much for sharing the information!! ?

Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com

November 27th, 2017 at 2:45 pm
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@Jacob Shinn, The http://www.gavo.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ojad/phrasing/index site does have audio. I use the English version of the site (click on the British flag). Then enter or paste some Japanese text and click "Analyze." In the second section of the screen you'll see the pitch pattern. Below that, click the "Generate" button and then "Playback." It's an automated voice similar to the one on Google Translate, but it gives a sense of the pitches and sounds. The nice thing is you can enter as much text as you want and save the audio file as an MP3.

For pronunciation of words, I mainly use Forvo.com which has recordings of native speakers.

July 26th, 2017 at 3:57 pm
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Jacob Shinn san,


Thank you for your feedback.

Wutuck san,


English doesn’t show the pitch accent but it has stress accent.

That is the reason why you have difficulties.

At a beginner’s stage I recommend you to be aware of low pitch and high pitch.

Please go to the page below and you can get pitch patterns.



Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

July 7th, 2017 at 5:23 am
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the lesson is good but I can't understand concept of Pitch Accent. I hear some difference in pronunciation but have no idea how to prodused it. What should I do to make it?

Jacob Shinn
June 10th, 2017 at 7:30 am
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I agree that http://www.gavo.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ojad/phrasing/index is great for showing how pitch accents work, but for me, it came off as rather lacking. No audio, and lack of vocabulary, and there's supposed to be native speaker pronunciations for those words, but I tried to click on the audios and NONE of them even have someone spoken, or maybe it just doesn't work.

Again, great for showing how pitch accent works, but felt rather lacking for me. I would recommend nhk日本語発音アクセント辞典 books or app since at least they have a ton of vocabulary and even working audios.