Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

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.
た・ま・ご
さ・か・な
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.
あさ、"morning"、あ・さ、あさ
あさ
とり、bird, と・り、とり
とり
さくら、"cherry blossom"、さ・く・ら、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)
おとうと
きょうだい、siblings、きょ・う・だ・い、きょうだい
きょうだい
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)
きょうだい
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!

50 Comments

Hide
Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍
Sorry, please keep your comment under 800 characters. Got a complicated question? Try asking your teacher using My Teacher Messenger.
Sorry, please keep your comment under 800 characters.

JapanesePod101.com
May 23rd, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Pinned Comment
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hello Listeners! Do you have any question about this Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide Lessons? Please, let us know!

JapanesePod101.comVerified
August 19th, 2019 at 2:52 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Ichigo,

Thanks for your comment!


You can check pitch accent by hearing it.

e.g. clicking a speaker icon beside the word on google translation.


Sincerely,

Erica

Team JapanesePod101.com

Ichigo Htet
June 29th, 2019 at 8:53 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

How can I know withow pitch accent?

JapanesePod101.com
May 8th, 2019 at 11:46 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Christina,


Thank you for your comment.

I think you're confused on the rule #2.

As you said, if a word has 5 syllables, the fourth and the fifth are usually the same pitch.


Feel free to let us know if you have any questions.

Motoko

Team JapanesePod101.com

Christina
March 3rd, 2019 at 10:43 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

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!

JapanesePod101.comVerified
October 11th, 2018 at 12:53 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

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.


Sincerely,

Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

Evan
August 3rd, 2018 at 12:14 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

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.

JapanesePod101.comVerified
April 4th, 2018 at 11:19 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi JP,


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


Cheers,


Khanh.

Team JapanesePod101

JP
March 28th, 2018 at 5:25 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

What a superb series of phonetic lessons; all ten of them were just excellent.

ありがとう ございます。

JP

JapanesePod101.comVerified
February 11th, 2018 at 5:28 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Rick-san,

konnichiwa!

Thank you very much for sharing the information!! ?


Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com

Rick
November 27th, 2017 at 2:45 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

@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.