getting tonal accents in Japanese: Where?
  • When I study vocabulary, I would like to have the tonal accent written as part of the word. For instance, "suTERU", not "SUteru", but it seems Denshi Jisho does not have that, Any suggestion of where to find this?
  • The usual recommendation is that accent (in any langauge) and "melody" should be learned by practice and listening; not by memorizing the tonal accents of all the vocabulary you learn. That won't make you sound naturally anyway, to get a natural dialect, you would have to practice with native speakers a lot, anyway.

    But I agree it might be helpful to have a reference how to pronounce a word when first encounter. Unfortunately, there are not many resources. One thing you can do is buy one of Casio's electronic dictionaries, (some of them) offer a "natural voice" feature. They contain most Japanese words read by a native for you to listen to. I personally own the EX-word DATAPLUS 5 XD-A10000 which includes this feature.

    For a paper dictionary, you might try the NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典新版 (日本語発音アクセント辞典-新版-NHK放送文化研究所/dp/4140111127)
  • There is also a PC (CD-ROM) version of the NHK dictionary available. You can "acquire" it freely, if you know what I mean.

    There are accent marks in the Shin Bunka Shokyuu Nihongo and Shin Bunka Chuukyuu Nihongo textbooks as well (in a separate booklet with vocabulary).

    As well as here:
  • Sorry for going a bit off topic.

    Hi again.

    I am learning Japanese independently, and started doing so the better part of four years ago. (It is not a problem for me that I am stuck at a plateau currently and have not been learning much in recent months. I had expected it and was prepared for it. I will get past the plateau eventually.)
    I have completed "An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese," but for some time will be referring back to it and redoing lessons and so forth.
    Now, my focus by far, is on written Japanese, because my main goal is being able to read Japanese magazines, newspapers, classic literature, etc., eventually. Therefore, I never figured out IAIJ's authors' system for expressing tone accents, which are shown where applicable in the ふりがな in many words in the word lists, in each of the fifteen chapters. I waded through the introduction of the textbook, but the authors never explain how their symbols for (tone) accents works.
    I was wondering if one who happens to have IAIJ and who understands the accent marks would explain how these symbols work.
    (On page 9)
    For the ふりがな for Vたばかり,they write Vた「ば¬かり (enclosing ば only)
    For 留学する,they write りゅ「うがくする (with no right-side accent symbol)
    For 大学院生,they write だ「いがくい¬んせい
    For 趣味,they write しゅ¬み (with no left-side accent symbol)

    Hopefully I covered all the permutations of the symbols. If I missed any, I would like to know.
    Does the symbol appearing to the left of a かな represent a rising tone, and the one appearing to the right of a かな represent a falling tone? How about a word that shows only a right- or left-hand accent symbol?
    (I had to use ¬ to represent the right-hand symbol because I could not figure out, or find out, how to represent it correctly as it appears in the textbook.)
  • Yes, the left symbol is a rising tone, the right symbol a falling tone.

    The first example is called the rising and falling type: nakadakagata
    The second one is called the flat type: heibanshiki
    The third one is the rising and falling again.
    The fourth one is the falling type: atamadakagata

    The one missing is the rising type (odakagata), where the first mora is low, followed by all high mora, and then the particle at the end of the word is low again. お「とうと」 が。。。 (otouto ga...).

    HLLL(L) - atamadakagata
    LHHH(H) - heibanshiki
    LHHH(L) - odakagata
    LHHL(L) - nakadakagata

    It also depends on the preceding phrase's pitch accent which affects the following phrase.
  • I was taught that 「~」 are also used the "~" are used in English, as enclosing marks to quote things. Have I been using them wrong this whole time? :(
  • As a non native speaker (learner) of Japanese, I would say that the pitch accent is not irrelevant, but neither is it something that needs concious effort. In my experience of almost ten years in Tokyo, it has presented itself as an issue about twice, and both times my wife was just being obtuse.

    In Kyshu the pitch accent is very weak, in Kansai it's even stringer than Kanto. This regional difference is a big enough indicator that pitch is not a lexical indicator in Japanese, as it is in Mandarin, for example. There are words where pitch distinguishes homophones such as 端, 橋 and 箸, but as you say, context is usually a good enough indicator. Most homophones are not distinguished in this manner, though.

    Pitch is used in much the same was as stress is in English, which is to give hints as to when words begin and end. That is why it is easier to understand somebody who speaks with an accent you are used to, as you can tell where one word ends and another begins by the pattern of their speech.

    It is good to know what the pitch accent is and how it manifests itself in Japanese, but rarely is it possible to predict a word's pitch pattern. In addition, the pitch changes depending on the intonation of the sentence.


    The intonation when making the single word sound like a question is different for both of these words, and it is not matched exactly by the pitch pattern when saying the words alone. In a longer sentence the pitch pattern and intonation come together to form the natural undulating sound of Japanese.

    Therefore, the question here is not about 'pitch accent', but about improving accent in general. This is common for all language learners, and the best way is to imitate native speakers without concentrating on individual aspects of their speech.
  • My level of japanese is far below that of Emma324, but I think the following is well known to linguists:
    Pitch accent is a specific and important feature of Japanese, see
    It is not the same as Tone in tonal languages like mandarin.
    Pitch accent in Japanese is completely different from pitch/stress in English.
    Most Japanese words have a "hardwired" pitch accent which is not altered by the surrounding sentence.
    Since English does not have pitch accent, it is important for English speakers learning Japanese to learn about it and to pay attention to the pattern of pitch/stress when they listen to native speakers, since otherwise they won't know which features of the native speakers pronunciation they need to copy.
    So I think louischa's original question is a good one.

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