Pitch Accent and Vocab Pronunciation

Hey all,

I installed the Wanikani Pitch Info script by Invertex, and I am grateful for the pitch accents it provides. However, to my ears, it seems like the pronunciations provided by Wanikani and the pitch accents given by the script oftentimes contradict. For example, on 平安, the pitch accent indicated is he I A N, but listening to the pronunciation, I hear HE I a n. Has anyone else noticed this, or are my ears too inexperienced to hear the Japanese pitch accent correctly? Thanks!

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Hi,

I didn’t know there was a pitch accent script for WaniKani. Could you provide the link please?

I usually use a yomichan’s dictionary to check for pitch accent while studying WaniKani. It’s very rare for me to see a contradiction between yomichan’s pitch accent and the pronounced word. In this example, the audio for 平安 sounds as a heiban word as the pitch accent info informs. Sounds very flat, don’t you think?

I don’t use the script but if you have a Mac, you can use the dictionary app to check the pitch accent. 平安 is type zero.
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Both Kenichi and Kyoko pronounce 平安 correctly as far as I can tell. I think you just need to hear more words being pronounced and build your ear for pitch accent.

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It sounds correct to me with flat or slightly rising inflection.

Give a listen to the readings here: WaniKani / Vocabulary / 烏

That’s an example of a word with downstep on the first mora.

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(Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but) I think what you’re hearing is the “hei” sounding a little louder than the “an”, rather than hearing the pitch accent?

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For 平安, from what I can hear, Kyoko pronounces it closer to the usual ‘standard pronunciation’. For Kenichi, I don’t think what you hear is wrong either, but it’s a little different: The first three morae (へいあ) are all at the same pitch, or at least, the up-step from the first to the two isn’t as obvious, and there seems to be a slight down-step on the last mora. However, I think that’s more of the sort of natural pitch drop we hear at the end of a phrase. It’s really just because he stopped speaking, and with a real human voice, that doesn’t always happen instantly: as the airflow gets cut off, the vocal cords gradually stop vibrating and you get a slightly gravelly sound as the word stops being pronounced. Simply put, I think Kyoko made a bit more of an effort to sustain the pitch all the way to the last mora, whereas Kenichi’s version cut off sooner. That’s where the difference comes from.

EDIT: if you’re really concerned that it might be wrong though, then just look up the ‘official’ pitch accents (or check whatever the script provides) and imitate that instead. Like I said, in this case, I think Kyoko’s pronunciation is closer to the usual standard, but Kenichi’s might be what you’d hear when the word is said more rapidly at the end of a sentence. In any case, it’s probably going to be more important to look out for how this word sounds ‘in the wild’, because the pitch accent of a given word is often affected by the words around it. Learning the basic pitch accent in isolation is helpful, but it’s not the full story.

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It sounds correct to me.

That may be the case. As @Lahoje mentioned:

One of the hard parts in the beginning is learning to separate volume, and to an extent timing, from pitch.

I think it’s this plus the fact that Kenichi uses the nasalized g and a very palatalized n. So he cuts off the sound more abruptly in general than Kyoko does. Plus he “talks like a guy” and really vocalizes things on his recordings.

@Nathan_Dunkerley if you listen to the recording on 平日 you can hear the heiban pattern better since there’s no ん there.

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@Jonapedia and @alo I listened to the difference between Kenichi’s and Kyoko’s 平日 pronunciation, and I hear what y’all mean. If I pronounce words like Kyoko (which sounds more “correct” to my ears) would I sound more effeminate to native Japanese speakers?

@Lahoje I think you’re right; I’m also confusing pitch and volume like the American I am.

@diego_barreto Here’s the link: [Userscript] WaniKani Pitch Info. You’ll find this a lot easier than looking up pitch accent patterns outside of Wankani.

Thank y’all for all your help! I see that I need to improve my pitch accent.

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I don’t listen to the WK recordings much, so that might be part of it, but there’s no way I could have described it this well. I definitely felt like he blocked the airflow with the middle of his tongue more completely, and it does some like it happens further forward in the mouth. I’ve never paid much attention to phonetics terminology though. :sweat_smile: That was a good explanation.

I personally don’t think so unless you’re imitating the actual pitch at which she speaks (not just the variations) and that’s a lot higher than your regular speaking voice. In any case, some people on these forums have found that their voices are a little higher in Japanese, and I know for certain that I speak Japanese at a higher pitch than French. My English is probably somewhere between the two. That aside, I believe (though I might be wrong) that men of East Asian origin have higher voices on average than men of American/European origin, so a slightly higher voice probably won’t do any harm. (I’m ethnically Chinese, just so you know, so I’m speaking based on personal experience and my observations growing up in a multicultural country in Asia.)

In any case, I think sounding masculine or feminine is more a matter of word choice, particle use and overall intonation, and I doubt any of those things are things you can pick up on WK (unless the context sentences have been recorded too?). Pitch accent itself doesn’t have a masculine or feminine form, as far as I know, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. :slight_smile:

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Thanks, bud. :smiley:

It’s a hobby of mine. Once you can tell the difference between NZ and Australian accents, pitch accent is much easier to hear. :wink:

Like @Jonapedia said, it’s more about word choice, particle use, and intonation.

Kyoko pronounces things much closer to standard Tokyo-ben so it’s not a bad thing to emulate using your own voice.

Don’t worry about it too much, though. Once you listen to enough actual speech you’ll start to get a feel for it. It’s not like you’re forever locked into the way you speak right now. :smiley::+1:

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Your ears are on point. It absolutely varies for some words. Kenichi pronounces 電子 in 頭高 like the chart suggests, while Kyoko uses 平板. The pitch accent diagram your seeing is a representation of the most common pronunciation(s) observed for a particular dialect. What you’re hearing are two individuals reading a list of thousands of words during a long recording session. Each individual is different and dialectic shifts and schisms are happening at all times everywhere in the world as an emergent result of these differences. And this is just two individuals who can be categorized within the same dialectic group. Travel to the next prefecture and things can get weird.

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That’s a good point. The only way to be able to separate an idiolect from a dialect is more exposure.

Both sound 頭高 to me. Kyoko just uses a smaller interval. Definitely sounds a bit different.

Someone on reddit linked a website where you can test Japanese pitch accent perception!

You just have to make an account to use the site. This is gonna help me and I thought I’d link it here since it can help others as well

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