While progressing through wanikani I’ve noticed that in some cases the pitch accent of words differs between Kenichi and Kyoko (the male and female speakers). Interestingly enough, Kyoko’s pitch accent will most often of the time be the one most dictionaries show (so standard Tokyo dialect, I assume). Is there a reason for this? Is Kenichi speaking with some dialect, or are these just words that have multiple pronunciations?
I don’t have many examples on hand, because I’ve never written these down, but there are quite a few per level. One example would be the vocabulary 科目. Dictionary apps show this is Heiban (low to high), but Kenichi seems to pronounce it Atamadaka (high to low).
Anyway, just something I’ve been curious about, since I try to imitate the speakers while learning new words to immediately try to avoid bad habits. I’m still a beginner.
I’ve had the same question, honestly. But language isn’t a perfect science and not everyone is going to pronounce something exactly how it appears all the time. Sometimes there’s just a variation between speakers and getting used to that is an important part of learning any language.
You may be interested in the pitch accent script to compare it to the audio.
Good question! I’d love to see a breakdown of that.
The other thing I noticed is that he pronounces シ differently from Kyoko and I was wondering if that’s for the same reason he does the nasalized ガ or it’s a difference between how men and women pronounce it.
It’s more of a learned experience. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if you aren’t far along and not really speaking yet. If you want a great example of how males and females speak, check out Terrace House on Netflix. It’s three guys and three girls living with each other. The new season (Tokyo 2019-2020) is pretty good.
Wow cool! That vocab is the exact reason why I decided to search this topic up in the first place. I noticed it multiple times before, however I just took it as maybe a personal flair of his. However, since it repeated many times, I was thinking if others have noticed it too.
I guess the only way to cope with this is to manually listen (and shadow) Kyoko-san’s recording when it comes to problematic words and memorise which ones are different. It usually works, however it does get a little confusing at times where I say the “correct” pitch accent (as according to the dictionary/pitch accent script) and after keying in the answer, hearing a different pitch pattern play out.
Hey, I’m not complaining though! Overall I think that it’s fine and not a tedious task considering the pitch accent script is there to guide me.
There’s one research paper, albeit an older one, I remember about this topic. In order to compare the voice pitch of female and male bilingual speakers of Japanese and American English who were students at the University of Hawaii, Ohara (1999) conducted an experiment in which the speakers were asked to leave two voice messages, one for a friend and one for a professor, recording each scenario in both English and Japanese. Ohara then measured the mean fundamental frequency for all speakers.
Interestingly, all female subjects in the study exhibited “a higher mean fundamental frequency when speaking in Japanese than in English” (p. 109), but then also a higher frequency in the message to their professor than in the message to their friend. The male subjects’ frequency, on the other hand, did not differ significantly across languages nor did it differ by addressee.
In short, the results of Ohara’s study confirm that a high pitch level is used by speakers to express “female” attributes in Japanese more strongly than in American English, which she linked to the pervasive social standard that it is desirable for Japanese women to sound “cute” or “gentle” and that this standard may also intersect with politeness, which appears to also be marked by pitch differences for female speakers but not for male speakers, given the consistent differences in frequency in the recorded messages to a friend versus a professor.
Ohara, Y. (1999). Performing gender through voice pitch: A cross-cultural analysis of Japanese and American English. In U. Pasero & F. Baum (Eds.), Wahrnehmung und Herstellung von Geschlecht (pp. 105-116). Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-322-89014-6_8
For anyone who’s watched Friends, I tend to think of this similar to the running joke they had where Chandler would stress words in a sentence when speaking the opposite of what most people would do. It’s obviously not 100% analogous, but not everyone is pining to be an NHK broadcaster and thus is unlikely to be speaking 100% perfect intonation.
Very interesting. I’ve definitely observed the very same thing in some japanese teaching videos. If the teacher is a japanese woman and says something in keigo for example, the pitch of their voice will suddenly go up.
As far as the pitch accent of a word is concerned, there does not seem to be any differences between male and female speech though.
Yeah, I haven’t been able to find anything on that in particular. I did find another study by Imai (2010) on vowel devoicing, where a gender difference appears to be emerging with female speakers devoicing vowels less frequently than male speakers, but that’s about all I could find.
Imai, T. (2010). An Emerging Gender Difference in Japanese Vowel Devoicing. In D. R. Preston & N. Niedzielski (Eds.), A Reader in Sociolinguistics (pp. 177-190). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781934078068.1.177