Pitch Accents? Where did these come from..?

This sounds like something that would make a very good userscript for wanikani, so we can practice the right pitch whenever we do a word, hrmm

Hey are you using a mac by any chance? If you turn on Japanese in the apple built-in dictionary app there is a great resource for looking up pitch accent.

If not you can try this site:


There is also an Anki plugin that automatically puts pitch accent info onto your cards… it’s limited to single words but it works really well for what it has.


1 Like

In my experience, just listening to the pronunciation works for me for learning the pitch

1 Like

I’m not the biggest fan of jpod101, but they go over the pitch accent for every word in their dialogues, so that might be good practice.


I can see that to some extent. Japanese has such a limited sound system that the homophones are always an issue in theory but things are generally understood in context. I assume that it’s similar in Chinese. I think the difference is in teaching. In Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. the tones are taught at the very beginning and emphasized. In Japanese, the pitch accent is more or less treated as an afterthought if it’s treated at all. In the only other pitch accented language I’m familiar with, Lithuanian, the teachers seem to spend more time on it than teachers of Japanese. (I don’t speak Lithuanian but have friends who’ve studied it.)

1 Like

So, decided to whip up a userscript today to do what I was suggesting, it should describe simply which way the kanji/vocab should be read, both during a session or when looking through a description page. It will show it in the “Readings” section of a given page.


I haven’t had a chance to test it on lessons yet though.

Any feedback on how I could improve it is welcome, as I’m pretty noob about this pitch stuff right now.

One issue I know of right now is in situations like this kanji, 乳, which seems to have a primary reading of just ち on weblio, but WaniKani lists the second reading “ちち”. Currently my script is going to grab the first reading, which I feel would be incorrect?

And even then, the second reading on that page lists two numbers on the same reading. (Though… reading up on it some more apparently there is no difference in pronunciation between these two :S though the issue still stands.)

1 Like

Hmm? There would be a difference between 1 and 2 on a 2 syllable word.

1 means it goes high to low.
2 means it goes low to high and then low again if a particle comes next

I’ll try the script later

Are you referring to the first two definitions on that weblio page I linked? I’m not quite sure what you mean in regards to what I was saying there. I am aware from what you told me before of what 0, 1, 2+ should do, that wasn’t the issue I was referring to. Thanks!

Is this supposed to be a bug?

Please do. Even the number of people in this thread alone (1 is already too many!) who think it is unimportant is staggering.

It means it found a result for this kanji on weiblo, you can click the question mark to see the page it found.
I don’t know enough Japanese to know how or if I should be using such results, or if it’s just WaniKani not being quite as comprehensive as a Japanese dictionary and thus only showing the readings it actually teaches?


か くわ [1]【寡】
すくないこと。 :left_right_arrow: 衆 「 -を以つて衆に当り/近世紀聞 延房」

Sad but common opinion. Pitch accent is VERY important. I have to ask, why start with a defeatist attitude of “…you’ll never get it right?” That’s like saying “I shouldn’t work on proper pronunciation of kana because I won’t be hearing and speaking Japanese a lot because I’m not in Japan.” Pitch accent IS part of the language, so it should go hand in hand with pronunciation. If you can teach yourself the patterns and be able to recognize/produce them even a little bit, you’re well on your way to sounding like a native speaker.

IMO, proper pronunciation should be the very FIRST thing you learn in a language. It should happen before you dive in, pronounce things wrong, and ultimately have to learn how to properly say everything you’ve “learned” up to that point


Chill. It’s not that it’s not important, but that people should be prioritizing their studies based on their own situations. People can have reasons to study Japanese without wanting or needing to to sound like a native speaker. Even if someone wants to be great at spoken Japanese there are still good situations to defer studying this topic (eg. I’m moving to Japan in XX months and just started learning!).

Learning “proper pronunciation” is very helpful, but it shouldn’t be arbitrarily pushed as the top priority. Adding phonetics is overkill and potentially demotivating for beginners. It can take time to “relearn” or break bad habits, but it’s not impossible unless the person gives up on it. However, time is a limited resource. If someone isn’t planning to make speaking or listening a key goal in their studies then forcing them to learn phonetics is a good way to waste time and induce burnout.

The other issue I have with this is that phonetics/pitch accent studies are a part of the language, not the language. There is no point being able to sound like a native speaker if a person doesn’t have the vocabulary and the grammar to effectively express their ideas nor the cultural understanding to know what should be said and when.

Finally, someone who is optimizing their studies should consider where they can improve their progress. Learning multiple things at once will divide the attention and create a task switching problem. Focusing on key aspects that either need attention due to being weak or will progress faster, such as when a suitable environment is present, will reduce the mental overhead and make more effective use of time. Depending on circumstance this kind of planning may result in faster overall progress, even if it means backtracking or relearning material.

As Kumirei was pointing out, it makes far more sense to study a topic like pitch accent in depth when a person can experience spoken Japanese frequently (eg native taught class, community, visiting Japan, ect.). Do the most with what you have now so you can make the most of what you have tomorrow.

Edit: English is hard. Also, I should mention I'm a proud member of the Kumirei fan club. Praise be to the goddess!

Agreed. I agree that people have different goals and that’s ok. They should do what works for them. But then you should say the same thing to kumirei when she says she doesn’t see the sense in learning it from abroad. For me, it makes perfect sense to learn it from abroad. For someone who is new to Japanese, they should definitely be made aware that it exists and is an important part of the language. From there, they can decide what to do. Obviously there needs to be a balance between all aspects of learning the language to keep motivation high, but IMO anyone who signs up for WK on their own is already highly motivated, so I didn’t see that as an issue.

I strongly disagree with people who say pitch accent can be safely ignored (across the board, not for one person’s particular goals), so I piped up. Again, I agree with what you’re saying. On the other hand, there are too many sources out there saying you can ignore pitch accent for reasons based on faulty assumptions, so it is largely ignored. I only wanted to make that clear. I apologize for my aggressive tone.


[quote=“Adrian0121, post:36, topic:18721, full:true”]but IMO anyone who signs up for WK on their own is already highly motivated, so I didn’t see that as an issue.

Maybe true for a lot of people, but not everyone. I signed up for WK specifically because I don’t have enough motivation. WK’s leveling pace is hella slow compared to the rate I can learn this type of thing when motivated; WK is pretty much designed to prevent good learners from learning quickly. But since I don’t currently have the motivation to properly organize and focus on kanji study, I signed up for WK because it is a very convenient system that “forces” me to make some amount of progress on this aspect of the language without actually expending any notable mental effort.

1 Like

It’s fine, I was being overaggressive as well here. I would definitely appreciate it if more sources would address or at least introduce the issue of pitch accent. Most of the beginner resources I’ve read have outright ignored the subject or left it to footnotes, which is both disappointing and implies that ignoring the matter is ok. That is disturbing and wrong on many levels.

Thankfully we now live in an era where it’s easier to look up this information and speaking with a native is just a VOIP call away, but I still don’t want to push the subject for people studying outside of Japan. Some of my rural friends might be interested in the subject, but with limited access to high speed internet and very few native speakers it’s almost hopeless (or very expensive) for them to try. Outside of that specific circumstance there isn’t much of an excuse these days… Muahahaha…

For the record, I live in the US near the Ashburn datacenter. I’m talking about people that I could meet with a 2 hour drive. That’s how stupid and frustrating my country is.

Pitch accent plays almost exactly the same role in Japanese as emphasized syllables do in English, but slightly less important because it varies more by dialect than English emphasis does.

When I learned about it, I’d already started studying using a digital textbook, and I realized that because I was trying to copy how the words were said I actually already knew the correct pitch accent for all the vocabulary I had learned, even though I hadn’t been aware of it.

It matters to learn but I don’t think you need to go out of your way to learn it, beyond exposing yourself to audio like you already should be. This is a reason to turn on the audio on WaniKani, and to add computer generated audio to anki cards - the robot voice may not sound like a native speaker, but it generally gets pitch accent correct.


Nice work, though it’s probably worth only using the script for Vocabulary items rather than isolated Kanji?

1 Like

Yeah, it should really only be for vocab.

But there are many Kanji that have the same characters, wouldn’t there be differences in pitch to differentiate them?