Nouns: 3~4 Moras (中高型以外)

snphan | Oct. 28, 2021, 2:39 a.m.

It's coming close to Halloween, and you know what that means… Trick or treat! 🎃 
We choose "treat" 🍭. Today's topic focuses on what to do if the last noun is 3-4 Moras and does not have a 中高型 (Middle High) Pattern. In other words, we are looking at last noun units with 3-4 Moras and having pitch accent patterns of 平板型, 頭高型 and 尾高型. Typically, these last nouns are 2 Kanji in lengths such as 状況 and 試験 mentioned in the previous post. Suffixes or last nouns with only 1 Kanji character typically have only 1-2 Moras and will be covered in a later post. 

So, what happens when we find that the last noun in a noun change is 3-4 Moras and has a 中高型以外 pattern? According to Shunyaku, treat the compound noun as one word and drop the pitch on the first mora of the last noun. Effectively, the pitch number of the combined noun becomes the position of the first mora of the last noun1. This is the most common form for compound nouns2.
This is kind of a mouthful, so let's revisit the word 経済状況 in the previous post to demonstrate what this means. 経済状況 can be broken up like so 経済・状況. The pitch numbers of each noun are as follows:

状況 (0)

The last noun in the chain would be 状況 with a pitch number of 0 or a pitch accent pattern of 頭高型 (Head High). Since the last noun in the chain is NOT 中高型, we combine the two noun units into one word and drop the pitch on the first mora of the last noun. Thus, the pitch pattern looks like so:


Accordingly, the pitch number for this word is 5 because じょ is the 5th mora in the compound noun. Pretty simple right? Let's look at a few more examples.

Word Pitch Accent #
公衆(0)・電話(0)   こうしゅうでんわ 5
厚生(0)・施設(1) こうせいしせつ 5
煎餅(1)・布団(0) せんべいぶとん 5
船舶(1)・保険(0) せんぱくほけん 5
双・方向(0)・通信(0) そうほうこうつうしん 7
トライアル(2)・アンド(0)・エラー(1) トライアルアンドエラー 9
脳(0)・下垂(0)・体(1)・後葉(0)・ホルモン(1) のうかすいたいこうようホルモン 12

As you may have noticed, the rule holds true for short words, long words, katakana, and even kanji katakana combinations. Once again, if you know that a word is a compound noun, then all you have to do is look at the pitch number of the last noun unit. If it's not the Middle High pattern, then BAM💥 you know that you need to drop on the first mora of the last noun unit. That's it for today! Thanks for checking out the post and see you next time!

1Minematsu, Nobuaki & Shu, Shunyaku. “OJAD and Its Practical Use for Teaching/Learning Japanese Prosody,” n.d., 27.


Here's a quiz to check your understanding: