PA 101: PA Categories

snphan | Oct. 9, 2021, 8:44 p.m.

Welcome back! ๐Ÿ‘‹

Today we are going to go over the types of pitch accent patterns that appear in Standard Japanese. This is arguably one of the most important concepts (if not the most important) in pitch accents that you can learn. As mentioned in the previous post, learning and mastering these patterns will get you 50%+ of the way to having a natural Japanese Pitch Accent Pronunciation. These definitions are taken straight out of the NHKๆ—ฅๆœฌ่ชž็™บ้Ÿณใ‚ขใ‚ฏใ‚ปใƒณใƒˆๆ–ฐ่พžๅ…ธ1—a literal bible for everything and anything Japanese pitch accent related (this is not sponsored ๐Ÿ˜).   

There are four distinct patterns in standard Japanese Pitch Accent ๅนณๆฟๅž‹(ใธใ„ใฐใ‚“ใŒใŸ), ้ ญ้ซ˜ๅž‹(ใ‚ใŸใพใ ใ‹ใŒใŸ), ไธญ้ซ˜ๅž‹(ใชใ‹ใ ใ‹ใŒใŸ), and ๅฐพ้ซ˜ๅž‹(ใŠใ ใ‹ใŒใŸ). Let's go over what each of them means.


ๅนณๆฟๅž‹ - Flat Pattern

This is probably the only time that flat is ever mentioned in the world of Japanese Pitch Accents. The "Flat Pattern" in Japanese starts low, rises at the end of the first mora, and stays high even to any particles that may be attached to the word. If you are thinking that you might have seen this somewhere, you are correct! In the previous post, we looked at the word ไผš็คพใƒปใ‹ใ„ใ—ใ‚ƒ that had the following pitch accent:


This is exactly the "Flat Pattern" pattern. Some other examples of the "Flat Pattern" Pattern are shown in the table below.

Word Pitch Accent Pattern
ๆ„›ๆƒ… ใ‚ใ„ใ˜ใ‚‡ใ†(ใ‚’)
ๆกœ ใ•ใใ‚‰(ใŒ)
้ฃด ใ‚ใ‚(ใŒ)
็ฆๆ–ญ ใใ‚“ใ ใ‚“(ใฎ)
ๅฎ‰ๅฟƒ ใ‚ใ‚“ใ—ใ‚“(ใช)
ๆš—้ป’ ใ‚ใ‚“ใ“ใ(ใฎ)


้ ญ้ซ˜ๅž‹ - Head High Pattern

The "Head High" pattern has a pattern that looks exactly like it sounds. It starts high, drops (called a ๆ ธใƒปใ‹ใ) after the first mora and then stays low to any particles that may be attached to the word. This is pretty much the "Flat" Pattern flipped upside-down!  We've seen this pattern before in PA 101: Notation's ๆ–‡ๅญฆใƒปใถใ‚“ใŒใ. 


Some other examples of the "Head High" Pattern can be found in the table below:

Word Pitch Accent Pattern
้›จ ใ‚ใ‚(ใŒ)
็ฎธ ใฏใ—(ใŒ)
ๆ‚ชๅคข ใ‚ใใ‚€(ใŒ)
ๆกๆ‰‹ ใ‚ใใ—ใ‚…(ใ‚’)
ๆ„ๆ€ ใ„ใ—(ใŒ)
้‹ๅ‘ฝ ใ†ใ‚“ใ‚ใ„(ใ‚’)


ไธญ้ซ˜ๅž‹ - Middle High Pattern

Next, we have the "Middle High" Pattern. As the name suggests, the "Middle High" Pattern has its pitch high in the middle. The pitch starts low, rises at the end of the first mora, and finally drops somewhere before the last mora (because as you will see very soon, dropping after the last mora is another category of Pitch Accents). Unlike the previous two patterns, there will be some variation in the look of the "Middle High" Pattern; they won't look all the same. Let's look at some examples.

Word Pitch Accent Pattern
ๆกˆๅ†… ใ‚ใ‚“ใชใ„(ใ‚’)
ๆ…ฐ่ฌๆ–™ ใ„ใ—ใ‚ƒใ‚Šใ‚‡ใ†(ใ‚’)
็คพไบค่พžไปค ใ—ใ‚ƒใ“ใ†ใ˜ใ‚Œใ„(ใŒ)
ๆ‰‹็ถšใ ใฆใคใฅใ(ใŒ)
ๅ……้›ปๅ™จ ใ˜ใ‚…ใ†ใงใ‚“ใ(ใŒ)
ๆŸ”่ปŸไฝ“ๆ“ ใ˜ใ‚…ใ†ใชใ‚“ใŸใ„ใใ†(ใŒ)

As you can see, the portion of the word that is high can vary from word to word. **Teaser ๐Ÿ˜ถ** There is a type of notation used to differentiate the various lengths of various words that we will discuss in the next post, so stay tuned!


ๅฐพ้ซ˜ๅž‹ - Tail High Pattern

The final pattern that you will want to know is the "Tail High" Pattern. This pattern begins like the "Flat" and "Middle High" Patterns but ends a bit differently. For the "Tail High" Pattern, the pitch begins low, rises after the first mora, and drops right after the last mora of the word. The word ็”ทใƒปใŠใจใ“ follows the "Tail High" Pattern.


Below are are some examples of the "Tail High" Pattern.

Word Pitch Accent Pattern
ๆฉ‹ ใฏใ—(ใŒ)
ๅฆน ใ„ใ‚‚ใ†ใจ(ใŒ)
็Šฌ ใ„ใฌ(ใŒ)
ไผ‘ใฟ ใ‚„ใ™ใฟ(ใŒ)
่ฉฑ ใฏใชใ—(ใŒ)
ๅบ— ใฟใ›(ใŒ)

These more or less look similar to each other, just like the "Flat" and "Head High" Pattern. The only pattern that may have a pitch that varies from word to word is the "Middle High" Pattern.


่ตทไผๅž‹ - Up and Down Pattern Group

The ้ ญ้ซ˜ๅž‹, ไธญ้ซ˜ๅž‹, and ๅฐพ้ซ˜ๅž‹, patterns can be grouped together into the ่ตทไผๅž‹ใƒปใใตใใŒใŸ Pattern Group. This word consists of ่ตท "Getting Up," and ไผ "Bowing Down" similar to how the pitch accent pattern looks for ้ ญ้ซ˜ๅž‹, ไธญ้ซ˜ๅž‹, and ๅฐพ้ซ˜ๅž‹: it rises and falls. Knowing this group is important because when we go to do conjugations for verbs and adjectives, depending on whether the stem of the verb or adjective follows the ๅนณๆฟๅž‹ or the ่ตทไผๅž‹, the pitch accent pattern will be different. The ่ตทไผๅž‹ Pattern Group will be covered again in a later post, so don't worry about it too much now.  


ใŠใ•ใ‚‰ใ„ - Review

In summary:

Category Example Variable?
ๅนณๆฟๅž‹ ๆกœใ€€ใ•ใใ‚‰(ใŒ) No
้ ญ้ซ˜ๅž‹ ็ฎธใ€€ใฏใ—(ใŒ) No
ไธญ้ซ˜ๅž‹ ๆกˆๅ†…ใ€€ใ‚ใ‚“ใชใ„(ใ‚’) Yes
ๅฐพ้ซ˜ๅž‹ ๆฉ‹ใ€€ใฏใ—(ใŒ) No

If you take a look at the pitch patterns side-by-side, it becomes clear that 3 out of 4 patterns start low and go high right after the first mora. It can be safe to assume that you will be right most of the time, in terms of pitch, if you start low and go high right after the first mora. In any case, try to produce a pitch that fits within these 4 patterns and you should be good to go โ›ณ. Some examples of pitch patterns to avoid are (using some gibberish words as placeholders for moras):


ใ‚ใ‚ใ‚ใ‚ใ‚ใ‚ใ‚ใ‚  โŒ

(the above pattern doesn't exist, there is no pattern that starts and stays high for 4 moras)


ใ„ใ„ใ„ใ„ใ„ใ„ใ„ใ„  โŒ

(once again the above pattern doesn't exist, if the pitch starts low, then it must rise by the end of the first mora.)


ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†  โŒ

ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ†ใ† ? โœ”

(the first part of this pitch pattern seems right, but the pitch at the end of the word goes up, which doesn't exist. The only time when this could be right is when there is a question mark attached to it)

There can be a lot of "Wrong" Patterns that can happen but with JPAD's "Practice" feature you can find out what your pitch is doing and try to match your pitch to the standard 4 presented in this post. There's also a comprehensive summary of these categories on "Parser," so bookmark the page to always have PA 101 with you on hand.

That's it for this post! Check out the quiz to test your understanding and see you in the next one โœจ!