PA 101: Pitch Numbers

snphan | Oct. 11, 2021, 4:38 a.m.

Heya! 🙌

We are just about finished with the PA 101 Series. Thanks for sticking around and hope you learned something useful. In today's post, we will be looking at how "drop" locations are communicated in the world of Japanese Pitch Accent. You will, by the end of this post, know how to represent 平板型 "Flat," 頭高型 "Head High," and 尾高型 "Tail High"  Pitch Accent Patterns numerically. We will also go over how to differentiate the different forms of the 中高型 "Middle High" Patterns numerically. With that said, let's jump right in 🚀.


The most important takeaway from this post is that the pitch number shows which mora to drop the pitch at.


What exactly does this mean? Well... let's look at some examples:

If we have a word with a pitch number of 2️⃣, then this would mean that the pitch drops at the end of the second mora. Of course, we will still need to follow the constraints imposed by the four categories of Pitch Accent Patterns (平板型, 頭高型, 中高型, 尾高型). So, for the word 化粧水・けしょうすい which has a pitch accent pattern of 2️⃣, we would expect the pitch to drop on the second mora しょ (remembering that the pitch starts low and rises after the first mora). Thus, the pitch pattern is as follows:


As you might recall, this pattern is the 中高型 Pattern.


What about 案内 with a pitch number 3️⃣? Once again, the pitch starts low, rises after the first mora, and drops at the 3rd mora. The pitch pattern would be 中高型 and look something like this. 



What does 箸 with a pitch pattern of 1️⃣ look like? This means that we drop at the first mora... Where have we seen this before? (Hint: 頭高型)

With this concept in mind, how would we represent the 尾高型 pattern? If the pitch number is equal to the number of moras that a word has, then the pitch number represents the 尾高型 pattern (so if you see anywhere on the internet that there is a pitch number that is greater than the number of moras in the word, then you are being scammed 😜). For example, the 3-mora word はなし has a pitch number of 3️⃣. We expect the pitch to drop on the 3rd mora of the word which gives the following pitch pattern:


That's just about everything! The concept of "Pitch Number" can extend to huge compound words with more than 10 moras. Once again, the pitch number indicates the location of the drop.

There is only one special pitch number case where the pitch number is 0️⃣. You can think of this pitch number representing a pattern that has zero drops. There is only one pattern that doesn't drop and that's the 平板型 Pattern. Using an example for the previous post: 


That pretty much wraps up pitch numbers for Standard Japanese Pitch Accent. Thanks for tuning in and don't forget that there's a comprehensive summary of pitch numbers on "Parser,"! Here is a table summarizing what was covered today.


Category Pitch Number (m=# of Moras) Example
平板型 0️⃣ くら
頭高型 1️⃣  (箸)
中高型 2️⃣~(m-1) しょうすいんな 
尾高型 m なし


Check out the quiz to test your understanding 😊 Once you are done with the quiz, there is one more topic on sentence-level pitch accent that we need to cover before we get into the nitty-gritty of noun-chain pitch accent patterns, adjective conjugations and verb conjugations. Have a great day!