Pitch Accent?

おはようございます皆さん!This is my first time posting here. I usually just scroll through the forums, but I haven't come across anyone asking about this, so I decided I should ask myself.

Do you guys have any tips for the Japanese pitch accent? I heard there are pitch-phrases and of course pitched-words, but I don't know of any sources to learn the pitch of words/phrases, or of the general structure of pitch (for the Tokyo-dialect at least).

Wait, another question: I have one more. What are the て-forms for the endings? As in ます、です、ました、エトセトラ。Mostly curious for polite, but if you want to add in informal as well I don't mind.

September 26, 2018


Hi! My advice is to concentrate on the pronunciation provided by Duo and not bother much about learning pitch. It is not taught in courses and does not figure in most dictionaries because it does not actually cause misunderstandings in context. Furthermore, pitch varies between prefectures, and an unaccented Japanese is perfectly fine for all purposes. Usually, only people like voice actors and news announcers would need to study it for their work.

The endings do not have te-forms because they are endings, and te-forms are used to attach more things to the word. Sometimes, in very formal occasions, you can hear mashite for masu and deshite for desu, but people whose job it is to know etiquette will tell you that that is grammatically incorrect. Mashite does exist in some set phrases such as hajimemashite or tsudzukimashite, but outside of those, you're supposed to use the plain (dictionary) forms to make te-forms. So, instead of saying tabemashite kara ie wo demashita, you're supposed to say tabete kara ie wo demashita. Hope this helps!

September 26, 2018

Hello! Ahh, ok, ok. I've been trying to get the te-form under my belt recently (well, trying to at least) and I would hear the endings in what I was guessing to be te-form.

I see your point considering context will probably erase ambiguity anyways unless I just say 「はし!」and nothing more, or かんじ。"Wha? Are you talking about bridges or chopsticks? Chinese characters or feelings? Answer me man!", Though I'm debating whether to trust the pronunciation on Duolingo since I believe it to be a robot? It's not like in the Esperanto course where it sounds like a genuinely real person, though maybe that's just me and I'm going crazy. But I'll try to follow your suggestions as closely as I possibly can.

Thank you for answering all my questions :)! In such a quick time too.

September 26, 2018

I don't know much for sources on pitch, usually if I come across a homophone written I'll look the new word up individually to see if there's a way to distinguish them. Like Ame - rain vs aME - candy. In general Japanese isn't a very tonal language so these kinds of words are pretty few and far between.

The -te form is a conjugation of a verb used for the command form and for creating the present-continuous tense. Masu, mashita, etc are conjugation endings themselves and not verbs. Masu being present and Mashita being past polite. There IS a polite "mashite" te form of masu but it is very rare, very polite, and mostly only used in set phrases (hajimemashite). The -te form of masu is never used in requests as the general -te form of verbs is. Desu isn't technically a verb but the te form for desu is de or de arimashite, usually only used mid-sentence for combining phrases, otherwise usually left in plain form and most lessons on the te form don't even cover it.

Japanese Ammo with Misa on youtube has a good series on the various ways and uses to the te form I highly recommend.

September 26, 2018

Oooooh, I see! This helps me so much, thank you! I thought more words were harder to distinguish. And I see, so only desu will commonly go into te-form (in the middle of sentences/combining sentences at least)? I'll make sure to get check out Misa's te-form series as well.

Also, I love your profile picture! Levi is one of my favorite characters :); I really need to catch up on the latest chapters of the manga.

September 26, 2018

Pitch accent will matter in this case: パンツ and パンツ. They look exactly the same but depending on if ツ is pronounced with a higher pitch or a lower pitch. One will mean pants while the other means underpants.

September 26, 2018

Do you mind telling me which pitch means what? I already accidentally say underwear when speaking to someone in the UK, don't want to make the same mistake in Japanese! Not as often at least.

September 26, 2018

I think it's the higher pitched one that means pants. I'm not completely sure.

September 26, 2018

はし means either bridge or chopsticks depending on rising or falling pitch, but I don't remember which is which. I can't think of a case where there would be real confusion.

September 27, 2018

For chopsticks the first syllable is higher and for bridge the second syllable is higher. Edge is also hashi and should have an even tone (or be accented on the following particle if there is one).

September 27, 2018

The Eleanor Harz Jorden Beginning Japanese textbook from the 1960s taught sentence and word pitch contours.

て is an ending in itself.

たべる、たべます、たべて いはす




and so on. Nearly all of the forms are regular, if you know the verb classes.

September 27, 2018

The term pitch accent makes it sounds more complicated than it needs to be. In most ways it is extremely similar to English stress accent. In English to stress a particular syllable we say it louder, more forcefully, and higher in pitch. In Japanese, they only say it higher in pitch without the extra volume and force. It makes English speakers sound louder and rougher to the Japanese, but English speakers hardly notice the difference.

There are complicated rules about what pitch sentences start and end in and how certain grammatical structures effect pitch, but they are only important if you want to sound like you are from a particular region or are a newscaster on TV. If having a perfect standard Japanese pronunciation is important to you, then I recommend Beginning Japanese by Eleanor Hard Jorden. She uses an unusual system of romaji, but she includes ALL the details on pitch.

September 27, 2018

Te on its own means "please do". It's pretty casual but also nice. If you wanted to make it rude, you would use the "ro" form.

やめて - please stop (casual)

やめて ください - please stop (keigo/kinda the masu form)

やめろ - Stop! (really rude)

Desu doesn't exactly have a te form (its complicated, but if you're asking someone to please be, you'll usually use the verb して instead) and masu is a verb ending as opposed to a verb in its own right.

September 27, 2018

Well, I'm new here, so I'm in the same situation you are. Also, I like you profile pic. What anime is that? It looks like Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul.

September 26, 2018

It's fanart of Konoha from the Kagerou Project series, which is a song series actually, but it has an anime. Mekakucity Actors and I think Mekakucity Reload. Just google Konoha Kokonose, and it'll be one of the first images to pop up :).

But yeah, if all else fails, I think listening to NHK News or anything you know for sure will be in the Tokyo dialect's pitch, listen to it and repeat. Probably what I'll do once I get better at Japanese.

September 26, 2018

Well when asking Questions i really just depends on what your asking. 例えば: どうしてそんなことをしました!!or Dōshite son'na koto o shimashita! ! you would changeyour pitch.

October 2, 2018
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