What's new

Why don't dictionaries provide pitch accent?

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
I'm quite disappointed that dictionaries, or at least most of them, don't provide pitch accent. Of course Japanese language is phonetic as long as one knows how to say those kana's, one seems to be able to get by. I understand some words such as 箸 and 橋, 花 and 鼻 are very particular in their pitch accent in order to be understood correctly. So I suppose the dictionaries should at least provide the information for such words if it is important. If we only learn by listening, we would not know which or who to follow when pitch accent of most words could change in different context or be tempered with different local accent because we do not know which words have the fixed pitch accent where we can't change no matter what such as the examples given above. We need one to go by when all else fails. I do the same in the English language where there are so many way to pronounce the same word. English words in the dictionaries, be they on the paper or on the web mostly come with phonetic symbols and stress accents, and even information of which to say in different English-speaking countries.

One of the dictionaries on Android phone I used to use, Jsho - Japanese Dictionary - Apps on Google Play provides the pitch accent of some words. However I've found the pronunciation for words recorded for teaching in the textbooks and at some teaching web sites varies from one to the other. Anyway I can no longer use the dictionary because it hasn't got an iPhone version since I switched from an Android phone.
 

jt_

反面教師
Joined
Oct 12, 2004
Messages
476
Reaction score
136
I would imagine lots of J-E/E-J learners' dictionaries don't because there are far more fundamental aspects of grammar, vocabulary and structure that second language learners would be advised to master first before obsessing over pitch accent. After all, if you're speaking in broken Engrish-esque Japanese grammar, your pitch accent could be perfect and you'd still be hard-pressed to have Japanese natives understand you and treat you as a fluent speaker of their language.

That said, many Japanese-Japanese dictionaries do provide pitch accent notation, and I'd recommend that as soon as you feel comfortable reading definitions in Japanese, you switch over to one of those to avoid the native EN learner trap of thinking of everything in terms of English. I believe the 新明解国語辞典 has pitch accent, and 広辞林 might as well. In any event, it's best to find a dictionary that you feel comfortable with and you feel provides you with all the information you're looking for. At the end of the day, it's all about internalizing and feeling comfortable with the target language.
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
Thanks for your advice.
Being a foreign language learner, I try to learn the right thing right at the beginning. I try to avoid having learnt or having got used to something wrong and have to unlearn and relearn again later on, somewhat like learning the language with no kanji's or fewer kanji's where there should be and can't recognize the text in the normal world.

While we're learning grammar and syntax we still have to try to read and remember the sentence as much as possible in order to internalize the usage. We can't just learn the rules without practising applying them. Whenever there is a chance I read or say it loud for ease of memorization. Even though I'm not talking to anyone I still try to act it out and be articulate. I suppose broken Japanese better than nothing, just like pidgin English, Japglish, Singlish and so on. Certainly I would not be discouraged to say words with wrong pitch accent. I just have to keep finding out the correct pitch and rectify later though it might take longer time to get there.
 

Toritoribe

禁漁期
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Feb 22, 2008
Messages
15,481
Reaction score
2,296
Here's a related thread 10 years before.

Unfortunately, Goo辞書 doesn't use 大辞林 anymore, and 大辞泉 doesn't contain pitch accent definitions. One of the reasons why usual dictionaries often don't mention pitch accents of words is because it's not so useful just to provide pitch accent of each word. It's necessary to mention about compound words or conjugation forms of verbs/adjectives to pronounce words correctly. You can buy a pitch accent dictionary, if you need.

 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
Thanks!
You seem to say 大辞林 does provide pitch accent. I notice my iPhone6 does have two built-in Japanese dictionary. One is スーパー大辞林 and the other is ウィズグム英和辞典.. I tried the word 橋.the latter didn't come up with はし but きゅう only. The former comes up with both pronunciations, i.e.はし and きゅう. Though the former is only in Japanese language I can see there is no mention of pitch accent. I had wished that would fit the bill.

I understand that pitch accent could vary with context and dialects. Do I understand correctly that words like 箸 and 橋, 花 and 鼻 and the similar would never ever change in terms of pitch accent under all circumstances because any change could mean change in meaning too. As far as you know, would the dictionaries that provide pitch accent do so for only those with fixed pitch accent or the whole lot? I'm thinking if the pitch accent could vary then there's no point to provide pitch accent. Perhaps standard Japanese have fixed pitch accent with all words regardless. Is it the case?

IMG_0282.PNG
 

Toritoribe

禁漁期
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Feb 22, 2008
Messages
15,481
Reaction score
2,296
Typo:
ウィズム (i.e, wisdom), not ウィズグム

I found that 大辞林 is provided by Weblio辞書. As you can see, it contains pitch accent.

はし [1] 【箸】
(note: [1] means that this word is type 1, i.e., the accent is on the first mora /ハ]シ/.)

はし [2] 【橋】
(This word is type 2 /ハシ]/.)

As mentioned in the thread I linked above, many words have two different types of pitch accent.
e.g.

Generally, pitch accents tend to change to type 0 (flat), which is called アクセントの平板化 in linguistics. It's not fixed in this sense. Actually, the newest NHK日本語発音アクセント新辞典 changed pitch accents of 3300 words from the previous version. Languages are living.
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
Generally, pitch accents tend to change to type 0 (flat)
Under what circumstances do they change?
Are you saying examples like 箸 and 橋 could have their pitch accent change in time? Yes, I agree that language is a living thing and it changes.

Actually I was asking if the pitch accent of the words such as 箸 and 橋 always the same anywhere in Japan at one time or at this time not a period of time into the future. I suspect they should be because if pitch accents vary with places how could one be sure which word one is trying to say. Though we can depend on context I presume one would do so as little as possible if one can help it.

In the meantime I’m aware pitch accent of a lot of words other than those like the examples I gave varies with context and dialects and even with different individuals. Is my understanding correct that most or a lot of words have no fixed pitch accent and up to individual how to say them?
 

Toritoribe

禁漁期
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Feb 22, 2008
Messages
15,481
Reaction score
2,296
Under what circumstances do they change?
Are you saying examples like 箸 and 橋 could have their pitch accent change in time?
As for accent flattening, yes, as time goes by. For instance, ユーザー, 護衛艦 and 断熱材 are type 1 /ユ]ーザー/, type 2 /ゴエ]イカン/, and type 3 /ダンネ]ツザイ/ in the previous edition of NHK Accent Dictionary, respectively, but type 0 is also accepted for these words in the newest edition. (Incidentally, this phenomenon is noticeable especially among young people.)

Actually I was asking if the pitch accent of the words such as 箸 and 橋 always the same anywhere in Japan at one time or at this time not a period of time into the future. I suspect they should be because if pitch accents vary with places how could one be sure which word one is trying to say. Though we can depend on context I presume one would do so as little as possible if one can help it.
Actually, pitch accents of 箸 and 橋 in Kansai dialect are opposite to the standard ones.

standard
箸 type 1 /ハ]シ/
橋 type 2 /ハシ]/

Kansai
箸 type 2 /ハシ]/
橋 type 1 /ハ]シ/

Pitch accent is not the only one way to identify the word. Remember 風邪 vs. 風 or "cold" vs. "a cold" in English. People usually don't confuse chopsticks with brigde since the context shows which the speaker wants to say is. In fact, when people hear that 橋 is pronounced as type 1 in a conversation, they would think the speaker would come from Kansai area instead of misunderstanding it as 箸.

In the meantime I’m aware pitch accent of a lot of words other than those like the examples I gave varies with context and dialects and even with different individuals. Is my understanding correct that most or a lot of words have no fixed pitch accent and up to individual how to say them?
Indeed there can be two or more different pitch accents for a word in standard Japanese, and pitch accents differ depending on dialect, so it's not fixed in this sense, as I wrote in my previous post. However, it's fixed in standard Japanese or in each dialect in another sense. If you use Kansai dialect wordings with standard pitch accents, it sounds odd. (And this is the main reason why it's difficult to make non-native dialects sound natural. It's hard to change pitch accents of words they usually use since that's an unconscious work.)

護衛艦 is type 1 /ゴエ]イカン/ or type 0 /ゴエイカン=/, and never pronounced as type 3 /ゴエイ]カン/ or type 4 /ゴエイカ]ン/ in standard Japanese. If someone says it as type 4 /ゴエイカ]ン/, they would come from southern Kyushu or somewhere, and people around them must use the same pitch accent (i.e. it's "fixed" in that region).

Anyway, you just need to learn correct pitch accent in standard Japanese for your purpose "I would not be discouraged to say words with wrong pitch accent."
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
It sounds like a nightmare to a learner like me.

護衛艦 is type 1 /ゴエ]イカン/ or type 0 /ゴエイカン=/,
Did you mean 護衛艦 is type 2?
Does the equal sign in /ゴエイカン=/ mean type 0?

never pronounced as type 3 /ゴエイ]カン/
Kana such as イ here for extending the sound of エ would never be given the pitch accent, would it?

So all words must belong to a pitch accent type, even though it may be type 0. However the pitch accent of all types could still be changed due to emotion or emphasis at one place in one era. Am I right?

"I would not be discouraged to say words with wrong pitch accent."
This is a qualifying statement, isn't it? Anyway I have no choice because I'm not learning in a Japanese-speaking environment. I would just say it in the way that sounds natural to me for a start and correct it later on when information comes to hand. By the way I've found quite many loan words from the English language have the pitch accent close to the stress of the corresponding English word. What do you think?
 

Toritoribe

禁漁期
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Feb 22, 2008
Messages
15,481
Reaction score
2,296
Did you mean 護衛艦 is type 2?
Oops! Yes, I meant type 2. Sorry.

Does the equal sign in /ゴエイカン=/ mean type 0?
Right.

Kana such as イ here for extending the sound of エ would never be given the pitch accent, would it?
I think I mentioned this somewhere previously, but エイ also can be pronounced as a double vowel "ei" other than a long vowel "ē". When it's type 3, イ is most likely pronounced as "i".

However the pitch accent of all types could still be changed due to emotion or emphasis at one place in one era. Am I right?
Pitch accent of words don't change by emotion or emphasis. The intonation can be changed depending on the context/meaning. 知らない with flat or falling intonation means "I don't know", whereas a rising intonation is a question "Do you know?".

Anyway I have no choice because I'm not learning in a Japanese-speaking environment. I would just say it in the way that sounds natural to me for a start and correct it later on when information comes to hand.
I, too, think that's better. Actually, the priority of pitch accent is lower than 長音 or 拗音 in learning Japanese pronunciation. 病院 びょういん and 美容院 びよういん are totally different, as you would know.

The other day, when I was watching a Japanese TV show, a Korean idol was asked "What is your hobby?" in the program. She answered 笑顔を見ることです, i.e., "(My hobby is) to watch smiles" in Japanese, and then a Japanese member of the same group corrected it to 映画を見ること. If she pronounced 映画を correctly as "ēgao" or "eigao", not "egaoo", even in wrong pitch accents type 2 /エイ]ガオ/ or type 3 /エイガ]オ/, it would be interpreted as 映画.

By the way I've found quite many loan words from the English language have the pitch accent close to the stress of the corresponding English word. What do you think?
Well, I don't think so. Unlike in English, ギター is type 1 or type 0, or タレント is type 0. Many Japanese learners of English are often troubled with these differences between the two languages.
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
Thanks a lot!
Once again you have given a very good and thorough response.
 

nice gaijin

Resident Realist
Staff member
Moderator
Donor
Joined
Aug 8, 2005
Messages
5,364
Reaction score
564
Even as a Japanese learner who has studied Japanese phonology to a small extent, pitch accent is in the realm of relatively minor points that you can pretty much skip altogether without ever being in danger of being misunderstood, if only because the context will make your meaning clear. You'll learn about a few exceptional pitch accent homonym pairs, and maybe a couple other words that you may "mispronounce," but mostly you'll be able to "get it" from listening to and imitating the pronunciation of native speakers (using the standard dialect, at least). Ask your friends to correct you if they hear you accenting the wrong thing.

Trying to think of it as a system that can be learned and integrated is probably more likely to lead to frustration than a breakthrough. Copy what you've heard, and when in doubt, just speak in a flat accent.
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
Thanks for your advice!
Certainly I will have to do what you say.

I’m learning solo in a non-Japanese speaking environment. Neither do I have even any Japanese acquaintance.

I supposed it would be alright if I just soldiered on and corrected my mistakes when information came to hand. I certainly agree that pitch accent plays a very small part in expressing ourselves in Japanese. I just try to be perfect if I can.

Thanks again for your advice.
 

nice gaijin

Resident Realist
Staff member
Moderator
Donor
Joined
Aug 8, 2005
Messages
5,364
Reaction score
564
Thanks for your advice!
Certainly I will have to do what you say.

I’m learning solo in a non-Japanese speaking environment. Neither do I have even any Japanese acquaintance.

I supposed it would be alright if I just soldiered on and corrected my mistakes when information came to hand. I certainly agree that pitch accent plays a very small part in expressing ourselves in Japanese. I just try to be perfect if I can.

Thanks again for your advice.
In that case, I recommend trying to find some streams, shows (dramas and variety/human interest shows that highlight regular folks), or movies to give you exposure and listening practice. You can use the people in the shows as models for your own speech, but bear in mind that fictional characters are just that, and are sometimes given unique specs patterns as a kind of special characteristic. Anime is particularly prone to this, so I don't recommend modeling your Japanese after anime characters...
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
Thanks again!

I shall certainly do what you have recommended when I get to certain competency.
 

Majestic

先輩
Joined
Oct 12, 2013
Messages
1,683
Reaction score
655
Just out of curiosity, how long have you been studying? Are you fairly conversational already?
 

healer

Sempai
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
327
Reaction score
2
I haven’t got people to talk with yet. I suppose I’m not confident enough yet.

I started years ago but dropped when I had family and personal commitments. Probably that was not counted.

I started again last year and I’ve been through elementary courses on textbooks and web sites a few times. I’ve found that I need to go through them again and again trying to memorise syntax and words. I suppose that’s what I need trying to internalize them. Every now and then question comes up when I go through again.
 

Majestic

先輩
Joined
Oct 12, 2013
Messages
1,683
Reaction score
655
I see. In that case I second Nice Gaijin's very good recommendation of finding a Japanese-language drama or show that can help reinforce the structures you already know. I wouldn't worry too much about pitch at this stage. Let me repeat what has already been said; context will almost always erase any ambiguities which might be caused by incorrect pitch placement.
 
Top