1 Context: NPIs Induce Pitch Changes

In Japanese, when various words are used as a Negative Polarity Item (NPI), their pitch often changes to Heiban. For example, this post illustrates this with なんの:

  • なんの used to mean "of what": [なんの話ですか?]{HLL} ("What are you talking about?")
  • なんの used as NPI: [なんの役にも立たない本]{LHH} ("A completely useless book")

Other NPIs that induce pitch changes: The following words are pronounced Heiban when used with も to form NPIs (where ない isn't just "ない", but can be any negative verb):

  • 少し: [すこしも〜ない]{LHHH}
  • どう: [どうも~ない]{LHH}, [どうにも~ない]{LHHH}
  • 誰: [だれも~ない]{LHH}
  • 何: [なにも~ない]{LHH}, [なんでもない]{LHHH}
  • Many other cases..

2 What about PPIs?

Question: Are there any special pitch rules with Positive Polarity Indicators (PPIs)? Apparently, 何でもいい is pronounced なんでもいい{LHHH}. Is this just a special phrase, or does the pattern generalize?

娘は好き嫌いが全然なくて、何でも食べてくれる。 ([なんでも]{LHHH}?)

My daughter isn't picky at all, and she'll eat anything.

ピアノ、ギター、ドラム…彼はどれも上手に弾ける。 ([ どれも]{LHH}?)

Piano, guitar, drums…he can play all of them well.

私がお店に入ったとき、彼女はいつもいる。 ([いつも]{LHH}?)

When I enter the store, she's always there.


Anyone can solve a simple problem like this.


With this I can read a book at any time.

Are these PPI cases correct? Does anybody know if there's a resource which catalogs these sort of NPI/PPI pitch changes?

2 Answers 2


Yes, except for いつも, which is [いつも]{HLL}.

どれも tends to be [どれも]{HLL}, too, but どれでも becomes [どれでも]{LHHH}.

(I was confused because you put だれも next to the sample sentence with どれも.)


For the question word + も pattern, yes, they do. But I would say that they may or may not be 平板 in positive sentences, while defaulted to be 平板 as negative polarity items. Exceptions are: いくらも{HLLL}, いくつも{HLLL}, いくばくも{HLLLL} (all means "not ... much of amount") and composite question words like なんかいも{HLLLL}/なんかいも{LHHLL} (何回), なんびょうも{HLLLLL} (何秒), etc.

Also, the farther question word sits from も, the more it tends to retain original accents even being NPIs. You likely hear だれからの{LHHHH}相談ない but だれから{HLLL}教わったわけでない.

Note that some words are already lexicalized with fixed accents for specific meanings, such as:

  • 何も: this exact form is no longer used as positive "everything, anything" (but derived 何でも, 何からも are valid; same hereafter)

    • 何 + が/を + も (nominative): use すべて, 全部, 何もかも (all nouns) etc.

    • なにも{HLL}: a modality item "not necessarily (have to), don't go that far"

      なにも{HLL}言わなくてもいい (=わざわざ言わなくてもいい) You don't have to voice/mention that.
      なにも{LHH}言わなくてもいい You don't need to say anything.

  • 誰も: this exact form is no longer used as positive "everyone, anyone"

    • 誰もが (nominative)
    • 誰をも (accusative, bookish)
    • or; みんな, 全員, 誰もかも etc.
    • だれも{HLL}: a modality item "who said?" rather than plain "nobody"

      だれも{HLL}行きたいとは言っていない e.g. When did I say I want to go?
      だれも{LHH}行きたいとは言っていない No one said they wanted to go.

  • いつも{HLL}: いつ + も generally has no negative meaning; use 決して, 絶対, ~したことがない etc. for "never" (antonym of "always")

    いつも{HLL}来ない always absent
    いつまでも{HLL}来ない take forever to come

  • どうも{HLL}, どうにも{HLLL}: idioms to mean "somewhat; only end up to; can hardly" or you may be familiar with the greeting expression どうも "hi; hello"

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