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I tried using an anki plugin (https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/932119536) to display the pitch accent of words I'm learning. Some of the words I tried entering showed multiple possibilities for the same word. For example, it shows that 二つ rises on た, but may or may not drop つ. Its the same with 三つ. 夜間 can either start high and drop after や, or rise on か.

I am looking for the "officially correct" accent of Tokyo Japanese. I saw an official pitch-accent book by NHK somewhere. I'm thinking about something like that.

So my question is, do some words really have more than one possible accent? I know the accent can be modified for any word by the situation, emotion, etc..., but will an official pitch-accent dictionary list multiple accents. The plugin I used does it automatically (although it claims they originated from NHK) so I'm worried there could be errors.

Lastly, I do not plan to memorize the pitch-accent for every single word in Japanese. I'm only using this to get the basics.

I know that was off topic, but I thought I should add it in for the sake of those who pop up out of nowhere to criticize study habits:)

  • ふたつ and みっつ always have downstep after つ, and 夜間 is やかん{HLL}, unless they're components of compound. – user4092 Mar 11 '16 at 4:24
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    ^ ふたつ and みっつ always have downstep after つ >> Really? I pronounce them as [ふたつあります]{LHHHHHL}, [みっつください]{LHHHHHL} as well as [ふたつの]{LHHL}~~ [みっつの]{LHHL}~~ – Chocolate Mar 11 '16 at 6:29
  • I overlooked adverbial usages. – user4092 Mar 14 '16 at 2:25
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I have a copy of the 新明解日本語アクセント辞典 dictionary (my detailed review of it) somewhere and I remember seeing multiple entries for some of the words.

While I have looked up a few words in it and also utilized Japanese electronic dictionaries that have audio samples for certain words, overall I've found that I learn more about pitches from paying careful attention when listening to things like podcasts and other media. However, if you were literally trying to get every one of your words to have correct pitch, I think the above book could come in handy.

When you hear a common word you think you might use yourself (i.e. 英語), you can try and repeat what you just heard, or rewind and re-listen to hear the exact pitch pattern used.

If you are serious about learning Japanese pitch accent, you might want to learn some related rules like how pitch of certain words changes when they are in combination with others, or how a high accent can effect subsequent word(s). Also, learning the common pitch patterns also helps you narrow down what to hear for (for example, you will never hear high-low-high in a word, as far as I know).

Also, regarding your comment that pitches can change based on emotion - I feel that while there can be a change in emphasis, loudness, or relative pitches, the overall pattern doesn't change that much, even if someone is agitated or upset.

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It shows that 二つ rises on た, but may or may not drop つ. It's the same with 三つ.

In standard Japanese, 2つ and 3つ are pronounced as [ふたつ]{LHH} and [みっつ]{LHH}, rising on た and not dropping on つ.

The pitch after the つ depends on what follows it:

[ふたつの]{LHHL}~~
[みっつに]{LHHL}なった
[ふたつしか]{LHHLL}ない
[みっつも]{LHHL}ある
[みっつあります]{LHHHHHL}
[ふたつください]{LHHHHHL}


夜間 can either start high and drop after や, or rise on か.

As far as I know, 夜間 is pronounced as [やかん]{HLL} when used by itself or followed by a particle, e.g:

[やかんの]{HLLL}がいしゅつ(夜間の外出)
[やかん]{HLL}、およびきゅうじつ(夜間、及び休日)

and as [やかん]{LHH} when followed by another noun to form a compound word, e.g:

[やかん]{LHH}[がっこう]{HLLL}(夜間学校)
[やかん]{LHH}[ひこう]{HLL}(夜間飛行)

... and many words with a [XXX]{HLL}... pitch act the same way:

家族 -> 「[かぞくで]{HLLL}」 「[かぞくりょこう]{LHHHHLL}(家族旅行)」
京都 -> 「[きょうとに]{HHLLL}」 「[きょうとほうめん]{LLHHHLLL}(京都方面)」
音楽 -> 「[おんがくを]{HLLLL}」 「[おんがくかい]{LHHHLL}(音楽会)」
義務 -> 「[ぎむだ]{HLL}」 「[ぎむきょういく]{LHHHLLL}(義務教育)


Do some words really have more than one possible accent?

Yes, for example:

熊 -> [くま]{HL} / [くま]{LH}
鏡 -> [かがみ]{LHH} / [かがみ]{LHL}
心 -> [こころ]{LHL} / [こころ]{LHH}

I'm sure there should be more.


will an official pitch-accent dictionary list multiple accents.

I believe it does, since they're discussing which alternative accents they should be listing in the revised edition: 『NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典』改訂 調査結果にもとづく作業方針の検討

I saw an official pitch-accent book by NHK somewhere.

Here it is. And for more learning resources, check this thread.

  • 「夜間動物救急センター」などでは、どうして「[やかん]{HLL} [どうぶつ]{LHHH}[きゅうきゅう]{HHHHHH}[センター]{HLLL}」になるのかは、よくわかりません… – Chocolate Mar 15 '16 at 9:52
  • As someone from the younger generation (not sure if I'm allowed to say this!) I tend to pronounce it as [どーぶつきゅーきゅーセンター]{HHHHHHHHHHHLLL}. Even 動物園 as [どーぶつえん]{HHHHLL} – nodakai Mar 15 '16 at 18:20
  • "日本語 平板化" でぐぐると色々出てきます ninjal.ac.jp/publication/catalogue/kokken_mado/09/04 nhk.or.jp/gendai/kiroku/detail02_3714_all.html – nodakai Mar 16 '16 at 8:51
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    この記法で東京式アクセントを表記する限り、「どうぶつえん{HHHHLL}」のような1-2拍目が平らの語はないように思います。ふつう「平板型」と呼んでいるのも「 カレシ{LHH}」の類いです。もっとも、音声学的にはアクセント核に向けてまっすぐ上るので、そう聞こえるのは間違いではないですが、本当の真っ平らなアクセントというのは「われわれは{HHHHH}うちゅうじんだ{HHHHHHH}」のようなものを指します。 – broccoli forest Mar 17 '16 at 11:21
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    @user4092 あれ、ごめんなさい、誤読してたら申し訳ないのですがこれってイントネーションの話題でしたっけ。完全に文節単体で発音する前提で考えていました。 – broccoli forest Mar 27 '16 at 5:20

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