My understanding of phrase-level Japanese pitch accent is that each "unit" initially has low pitch, followed by high pitch (LH), then a drop after the accented syllable, if there is one. As such, apart from a "reset" of the pitch, there can never be another LH contour after the initial LH, since an accent can only either cause an HL contour, or maintain an existing LL pattern.

But for larger units -- different types of phrases, or multiple phrases, what does a "unit" correspond to? When should pitch accent be 'reset'?

Also, what happens with single-syllable accented words like 蚊? Does 蚊は have accent LL, with the rest of the phrase in L as well?

1 Answer 1


For words which are called 'accentless' (ex: 端) which end on a high pitch, that pitch is continued to the following word (including particles). That pitch can be continued across several words depending on whether the words in the middle have accents or not.


L    H ・H H ・H L

L    H ・H・H・ H L

Here, "行った" and "気” are both accentless.

In both cases, the last word (ある and する) have HL accent pattern (to begin with), so the accent of the phrase drops there.

Another place where accent carries over is in compound words, for example:

あお・じゃしん  (青写真)
L H ・H L  L

Normally, あお is (HL) and しゃしん is (LHH), but in a compound word you can see the accent stays high across their boundary.

Here is an article I wrote some time back about this with some more details.

For your last question, according to this dictionary, 蚊 is accentless so it's accent would carry onto the next word(s) until there is a drop in accent.

  • You're right, I think I misremembered about 蚊. But about こと, isn't the accent [こと ]{LHL}? Shouldn't the drop to L therefore occur on あ of ある?
    – jogloran
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 23:26
  • Yes, basically the pitch drops after こと and further does after あ. Binary method is not enough to express this. (Sometimes, やむことのない is pronounced as if the whole phrase is one word, though.)
    – user4092
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 0:49
  • I was pretty sure I had my pitch for this specific phrase corrected by a native speaker so that 行ったことある did not fall during the こと, but I will double check and respond back later.
    – Locksleyu
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 1:02
  • You're okay to say 行ったことのある{LHHHHHHL} but only 行ったこと{LHHHL}ある{HL}. But as @user4092 said the latter actually has cumulative downstep that is not describable in this notation. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 7:35
  • 1
    @Locksleyu Hmm... My judgments are ○行ったことの{LHHHLL}ある{HL} ○行ったことのある{LHHHHHHL} ×行った{LHH}ことの{LHH}ある{HL} ○行ったことが{LHHHHL}ある{HL} ×行ったことがある{LHHHHHHL} ○行った{LHH}ことが{LHL}ある{HL} ○行ったこと{LHHHL}ある{HL} ×行ったことある{LHHHHHL} ×行った{LHH}こと{LH}ある{HL}, so the mentioned one is unacceptable. I'm unsure how much difference exists among speakers though. Commented May 1, 2016 at 12:25

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