I am currently studying 日本語 and I am trying to understand the pronunciation difference between (peach) and (thigh). Both can be written as もも in kana and sound practically the same to me when my tutor pronounces them to me, but she tells me that there is a difference in terms of the pronunciation, though I can't figure out what it is and thus how to say them properly.

So what is the difference in pronunciation? Is it stress? Accent? And how do I pronounce them so that a 日本人 can tell which one of them it is that I mean?


1 Answer 1


The difference is in the pitch accent.

桃 (peach):「もも{LH}」 (Low-High)

腿 (thigh):「もも{HL}」 (High-Low)

That is a huge difference to us native speakers because it changes the meanings of the words completely.

If there is a musical instrument around you, try doing the following.

Hit 'do-mi' as you say 「桃」 and hit 'mi-do' as you try to say 「腿」.

Other examples from simple everyday words:

Low-High 「〇〇{LH}」: 「飴{あめ}」= hard candy,「橋{はし}」= bridge,「居間{いま}」= living room

High-Low 「〇〇{HL}」:「雨{あめ}」= rain,「箸{はし}」= chopsticks,「今{いま}」= now

(Finally, even at the risk of confusing some, I might mention for the advanced learners that the (feminine) given name 「桃/もも/モモ」 is pronounced the same way as 「腿」 --- 「もも{HL}」, that is. This is an exception but it is a fact, so I had to say it.

Same thing with 「雪{ゆき}」. To mean "snow", it is pronounced 「ゆき{LH}」, but for a personal name, it is 「ゆき{HL}」.)

Note: All pronunciations above are naturally based on Standard Japanese.

  • There's also the distinction between low-high + gradually falling, and low-high + immediate downstep: 端が is はしが{LHH} with pitch pattern 0 (no downstep), whereas 橋が is はしが{LHL} with pitch pattern 2 (downstep after second mora). I'm curious -- when pronounced in isolation (without particles), is there any perceivable difference between patterns 0 and 2? Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:41
  • @l'électeur You bring up an interesting point about pitch-accent and names. This is an area I find especially difficult because there are no authoritative resources I can find to help study this. For standard items of vocabulary, a pitch-accent dictionary can tell you all you need to know, making it easy to incorporate that information into your studies. But for names, there is no such equivalent. I am currently in the process of learning around 3000 first names/last names, but the lack of pitch-accent information is disheartening.
    – kandyman
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:04

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