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I learnt that a word like 花 (はな) is of pitch pattern (2), i.e. with a drop after the last mora in case it is followed by a particle. Yet, when I hear people use a word like this is combination with the -を particle, it sounds to me like it is of pitch pattern (0), i.e. with no drop at all (accentless). Take, for instance, the sentence 花を買いました, where I cannot detect a drop.

My ear is not very trained in that sense, so I might be mistaken; but I have heard a lot of similar sentences in which I cannot detect a drop.

Can somebody confirm/refute my hunch? Even better, does anybody know the general rule (assuming there is one) in relation to the -を particle, and perhaps even related to other very common particles, such as -が, -は and -に?

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  • Can you hear the drop in the example 「戦車が花を轢き潰す。」 given here?
    – jukbot
    Jul 20, 2018 at 9:54
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    「花を買いました」は「[はなを]{LHL}~」って言うと思いますが・・ 「鼻をかみました」だと「[はなを]{LHH}~」になりますけど。
    – chocolate
    Jul 21, 2018 at 2:37
  • Yes, I can hear the drop very clearly in the example sentence included in the link you posted, @jukbot Thanks for that! It strange that it is absent in the soundbites I am listening to...
    – Pregunto
    Jul 21, 2018 at 10:01

1 Answer 1

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You would need to provide an actual audio file for a concrete answer, but it's possibly what you are observing is something called 語尾上げ{ごびあげ}. Namely, in casual speech and non-professional readings, non-trained native speakers will often raise the end of an accent phrase, as intonation to indicate it leads to something else which they are still thinking about and will say after a pause.

If the accented mora comes earlier in the phrase, then these things can coincide, like かれは{HLH} or か\れは⤴ (an alternate notation where \ indicates the downstep and ⤴ indicates the 語尾上げ).

However, if the accented mora comes directly before the particle, then 語尾上げ can result in the accent getting lost. AKA はな\は⤴ gets realized as はなは{LHH}.

Non-trained native speakers will often get confused if you start asking about this, because in their heads they are saying the accented word, but it simply is just not getting realized phonetically. And sometimes, even speakers who do it themselves will hear others do it and think it's incorrect when asked if it's the right accent for the word. It's sort of a subconscious process.

Anyways, it is most likely best to try and avoid intentionally doing this in your own speech but understand that it happens frequently.

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  • I love the ⤴ notation. Wish it were standardly used when describing similar phenomenon (e.g. rising accent before と) as well.
    – George
    Jul 9, 2023 at 19:00

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