The word 超自然的 seems to have a somewhat mysterious pitch accent.

In WaniKani's audio (click the speaker icons) as well as in this random YouTube video it sounds like the accent is ちょうしぜんてき{HHLLHHHH}. Also Forvo for 超自然 sounds like ちょうしぜん{HHLLHH}. As far as I know, this pitch accent shape is unusual for 標準語.

My thinking is that, as far as accent is concerned, the word is split into 超 and 自然的, which are then pronounced atamadaka and heiban respectively: ちょう{HHL} + しぜんてき{LHHHH}. Is that a reasonable analysis? Does this sort of thing occur more often than I think it does?

Would I be wrong to read it with a heiban accent like ちょうしぜん{LLHHHH}(てき{HH})?


Yes, your analysis is correct. In fact the し can drop even lower than the う before it if you choose to really enunciate it. This sort of splitting is fairly common, for example with the prefix 非 or the prefix 被.

I consider it wrong to read that word in heiban, it'd sound like 調子・全的(??) or something like that.

However, there are sometimes cases where words get reanalyzed, like

無期懲役(むきちょ↓うえき) → 無期懲役(む↓き・ちょうえき)


故事成語(こ↓じ・せいご)→ 故事成語(こじせ↓いご)

This tends to happen as the compound becomes more common and non-experts come to say it more IMO. I don't think there is any chance of this happening with 超自然的 because it isn't a single concept, though, 的 is a suffix.

There are also other cases like 興味本位(きょうみほ↓いん) where it's not valid to pronounced split (×きょ↓うみ・ほ↓んい), because 本位 is not a valid concept on its own, it only serves as a suffix so it makes no sense to have it split.

大辞林 tends to list such split pronunciations as number-number, like 切磋琢磨:

せっさたくま [1]━[1] 【切磋▼琢▼磨】

Which indicates it's a two-part word which drops after the first mora of each part. However, it doesn't indicate where the break is so you sort of need to know that yourself.

In addition, in the case the second part of the word is heiban, it seems to omit the -[0] (like with 春夏秋冬), which is not good IMO because [1]-[0] does permit a slightly different pronunciation from just [1].

For these reasons I recommend using the NHK accent dictionary, which does show where things split and their respective downstep locations. Of course the word you ask about isn't a dictionary word so it wouldn't be helpful there.

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  • Thank you for this very detailed answer! Could you by any chance give some concrete examples of words starting with 非 and 被 that have "compound" pitch accents? – Lynn Aug 3 at 20:07
  • 1
    非営利法人(ひ↓えいりほ↓うじん)、非嫡出子(ひ↓ちゃくしゅつ↓し) 、被修飾語(ひ↓しゅうしょくご)、被虐待児症候群(ひ↓ぎゃくた↓いじしょうこ↓うぐん)though note that it is not always the case if it’s not serving as a prefix and is considered to be part of the first subword like 非常事態宣言(ひじょうじたいせ↓んげん)or 被害者補償(ひがいしゃほ↓しょう) (and many many more in both categories). – Darius Jahandarie Aug 4 at 0:12

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