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平板 words are shown in dictionaries as having low pitch for the first mora, and then high pitch for remaining moras. I've read that in practice, the pitch increase from first to second mora is not as severe as, e.g., the pitch increases found in 中高 words. With that said, I think that I can hear the pitch increase in most 平板 words (though I'm a beginner).

There are some words where I simply cannot hear the pitch increase, and the word sounds literally flat to me. Here is an example: 簡単. Here are YouGlish snippets of native speakers actually saying this word. I cannot for the life of me hear a pitch increase from the か to the んたん moras.

Question: Is the pitch increase actually present in the word 簡単? And/or are there 平板 where there is no pitch increase, and the word is literally flat?

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Words do not raise between the first and second mora when the second mora is a long vowel or ン (unless the speaker is hyper-enunciating them). This is explicitly listed as a rule in the NHK日本語発音アクセント新辞典 appendix.

It's very unfortunate that everyone continues to misnotate them with stuff like かんたん{LHHH} but unfortunately most of the people who use that sort of notation tend to not be experts. LH notation should only be used for notating the fully realized pitch of a specific utterance, it is too verbose for simply specifying what mora the accent is on, and people get the details like rises wrong when it is used for that. The dictionaries moved away from LH notation exactly because it has that issue (of saying too much about the pitch of each mora when in reality the thing associated with the lexicon entry is just the accent kernel).

In reality if you wanted to notate the exact pitch of the standalone pronunciation of 簡単, it would would be something like HHMM (i.e., HHHH + "sentence"-ending intonation). Within sentences where it is followed by more words it would be HHHH.

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  • Thanks -- this is the first I've ever heard, and will help clear up confusion when listening to future words. And isn't HHMM closer to 頭高 than 平板 ?
    – George
    Commented May 29, 2022 at 23:14
  • Nope, atamadaka would be one mora earlier and larger. HHMM when mora number two is ん or ー would always be interpreted as heiban. Commented May 29, 2022 at 23:16
  • Questions: 1) Is this specific to Tokyo / 標準語? (Guessing so based on the NHK mention.) 2) What of the NHK dictionary's practice of marking 0-pitch words as か[んたん]{HHH}? There is no explicit low, but the first mora is clearly handled differently than the second, which would seem to indicate something different than the [かん]{HH}... pattern you describe. 3) Presumably you are describing the prescriptive viewpoint of conservative speakers? In a descriptive approach based on everyday speakers, the explicit low-high pattern of [かん]{LH}... seems to be quite common. Commented May 31, 2022 at 16:50
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi 1) Yes, this is specific to standard Japanese. 2) カンタン ̄ is how NHK notates heiban -- and it's not just NHK, every single other monolingual dictionary that marks standard Japanese pitch also uses a notation that avoids marking LH of each mora, including 大辞林、大辞泉、新明解国語辞典、and 三省堂国語辞典. 3) No, this is the descriptive reality, what leads you to believe otherwise? Commented May 31, 2022 at 22:27
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    @EiríkrÚtlendi NHK 1998 notation is what you mentioned, but their later edition (2016 and on) explicitly abandons it and switches to ○○○○ ̄ for heiban and ○○\○○ for kifuku because of this exact reason. My note was about people getting notating rises wrong, not about saying them wrong. The only place you’d hear a rise there from a native speaker is if they are reading off LH notation which says to pronounce it like that (or they are doing something dialectical). Commented May 31, 2022 at 23:31

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