I'm not sure if this is the right term, but it seems like "interogative pronouns" like 何, 幾つ, 誰 and so forth typically have Atamadaka pitches officially in dictionaries.

Now consider the phrase


According to the dictionary, this should be だれでしょう{HLLLLL}, and indeed here is an example of it I found in the wild: https://youtu.be/htycKsJg3KE?t=118 (1m58s).

Yet here are two examples of what sounds to me like だれでしょう{LHHLLL} (where 誰 suddenly becomes Heiban):

As an another example, at 2m39s in https://youtu.be/HIqKOifGSAs?t=159, the speaker says


with pitch いくつ{LHL}. But according to dictionaries it should be いくつ{HLL}.

Question: Am I hearing this pitch right? If so, is this part of a general pitch accent phenomenon? Does it have a name and a well understood pattern that can be referenced? To me it seems like Atamadaka "interrogative pronoun" words are becoming Heiban when emphasized in a certain way.

  • You certainly misheard the last one. If you didn’t the other two, too, then they misspoke.
    – aguijonazo
    May 12, 2023 at 3:10
  • As in you know I misheard 幾つ as iKUTSU?
    – George
    May 12, 2023 at 5:06
  • Yes, you misheard that one. But I would be too harsh on you if I said you misheard the other two because they do sound like だれでしょう【LHLLLL】.
    – aguijonazo
    May 12, 2023 at 6:57

1 Answer 1


You have misheard all of the samples. The 幾つ sample is clearly atamadaka. The other two I would classify as atamadaka with おそ下がり (basically a phenomenon where the accent comes a little late but still gets interpreted by listeners as coming on the expected mora).

  • I keep listening to 幾つ at 0.25x speed and hear it as iKUtsu :[. I found a different video where this seems even more apparent to me: youtube.com/watch?v=8jKv5DaQ2sg&t=278s (4m40s). Another person corroborated this hearing on another platform: hinative.com/questions/23960350. With that said, I trust your hearing WAY more than mine! :)
    – George
    May 13, 2023 at 20:02
  • That discussion you posted on おそ下がり is fascinating (and made me start laughing in tears, as if Japanese pitch accent wasn't already confusing enough). Do you know what induces おそ下がり here with 誰でしょう? The first link I posted (youtu.be/OW_KFY4r_0M?t=162), where the speaker says だれでしょう{LHLLL} is particularly confusing, because the speaker utters this phrase after a long pause, and is speaking as if to children with emphasis on good pronunciation. Nevertheless, she says だれでしょう{LHLLL} instead of だれでしょう{HLLLL}.
    – George
    May 13, 2023 at 20:05

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