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68

Kanji aren't necessary to write Japanese Your rationale is correct; Japanese is a living, spoken language; people are able to understand each other by sound only, therefore a writing system based on sound has to be sufficient. Some commentators have mentioned that Japanese speakers often allude to kanji when talking. That's true enough (and it probably ...


27

What Lyle said is true―you'll want to practice a lot. It's much easier to recognize words and phrases you're used to hearing, not just used to reading. That means ear training, and there's no way around it! Still, we can look at some facts about Japanese pronunciation. I'm a non-native speaker, and one of the trickiest things for a non-native speaker to ...


22

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 ...


21

You may be familiar with the concept of sentence-level pitch changes in English; for example when you are asking a question, you end the sentence with a rising pitch to indicate that it is indeed a question. Japanese also has sentence-level pitch changes, but more relevantly to this question, it has word-level pitch changes. Downstep Notation In the ...


21

I share your experience. Sticking straight to the katakana pronunciation below, I have never had the problem of someone not understanding me any more. I believe this is the pronunciation currently taught in Japanese schools. A: エー【HL】 B: ビー【HL】 C: シー【HL】 D: ディー【HHL】 E: イー【HL】 F: エフ【HL】 G: ジー【HL】 H: エイチ【HLL】 I: アイ【HL】 J: ジェー【HHL】 K: ケー【HL】 L: エル【HL】 M: エム【HL】...


21

This is definitely a bit harder for native English speakers to pick up on at first, but sometimes homophones in Japanese are distinguishable by the pitch accent. So some of them aren't an issue at all. But of course some words do sound exactly the same. So how do you tell those apart? Easy: context. Kanji aren't "necessary" to distinguish between homophones;...


17

I'm fairly certain that this has to do with pitch in Japanese and accentuation in English. The natural pitch for デバグ【HLL】 is HLL, whereas デバッグ【LHLL】 would naturally be LHL (and バグ【HL】 is HL). To mimic accentuation by pitch (i.e. accented syllables get a high pitch after transliteration), the ッ is necessary to give the バ a (natural) high pitch. バグ already ...


14

This is the result of a well known devoicing rule in Japanese. Devoicing means that there is no vibration of the vocal folds. For example, the difference between [s] and [z] is only that [z] is voiced. The IPA diacritic for devoiced phones is a circle at the bottom of the glyph e.g. [z̥]=[s]. Although there is still much dialectal, idiolectal (the way a ...


13

For the place name: おおさか【LHHH】 Reference: See under category 「近畿{きんき}」 in http://accent.u-biq.org/nihon.html For the family name: おおさか【HLLL】 Reference: None found. Just trust me if you could. Pitch accents often differ between family names and place names (hat are written the same way) though it is something not many Japanese-learners seem to be aware ...


12

Those are extremely rare. Besides 「帰{かえ}る」, I could only think of the following in Standard Japanese. 「入{はい}る」 「通{とお}る」 「返{かえ}す」 「参{まい}る」 *** In case anyone is unsure of what the questioner is talking about, s/he is looking for three-mora verbs in which the pitch accent pattern is 「[〇〇〇]{HLL}」. 「頭高{あたまだか}」 means "head-high".


11

父 and 乳 cannot be differentiated by pronunciation (including accentation). While the word titi "father" is attested in Old Japanese (8th century), titi "breasts" is not extant until the 17th century. However, it is more complicated than that. titi "breasts" is a reduplication of ti "breasts" which is extant in OJ. Also, titi "father" seems to be a ...


10

First of all, knowing pitch is not as simple as knowing the pitch on each word. There are many morphological endings that make pitch change on verbs and adjectives. For instance, taBEru becomes TAbete because -te will make the pitch shift to the 3rd mora from the end when the verb has pitch. Pitch also changes when 2 words or more form a new compound word (...


9

The changes are basically regular based on the "original accent" of each word, but (1) these "original accents" are not set in stone; (2) people/groups speak differently; and (3) pitch accent, like any linguistic phenomenon, is constantly changing. (I'm going to skip the discussion of whether accent exists, etc., and just stipulate that the last "high" mora ...


9

[トラブル]{LHLL} -- [トラブる]{LHHL} [ダブル]{HLL} -- [ダブる]{LHL} [バトル]{HLL} -- [バトる]{LHL}? (I can't think of any other pairs...) The verbs seem to have a pronunciation rule: [サボる]{LHL}、 [テンパる]{LHHL}、 [ハモる]{LHL}、 [パニクる]{LHHL}、 [バグる]{LHL}、 [ググる]{LHL}、 [スタンバる]{LHHHL} ... But I can't find a rule for loanwords ending with ル... [トラブル]{LHLL}、 [サンダル]{LHHH}、 [ライフル]...


8

It's a matter of pitch accent. In a manner somewhat similar to Chinese, Japanese actually has 2 tones that establish its inflectional patterns. They aren't widely taught to foreigners because the patterns vary amongst regions (e.g. Osaka and Tokyo are near-opposite), but one purpose that they do serve is to distinguish between homophones. According to the ...


8

In terms of etymology, みずうみ is indeed derived from two words, but it's now a single word—much like how English housewife is a single word, even though it's clearly derived from house + wife. This doesn't really matter for how you pronounce two /u/ vowels in a row, though. You just hold the sound for an extra beat ("mora"), like it's a long vowel: ...


7

snailboat has already provided an excellent response, but I'd like to share an online resource that's pretty useful when trying to figure out the pitch accents of any given text. Just stick your Japanese text into Prosody Tutor Suzuki-kun, tweak the settings as you see fit, hit "analyze", and you'll see a rather accurate pitch analysis of the input text. ...


7

Some language families (such as Chinese and Athabaskan) have visible origins for their tones - you can't reconstruct tone back to the shared proto-language, but you can reconstruct other features that later turned into tone. Other language families (such as Bantu and Oto-Manguean) have no visible origins for their tones - you can reconstruct tone back to ...


7

Yes, accents change when words are combined/conjugated/etc. I'm not sure if there are any truly sentence-level phenomena, but there is definitely more going on than just "words have the same accent all the time". The NHK dictionary does include a fair bit of information about these rules. To take your examples -- here are some answers I got from consulting ...


7

Many dictionaries (even monolingual ones) do not show accents, but of course there is something called "standard accent of Japanese" which you should generally respect. The most authoritative source of the standard accent of Japanese words is probably 日本語アクセント辞典 published by NHK, but there are also some online free accent dictionaries: OJAD Online Japanese ...


7

By accent. See: Is there any difference when pronouncing 橋 and 箸? はし【HL】(箸)、はし【LH】(端)、かき【HL】(牡蠣)、かき【LH】(柿) By context. すいせいですか、きんせいですか? → 水星ですか、金星ですか? すいせいですか、ゆせいですか? → 水性ですか、油性ですか? すいせいですか、りくせいですか? → 水棲ですか、陸棲ですか? ぎんせいですか、きんせいですか? → 銀製ですか、金製ですか? By actually changing the reading for known confusing pairs. See: How to Pronounce 化学 "Chemistry"? 化学【...


7

Both words have the same reading and pitch accent, so there wouldn't be a difference in pronunciation.


6

Not all ambiguous pairs can be distinguished by pitch, and we could just as easily provide you with loads of other ambiguous statements where NOTHING other than context could lead you to the right meaning. This kind of thing happens in all languages: in English, if I tell a female friend "You have a nice pair/pear", she'll rely on context (I hope) to tell ...


6

Very insightful point! I think you are right that pitch matters. As a case in point, say if my daughter is reading a textbook aloud in homework and gets a pitch wrong, I would correct her, because it's noticable. On the other hand, Japanese dictionaries written for Japanese do not have the pitch information either, and people from different regions often ...


6

I believe so. I can't find an explicit affirmation (I provided sources which I've read before, but I could have forgotten or missed such a statement), but for present tense adjectives in the Kyoto-Osaka dialect, it seems the accent falls on the antepenultimate mora (third to last) for trimoraic words or longer, otherwise it falls on the penultimate mora for ...


6

I hear both ぼく{HL} and ぼく{LH} for a first personal pronoun even only in Tokyo, so you can use either one you like. I actually use ぼく{HL} more frequently than ぼく{LH}, but I DO pronounce ぼく{LH} occasionally. As I feel both of them are pronounced regardless of age, I cannot declare which a voice actor voices. ぼく{HL} seems to be used more often than ぼく{...


6

Loanwords are pronounced exactly the way they are transcribed. Depending on the circumstances of the transcription (which are often unknown), the transcription is based on a mix of actual pronunciation, its alphabet representation and the weather. If "Melbourne" becomes メルボルン, then it will be pronounced exactly like //meruboruɴ//, no matter whether it's far ...


5

The pitch for Sayaka is さやか【HLL】 (or in your notation SAyaka). Also Makoto has pitch まこと【LHH】 and Katsura has pitch かつら【HLL】. Stressing the penultimate syllable is a frequent pronunciation mistake that especially native speakers of English seem to be prone to (but of course not only native English speakers). Stressing the penultimate syllable is one of ...


5

It is strange that the explanatory notes do not explain this, but two numbers in Daijirin mean that both pitches (in this case HLLL and LHHL) are used. As for the pitch of this specific word まんまと, I pronounce it as HLLL, and I am not sure if I have ever heard まんまと with pitch LHHL.


5

It is 「[すなわち]{LHLL}」. Same as 「[スタイル]{LHLL}」


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