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Learning pitch accent

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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby arbalest71 » Fri 01.18.2008 11:38 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
You can do both, though. The Chinese classes I'm taking right now have audio files (an interactive DVD, actually) as the main study aid, with a companion textbook that has pinyin and marked tones. In class you are not allowed to have any notes or books open and the class is all in Chinese, so your tones are getting corrected a lot.


Well, that program sounds a lot better than the one I went to (and your Japanese program does too). Mine had a good reputation, but to steal a phrase from AJBryant, I thought it amounted to borderline malfeasance- close to 50% of our class time was occupied by tests and quizzes (we must have had something like 40-50/15 week semester), and a lot of the rest was a professor reading the vocabulary list for the week out loud. I do think that to some degree there is a tension between listening and other aspects of learning that can't be made to go away entirely at the beginning. If time and resources were no object, I can imagine a program that focussed almost exclusively on mimicry and listening (with a lot of feedback in the mimicry part) at first, and I think it might be pretty effective- but it would not be very practical given the actual constraints of a University program. My concern is about letting preconceptions crystallise too early- we tend to hear what we expect to. But, at a certain point you have to bow to practicality.

Here's an interesting experiment that can be applied to either Chinese or Japanese. Take a snippet of rapidly spoken dialogue recorded at a high sample rate, and slow it down using software that can change tempo without altering pitch. Listen to it, trying as hard as you can to hear it as pure sound, and compare it to someone slowly and clearly enunciating a word, in the way that a native speaker might, if trying to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of a word in isolation. I've listened to Japanese slowed down this way, and it was interesting- just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that this would be a good way to learn pronunciation.
Last edited by arbalest71 on Fri 01.18.2008 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Tue 06.10.2008 7:56 pm

Well, I'm preparing to study Japanese again (I'm a bit of a 三日坊主 sometimes), so naturally I revisited this problem. I think the best solution short of having a native tutor is to use a TTS program (the NeoSpeech "Show" voice seems pretty good; it's $35), along with an akusento jiten, which can come in handy for particular cases the TTS program can't handle (they can have trouble with all-hiragana words, for instance). Of course, I'm aware that a $35 TTS program can't produce fully native-like speech, but it beats trying to develop correct pronunciation through accent marks and such, and I think with some practice one can get a feel for when the program is producing native-like speech and when it isn't.

Thoughts?

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Wed 07.02.2008 4:03 am

I'm changing my mind on this... using a TTS program to learn pitch accent seems too problematic. I tried listening for pitch accent in the speech samples for Human Japanese and the accent seemed much clearer, not to mention the speech is obviously going to be more native-like as it was recorded by a native speaker. My TTS voice sounds like it's saying "犬です" as "Inu dess" (with the capital "i" denoting high pitch) or "INU dess" instead of "iNU dess". In Human Japanese, the difference was clear as day -- even though they were not specifically teaching pitch accent, just ordinary vocabulary.

Here's a few things I've noticed from listening.

At first I thought "dewa" was pronounced "DEwa", but now I think it's pronounced flat. Makes sense because, as a particle, it's appended to the preceding phrase. I think my ears were being tricked because it was always followed by "arimasen", and the first "a" has low pitch, so I heard a falling contour in the resulting "waa" (end of "dewa" and beginning of "arimasen").

"-masen" seems to be pronounced "MASEn".

So, "It was not an apple" in polite speech would be, roughly:
riNGO DEWA aRIMASEn desh'ta, with the pitch falling downward throughout "desh'ta".

Does this sound right?

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby john2 » Sun 07.06.2008 8:06 am

I don't think japanese is a language you can learn to read without learning to speak.
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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Sun 07.06.2008 11:41 am

*blink* I'm not really sure what that has to do with this thread. Pitch accent will not help your reading ability.

I don't really agree, either. There's no reason you can't learn to read without learning to speak. You'll definitely need to know the readings of the kanji (since you may encounter the same words in kana, and so you can get puns if you're into that sort of thing -- the Japanese love puns), but other than kanji I don't think it's any different from learning only the written form of any other language... and I don't think speaking will help you with kanji.

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 07.06.2008 1:56 pm

Spoken ability will definitely help you learn kanji, since it's much easier to learn kanji if you can connect them to words and grammatical structures you already know in the spoken language.

(This doesn't necessarily mean that you must learn to speak before learning kanji, but if you take two people, one person starting from nothing and another who has studied only the spoken language for some time, the second person will almost certainly be able to learn to read Japanese more quickly than the first person.)
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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Mon 07.07.2008 2:01 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:(This doesn't necessarily mean that you must learn to speak before learning kanji, but if you take two people, one person starting from nothing and another who has studied only the spoken language for some time, the second person will almost certainly be able to learn to read Japanese more quickly than the first person.)


Obviously, there's no argument there: all else being equal, somebody who already speaks some Japanese will learn the written language faster than someone who does not, since they will already know some vocabulary and grammar. The question is whether somebody who studies only the spoken language for, say, six months and then the written language for six months would be better at the written language than somebody who has studied only the written language for twelve months. Almost certainly not -- but then, of course, the first person would have conversational skills, and the second person would not, and it's quite possible that the second person would have to spend more time to catch up to the first person in speaking than the first would have to spend to catch up to the second in writing.

In any case, I think we can agree pitch accent is still pretty much irrelevant to this point. It's necessary if you want to speak like a native, but it won't help you read.

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 07.07.2008 8:19 am

furrykef wrote:Obviously, there's no argument there: all else being equal, somebody who already speaks some Japanese will learn the written language faster than someone who does not, since they will already know some vocabulary and grammar. The question is whether somebody who studies only the spoken language for, say, six months and then the written language for six months would be better at the written language than somebody who has studied only the written language for twelve months. Almost certainly not -- but then, of course, the first person would have conversational skills, and the second person would not, and it's quite possible that the second person would have to spend more time to catch up to the first person in speaking than the first would have to spend to catch up to the second in writing.


There was an experiment done in Chinese that showed focusing exclusively on the spoken language first did not harm long-term reading ability even after 1 year in comparison to an "all skills" program, but I don't know the details or the name of the study unfortunately.

In any case, I think we can agree pitch accent is still pretty much irrelevant to this point. It's necessary if you want to speak like a native, but it won't help you read.


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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Sat 07.12.2008 10:10 am

OK, so I'm starting Japanese for Everyone. Part of the reason I bought this book was that it covered pitch accent, but unfortunately it seems to cover it less extensively than I hoped: it mostly just marks the accent of new vocabulary words and that's it.

So I'm confused here because apparently accent can change when conjugating the -te form. The first sentence in lesson 1 is:

パスポートを みせてください。

(I'm going to use underlining from now on to indicate high pitch, unless anybody has a better idea.)

The problem is the みせて part. It says that the pitch is せて, and the recording matches this. But the plain terminal form is みる, according both to dictionary.goo.ne.jp and the NHK Akusento Jiten. (The book does not give the plain terminal form with accent marks.) Another -te form appears in the same lesson: あけて, from あける, which is simple enough. So is there a rule here? So far I can hypothesize that verbs whose plain forms have flat pitch keep flat pitch in the -te form, and two-syllable verbs with high pitch on the second mora have it switch to high pitch on the first in the -te form... but that's a rather limited rule gathered from rather limited data. ;) Can anybody provide any insight? (EDIT: This PDF explains it.)

People expect you to learn this stuff just by listening? Ugh.

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby ryuubu » Fri 08.29.2008 9:53 am

I would say that if you immerse yourself you'll pick it up. But even if you manage to get it right, having a native-like pronunciation is but a dream for a lot of us.
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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Fri 01.23.2009 1:42 am

I'm having trouble with the pitch accent of くらい. I have this sentence from iKnow:

彼の日本語のレベルは私と同じくらいだ。

It sounds like she's saying ku-RA-i, accented on the "ra", but goo.ne.jp and the NHK Akusento Jiten seem to indicate that this word isn't accented, and Pocket Kenkyusha disagrees with all of this, saying it's KU-ra-i! My own inclination is that it's probably unaccented and I'm just mishearing it, or maybe different people pronounce it different ways... opinions?

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 01.23.2009 10:26 am

If it makes any difference, in my experience, I never accented the word and in Tohoku, they never did either. Or, if they did, I never noticed.
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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Fri 01.23.2009 11:11 pm

Mm, I don't imagine there's any way to look up the pitch accent of personal names like 高橋? I'm having trouble hearing the accent correctly when listening to clips from JFBP... there's one clip where it sounds like ta-KA-ha-shi, but in the others it doesn't sound so clear and it makes me kinda confused...

The NHK Nihongo Hatsuon Akusento Jiten has native and foreign place names, but personal names are nowhere to be found.

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Re: Learning pitch accent

Postby john2 » Wed 02.04.2009 7:14 am

I’m glad theirs pitch accent’s at-least it stops the sort of argument that says japanese comes from english not that we need much to stop it. :roll: ,
on the other hand it’s pretty damn darn hard... not that that means anything from me either way.
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