Melody/Rhythm/Pitch of a sentence in Japanese

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by Ceibita, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. Ceibita Member

    English USA; Spanish HN
    In French, there is a very specific pattern for the melody/rhythm/pitch (intonation pattern, whatever you want to call it!) of a sentence as a whole. I am not talking about pitch-accent on individual words, but the melody of a sentence as a whole.

    For example in this sentence:

    "La chambre des députés / a adopté un projet de loi / lors d'une séance plénière / vendredi dernier."


    The pitch of the sentence is relatively flat and rises at the end of each section of a phrase (or rhythmic group). Then at the very end of the sentence, the pitch goes down. I tried to show that with lines: --- means flat pitch, ^^ means the pitch rises, ___ means the pitch goes down.

    French is different from English, which has stressed and unstressed syllables instead of rhythmic groups, making it sound "choppier". French sentences flow very smoothly.

    So, what is the correct melody of a Japanese sentence? Does it have rhythmic groups like French, stressed and unstressed syllables like English, or something totally different?

    For example, what is the appropriate way to read these sentences out loud? On which syllables does your voice rise, fall, or stay flat?

    ex) 子供の時、"空を飛んでみたい”、”違う世界に行ってみたい”と思いませんでしたか。

    ex) ある日、のびた君はテストがあるのを忘れて、全然勉強しませんでした。

    ex) 京都には古いお寺がたくさんありますが、私がよく行く所は嵐山です。

    French phonetics are a huge part of French studies, yet I can't seem to find good explanations of Japanese phonetics anywhere.

    Thanks in advance for the help.

    (Example sentences are from the Genki II textbook.)
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  2. Tonky Senior Member

    I'm afraid Japanese has no set rules like that, except for Haiku/Tanka poetry.
    (If you are interested in listening to the poetry specific pattern, you could check from the google search, 百人一首+読み上げ.)
    All pitch patterns in normal sentences and songs are dependent on every individual word and the combination. I would show you each example above if I WERE a Tokyo-native, but I'm not, and you want to wait for another to do it.
  3. Ceibita Member

    English USA; Spanish HN
    Thank you for your reply!


    I was afraid that there would be no set rules (poetry aside). Japanese is much easier to pronounce than French, but I still wish there were a few more resources on Japanese phonetics too.
  4. Tonky Senior Member

    Not sure if the above links would help, but they may be something you are looking for?

    I understand why you want to put poetry aside, but the rhythm we use with 5-7-5 for haiku or 5-7-5-7-7 for tanka, or just in general 5-7/7-5 is a very typical one we grow up with. Old songs often use this style, even though recent songs hardly follow it any more.

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