Pronunciation of 委員

Shatin

Senior Member
Cantonese
There are quite a few words like this and I am just using 委員 as an example. 委員 is いいん in hiragana. What is its proper pronunciation?

- いいん in one syllable with a long sound
- い and then いん with a very brief stop between the two い's (since there are two distinct kanji)

Thanks!
 
  • blutorange2

    Member
    German
    There are quite a few words like this and I am just using 委員 as an example. 委員 is いいん in hiragana. What is its proper pronunciation?
    - いいん in one syllable with a long sound
    - い and then いん with a very brief stop between the two い's (since there are two distinct kanji)

    To my ears, it sounds like the latter... but everybody's impressions are different, what matters is the real pronunciation, and that's hard to put into words. Here's a short clip for listening: Double I Sound

    Try and say 「それで良いんかい?」, I think it a bit different from 委員会.
     
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    @Blutorange Erm actually I think the pitch accent of いいん in 学級委員/クラス委員 is different from いいん in 委員長/委員会.

    I read 委員, 学級委員, クラス委員, 民生委員 as this:http://vocaroo.com/i/s1BzpqT0qY4C
    (Here, いいん is HLL.)

    ...but,

    I read 委員会, 委員長 as this: http://vocaroo.com/i/s0XDfa2kuUxN
    (Here, いいん is LHL.)

    ...but why? Dunno. There must be a rule for it tho...^^;
    So.. what do you say? :confused:
     
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    blutorange2

    Member
    German
    Schokolade said:
    words ending on 委員: 委員 学級委員, クラス委員, 民生委員 (here it is HHL)
    spectrogram ( 周波数分析):
    2e1hyzm.png


    words starting with 委員: 委員会, 委員長 (here it is LHL)
    spectrogram:
    pvkls.png

    There must be a rule for it tho
    First of all, thank you for recording it.

    Secondly, I'm certainly not an expert an on Japanese pitch accent.

    That is quite fascinating and tells us something about how languages behave and work. When we take a look at the NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典新版 (Tokyo dialect!), we find
    イイン  HLL 委員、医院
    イインカイ LHL LL 委員会
    As for 委員, at first sight there seems to be a discrepancy between your recording (HHL) and what the dictionary tells us (HLL), but when we take a look at the spectrogram, we see that the first イ starts out high, then from the second イ onwards it starts to drop gradually until the final ン, so it's not that much of a difference - whether we call the gradual fall H or L is up to the listener. HLL doesn't mean high-low-low without any intermediates, the important thing is where the pitch drops, and that's where the accent is. And of course, there are many variations due to dialect.

    Now let's think about why the pitch accent might be different when added to different words. The first thing that gets our attention is, as I already added to your quote, how it is HLL when 委員 comes last, but LHL when it comes first. Perhaps more importantly than the exact pitch of each mora, we should also consider where the accent falls to.


    委員 comes last: When we consider the pitch accent of the words in front of it, we find (same dictionary)
    ガッキュー ――――
    ミンセイ   _―――
    クラス    -\ _ _


    -\ means pitch down after that syllable, _ means low pitch, ― means pitch rising. When a word ends on ―, and not -\, (平板) the following word is affected by this; so 委員 starts high. It remains to find an explanation for クラス委員. Interestingly, the spectrogram tells us that your pronunciation of クラス is not HLL here, it's more like ミンセイ LHH. - how would you pronounce クラス by itself, the same as 暮らす? But perhaps, クラス is influenced by 委員 starting of high?
    This here is also a contributing factor:
    http://learnlangs.com/japanesepitch/index.php?title=Main_Page said:
    When two words form a compound, pitch often changes. Although where the pitch of the new compound will fall is unpredictable, it often falls on the first mora of the second word (4). Ex.: Umi + hiRAki = uMIBIraki but shiMA + kuni = shiMAguni

    Where the accent falls may be unpredictable, but I think there may to be tendency for it to move nearer to the end of the word. Try to pronounce 生命現象 as seImeigenshou, ie HLLL...) Can you think of (m)any (longer Chinese-based) compound nouns where the accent falls on one of the first syllables? [[In German, it is not uncommon to place the accent at the beginning, eg Dampfschiff, Buchrücken.]]

    In the case of noun compounds where 委員 comes first, it would not explain why it is iiNkai and not iinKAi, but we can see why it would not be iInkai.

    As a wild guess, when 委員 is on its own, the accent is between 委 and 員 to make the distinction between the two parts clear?

    ---------------------------------------

    So what can we learn from this? There are certainly rules, or rather tendencies to (pitch) accent, just like in any other language, so we need to switch our point of view to a statistical one. Also, it is much more prone to changes than other aspects of language, so it should not come as a surprise that it fluctuates like vowels with history in German/English and that
    Accent and tone are the most variable aspect of Japanese dialects.
    (Please note: Everything is a dialect - there is no essential difference between the "standard" language and regional dialects.)

    I don't think it's all that interesting to study pitch accent in details or that we can learn much from it that would tell us something interesting about languages. And if we choose to study it, it requires us to invest a great deal of time.

    Back to how 委員, you're right. I guess it is mostly the pitch accent in 委員会 that made me describe it as a "pause". 委員会 sounds different, I agree. (we see again that words are not particularly fit for explaining pronunciation)
     
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    frequency

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    To my ears, it sounds like the latter... but everybody's impressions are different, what matters is the real pronunciation, and that's hard to put into words. Here's a short clip for listening: Double I Sound

    Try and say 「それで良いんかい?」, I think it a bit different from 委員会.

    I know what you want to say. When saying いいん(委員)、you put a stress on the second い. Therefore, the first い sounds so, containing a very brief stop. In other word, this stop is needed to say the next い, which must be stressed. This effect is the result of this stress.

    良い; よい、いい is always い、い. So they're different.
     
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