Four Different Inflections Used in Japanese

Japanese Pronunciation Is Simple

“The Japanese language sounds different to English, and it seems difficult to speak Japanese.” I often hear such comments from people who are studying Japanese for the first time. But actually, the composition of Japanese sounds is simpler.

There are various theories, but in general, the Japanese language is pronounced by combining 23 sounds. We have five vowels (a, i, u, e, o) and 13 consonants (k, s, t, c, n, h, m, r, g, z, d, b, p) along with others (j, w, n, q, h).

  • n : the sound of the kana “n”
  • q: double consonants (create a small pause before next sound. eg. kitte / stamp)
  • h: long sound (eg. ko-hi- / coffee)

Also, in Japanese there is a correspondence between pronunciation and spelling. Take, for example, the combination of the consonant “t” and the vowel “a,” which becomes the single syllable “ta.” In English, since “a” has multiple sounds such as “éi / ǽ / ɑː,” it is necessary to learn the pronunciation of each word when studying it.

Basically, you can pronounce the Japanese language by remembering the types of sounds it has and reading them according to their spelling.

The Japanese Accent

In the Japanese language, multiple tones are not used. We just use high or low tones. This “high and low accent” can be roughly classified into four patterns.

【Types of Japanese accents】

① The first sound is high and the following sound is low. The sounds of particles such as “ha” and “ga” are low: Atamadaka pattern.

② The first and third sounds are low, only the second sound is high, and particles such as “ga” and “wo” are low: Nakadaka pattern.

③ The last sound of the word is high, the sounds of particles such as “ga” and “o” are low: Odaka pattern.

④ Only the first sound is low, and the following sounds are high, the sounds of particles such as “ga” and “wo” are also high: Heiban pattern.

A characteristic of Japanese pronunciation is that once the intonation falls, the following sounds will not rise again.

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