This site provides a series of tutorials to learn the basics of Japanese pronunciation.
The sections consist of mora, problematic sounds, rhythm, pitch accent, and prosody. Each section has ample number of listening practices as well as pronunciation advices.
If you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact Yukiko Hatasa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is supported by KAKENHI. The principal investigator is Yukiko Hatasa, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University.
First, you will learn about basic rhythmic unit called "mora." Mora is a technical term that linguists use to define a phonological unit of a language. It is a bit different from a syllable. Think of each kana corresponding to a mora. Let’s learn the basics of “mora” in this section.
Consonants and Vowels
In section 2, you will learn about the pronunciations of consonants and vowels. This section will be divided into voiced and voiceless consonants, glides, double consonants, long vowels, and pronunciation of だ-な-ら(da-na-ra-).
2.1 Voiced and voiceless sounds
When vocal cord vibrates, voiced sound is generated. For example, "g" is a voiced sound while "k" is a voiceless sound. It is generally not difficult sound to hear or pronounce.
Mora is the basic unit of sound in Japanese. Blending of moras makes a word, and are pronounced as one unit. Combinations of single-mora unit and double-mora unit give Japanese its rhythm.
Basics of Pitch Accent
Japanese uses pitch for accents whereas English use word stress. For example, “student” in English would stress the first syllable. The vowel “u” is stressed. In Japanese there is mainly two pitches, high and low. For example, せんせい (sensee) has a pitch pattern of low-high-high-low. The location of the falling pitch is where the accent is placed in the word. Thus, the accent on せんせい is on the third mora.
Accents in words
In section 5, you will learn a variety of word accents in names of countries, languages, nationalities, days of the week, four-mora kanji compounds, adjectives and verbs.
5.1 Country names, languages and nationalities
Let’s practice country names, languages and nationalities. Four mora Europe and American countries tend to have the L-H-H-H pattern. China and Korea do not follow the same pattern. They have the H-L-L-L pattern.