tuh-mey-toh, tuh-mah-toh; haNA, HAna.
November 15, 2007 3:57 AM   Subscribe

I want to know more about the Japanese accent in Kobe/Osaka.

All resources are useful, but some of the kinds of things I was thinking of:
*links to (or your own) descriptions in plain words, technical terms, or even IPA.
*compare-and-contrast recordings of words or phrases (I dream of a equivalent to this dialect survey or the speech accent archive for Japanese!)
*names of specific people I could find audio of online or other audio links

This question is primarily about the variations found in everyday lanugage, e.g. differences in pitch accent. I'm not really looking for little-known local vocabulary that isn't used on a day-to-day basis (a concern raised in this question about Tohoku-ben), but always welcome them anyway out of curiousity.

English (or even French, or Portuguese) resources are best; I can read Japanese, but slowly, and am not good enough to search in it. Most searching I've done so far gives results like "there's a difference!" but doesn't have much depth.

Thank you!!
posted by n y my to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
This page has some further information on the Kobe and Osaka dialects, or ben, and wikipedia has quite a good article on Kansai-ben.

I lived in Kobe for a couple of years and was quite surprised when I realised some of the things that I'd taken as standard Japanese were actually quite strong Kobe-ben: "nani shitton?" and you could always get a laugh out of the locals by throwing in some dialect into standard Japanese. I'm no expert, but I don't think there's a huge different in pitch, or accent, it's more the words used and the contractions. Even these vary greatly within the kansai area.
posted by Mil at 5:29 AM on November 15, 2007

Response by poster: Mil: Thanks, I've read both of those before, and like I said, not so much depth... Is there anything you could add about some specific contractions, then? They come up in the wikipedia, etc., links, but I'm certainly looking for more examples and it sounds like you've learned exactly what I am looking for...
posted by n y my at 6:18 AM on November 15, 2007

but I don't think there's a huge different in pitch, or accent

Yeah, actually there is. Get hold of James McCawley's The Phonological Component of a Grammar of Japanese (The Hague: Mouton, 1968); he has an appendix on "Accent in the Japanese Dialects" that goes into the details.
posted by languagehat at 7:18 AM on November 15, 2007

Okay, I'm going to skip the stuff like "/si/ often becomes /hi/" etc. because you specifically say you're after pitch accent. And I should say in advance that I've only spent a week or so in Kansai, total, in my life, so this is all book-learnin'.

Osaka and (most of) Kobe's pitch accent systems are basically the same as the rest of western Japan's. Technical terms you might find useful and googlable are "京阪方言" (keihan hōgen), "京阪式アクセント" (keihanshiki accent), "近畿方言" (kinki hōgen). You can also find some useful stuff by googling patterns like "LHL" etc.

The title of this question suggests that you've already heard about how in the west, the position of the accent (which determines pitch) in a given word is often different, so I won't labor that point.

To add a little more detail, Tokyo only has a H(igh) melody, while Keihan has H and L(ow). What this means is that in Tokyo, the pattern is "H up to the accent, L after it, except that the first two moras have to contrast" (i.e. the first mora becomes L if the second is H). In other words, each "word" (note that a "word" might also include postpositional particles etc.) "starts out" H and then changes to L after the drop, although this is hard to see because of the "first two syllables must contrast" rule.

In Keihan, the H-tone words follow basically the same rule, except that the first two moras are NOT required to contrast. So an unaccented (H-tone) word like /sakura/ is LHH in Tokyo, but HHH in Keihan. /atama'/ is LHH in Tokyo, but /ata'ma/ is HHL in Keihan (note that the position of the accent is different.) A word like /i'noti/ (same accent in both systems) comes out HLL in both. I hope that is clear.

The L melody words start L and have exactly one (1) H mora, which is the accented one, or the final one if there is no accent. So /usagi/ is LLH, while /toka'ga/ (lizard) is LHL. (Both words are L-tone.) There are no counterexamples for Tokyo, because there are no L-tone words in Tokyo dialect.

So, in summary, not only can the accent's location be different, the rules for how the accent is expressed are also different. The wider variety of possible pitch patterns in Keihan is probably the main reason that Kansai-ben sounds "musical" etc. to easterners.

Incidentally, I dug some of these examples out of Shibatani's _The languages of Japan_, which also goes into a little more detail on this point. I tried to fact-check my recollections against his explanations, and I think I have all of the above right, but you know... it's early. I hope this is enough to help you find more and more useful materials at your end, anyway.
posted by No-sword at 3:46 PM on November 15, 2007

Uh.. and by "the rest of western Japan", I mean "the rest of west-of-Tokyo-but-still-pretty-central Japan [i.e. Kansai], not including the parts that are really far west." Obviously. Ahem.
posted by No-sword at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2007

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