French Ears

Tim Selander selander at tkf.att.ne.jp
Wed Dec 14 19:41:42 CST 2011


(I should probably let one of the native Japanese people on this 
list answer, but...)

I don't know French, and am not precisely sure what you mean by 
'tonic accents' and am not a linguist, so don't know the proper 
term, but in Japanese each syllable of a word has exactly the 
same beat or rhythm, so it sounds rather staccato to an English 
speaker.

But the voice can rise in pitch, stay flat, or drop in pitch for 
each syllable. To foreign ears, it is a very, very slight change 
-- but of course a very obvious change to native speakers. And 
that slight change in pitch can completely change the meaning of 
a word. The language has a gazzillion (yes, I believe that is the 
proper technical term ;-) homonyms. Just one example:
"Hashi" = chopsticks
"Hashi" = bridge
"Hashi" = the edge, like the edge of a table

and the slight up/down/flat pitch combinations of the two 
syllables determines which word, (chopsticks, bridge or edge), 
you are saying.

HTH

Tim Selander
Tokyo, Japan

On 12/15/11 8:51 AM, Bob Sneidar wrote:
> I have heard that Japanese has no tonic accents. Is that true?
>
> Bob
>
> On Dec 14, 2011, at 3:29 PM, Francis Nugent Dixon wrote:
>
>> Hi from Beautiful Brittany.
>>
>> Michael wrote :
>>
>>> I'm not interested in the translations, just the quality of the French accent.
>>
>> Michael, it's the best French speech I have ever heard (I have 45 years of
>> French, in France, under my belt !)
>>
>> However, computer speech is monotonous (great difficulty in placing tonic
>> accents).
>>
>> I think the weather will change tomorrow
>> i THINK the weather will change tomorrow
>> i think the WEATHER will change tomorrow
>> i think the weather will CHANGE tomorrow
>> i think the weather will change TOMORROW
>>
>> Same sentence - at least five ways of saying it !
>>
>> And this is just the tonic accent in a complete word. When you have a
>> multi-syllable word, placement of the tonic accent is capital.
>> Take any three or four syllable word and say it with the tonic accent
>> in the wrong place. Odds are that even an Englishman would say ......
>> "I beg your pardon" !
>>
>> Although tonic accents are far less important to French speech, they do exist !
>>
>> However, forgetting the tonic accent, the FRENCH accent on this site is damned good !
>>
>> HTH
>>
>> -Francis
>>
>> "Nothing should ever be done for the first time !"
>>
>>
>>
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