TUFS Language Modules


As compared to the accent, which denotes the change in pitch at the word level, intonation refers to the change of pitch at the sentence level. By intonation, the meaning of a sentence can change or feelings of the speaker can be expressed. In this section, we will discuss the intonation of interrogative sentences.

An interrogative sentence in Japanese is indicated by a rising intonation at the last mora of a sentence without changing the accent patterns of the words. Although ka ( か) is usually attached to masu ( ます) or desu ( です) at the end of a statement in order to make an interrogative sentence in Japanese, if there is no rise in intonation on ka ( か ) , then that statement would not be an interrogative. Let us take the sentence ‘ S ōdesuka' as an example. If the intonation at ka rises, then そうですかS ō desu ka' is an interrogative; if not, it is a statement. そうですかS ōdesuka' without a rise in intonation on ka could either mean あ、そうですか。 ‘Oh, really. ' (to give a response), or あ、そうですか。そうだったんですか。 ‘Oh, really. I see. ' (to express agreement), or あ、そうですか。残念ですね。 ‘ Oh, really. That's too bad. ' (to voice one's disappointment). In the case of ‘ Ikimasu ka' 行きますか , the same rule applies. If there were no rise in intonation on ka , this sentence would not be interpreted as an interrogative. ‘Ikimasuka' , without ka rising in intonation, could either mean あっ、そうですか。行きますか。分かりました。 ‘ Oh, really. You are going. Okay. (to express confirmation)' or 皆がそろいましたので、そろそろ行きますか 。 ‘ Since everybody is here, let's go. (to make a suggestion)'.