Pitch accent is a feature of certain languages whose variations in pitch can be used to differentiate words, but the potentially distinctive tones are restricted to one or two syllables within a word. That contrasts with fully-tonal languages like Standard Chinese in which each syllable can have an independent tone, in a pitch accent language, the syllable with phonemic tone is typically acoustically prominent. Also, many words may not be marked for tone at all and it has been claimed that the term pitch accent is not coherently defined. The latter feature is dealt with in the pitch accent. Pitch-accented languages may have a more complex system than stress-accented languages. In some cases, they have more than a binary distinction but are less complex than fully tonal languages such as Chinese or Yoruba, kakiꜜ wa fence vs. kaki wa persimmon. Ancient Greek words had high pitch on one of the last four vocalic morae in a word, also, the mapping between phonemic and phonetic tone may be more involved than the simple one-to-one mapping between stress and dynamic intensity in stress-accented languages. Proto-Indo-European accent is reconstructed as a free pitch-accent system, preserved in Ancient Greek, Vedic. The Greek and Indic systems were lost, and Modern Greek has a pitch produced stress accent, balto-Slavic retained Proto-Indo-European pitch accent by reworking it into the opposition of acute and circumflex tone. Following a period of extensive accentual innovations, it yielded a pitch-accent based system that has retained in modern-day Lithuanian. Pitch accent may also be restricted in distribution, being found for example only on one of the last two syllables and this is unlike the situation in typical tone languages, where the tone of each syllable is independent of the other syllables in the word. The pitch-accent language, on the hand, has only three possibilities, Pitch accent, accented on the first syllable, accented on the second syllable. The combination * does not occur, with longer words, the distinction becomes more apparent, eight distinct tonal trisyllables, vs. four distinct pitch-accented trisyllables. Secondly, there may be more than one pitch possible for the tonic syllable, for example, for some languages the pitch may be either high or low. That is, if the accent is on the first syllable, in stress-accent systems, on the other hand, there is no variation between different stressed syllables. In addition, whereas non-compound words may have more than one stress-accented syllable, as in English, a great number of languages use pitch in this way, including English as well as all other major European languages. They are often called intonation languages, the term pitch accent is also used in Native American linguistics to refer to minimal tonal systems such as are found in Iroquoian and Athabaskan languages, for example. In Ancient Greek, one of the two or three syllables of a word carries an accent
Extent (orange) of pitch usage in Benelux, Germany and France
Map of Japanese pitch-accent types. Red: Tone plus variable downstep. Green: Variable downstep in accented words. Lavender: Fixed downstep in accented words. Yellow: No distinction.
Image: Map of the major tonal dialects of Norwegian and Swedish